|It is the man, the myth, the legend. |
Each time a film by Christopher Nolan is released there is tremendous buzz among the internet's film fan community. There are some serious(ly) (rabid) fan(boy)s out there. They proclaim that everything Mr. Nolan does is a gift from the cinema gods to all us little folk. If you say that you think Nolan's latest film is only OK, or god forbid you don't like it - the reaction is explosive and visceral. Such is the state of fandom.
I haven't written much about Nolan's films, and I figured that since he is such a major part of the film making world I really should throw in my two cents. Nolan fanboys, you can go somewhere else, unless you really want to get angry at me for my opinion.
Anyone left? Ok.
|Space according to Nolan.|
Nolan is one of those directors that I admire, but I don't love. All of his films fall into the same category for me (as of this writing I haven't seen Dunkirk
yet). He has a great eye for presenting his films visually. His scripts are well thought out and usually work very well. His casting choices and directing of their acting is usually spot on. Even if you pull yourself away from the hype-train that cruises into town whenever composer Hans Zimmer and Nolan combine forces, you'll find the composer's scores to work very well within the film. All the pieces are in place to make excellent films.
And there lies my main problem with Nolan's films. They feel very much like finely crafted, ice sculptures. They are beautiful to look at and impressive in execution. But they are so very very cold.
|Cat Woman: Nolan style.|
I'm sure it is a conscious choice by Nolan to go in this direction, but his movies are very dower for the most part. Tonally, they have a grim muted feel to them. It is part of Nolan's visual style and for many of his films it works well. It is hard to imagine The Dark Knight
in any other visual style except for the grim muted one Nolan developed over the three films. I can even see it working in something like Dunkirk
where he is going for an ultra realistic feel. But I think this style hurt Interstellar
and especially Inception
But this approach goes beyond the visuals and actually moves into the characters. As they are written, most of Nolan's scripts feel very mechanical, each piece moving perfectly to achieve its overall effect. But this creates characters that also feel very distant to me. Interstellar
is the only film of his where I was actually feeling for some of the characters, and even that wasn't nearly as involving as something like Apollo 13
or even Gravity
which pulled me into the films to a great degree. I hate to be "that guy" but I wonder how much of Interstellar
's character work came from the script when Spielberg was still attached to the project.
|Dreams as presented by Nolan.|
The thing is, I watch Nolan's films. I admire them, maybe even enjoy them on some level, but I find it really difficult to get into the mood to watch any of them again. I've had Interstellar
sitting on my shelf for a couple years now, and haven't broken the plastic on it.
I think part of this has to do with a personal bit of rebellion too. You see after Batman Begins
and especially The Dark Knight
were mega hits, every Hollywood studio decided that everyone wanted to see grim, gritty cheerless blockbusters. We had a whole rash of them, and with each one I was less and less interested in revisiting Nolan's work. Granted, his films are better made than a great many of the films that tried to ape his style (Clash of the Titans
remake is a great example of taking a fun concept and turning it joyless).
|"You want to name an automobile after me?"|
These days things are turning around thanks to Marvel and Star Wars
showing that people want to have fun in the theater. Nolan's dower films are now one of many flavors you can enjoy, and that is the way it should be. Give me another year or two and I might rematch one of his Batman films again.
In any case, I don't think Nolan is a film making god, or a genius of cinema. I think he is a director who has a very distinct style and way to telling a story. It works for a lot of people, but I don't find the majority of his films delivering the impact they try to. I like his films. I don't love them.