Hey everyone! It’s time for another round of “Directors Talk”, the roundtable series of discussion about today’s biggest directors that I participate in with Ian and PG Cooper.
This time up on the agenda It’s Christopher Nolan, the current steward of the Batman franchise. His “The Dark Knight Rises” is one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. Of course, his filmography is not limited to the Batman series, as he’s also the man behind such legendary movies as “Inception”, “The Prestige” and “Memento”.
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Ian: And here we go with another “Director Talk” with Ian, Cooper and Fogs. This time around we look at one of the most popular directors to have emerged this past decade, Christopher Nolan.With his Dark Knight Rises, one of the most anticipated films of the year, on the slate this summer we thought we would look at the director’s past and see how he got to this point. So Fogs, Cooper, what do you think Nolan’s impact on film has been over the last ten years?
Cooper: Chris Nolan huh? This is gonna be a good one. I’d say Nolan’s biggest impact on film is the Batman Begins effect. Since that film, we’ve seen tons of others emulate the dark/gritty/more realistic approach to their characters. Examples include Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: First Class, and Casino Royale. The general buzz is that the upcoming Spider-Man reboot is also trying to match Nolan’s Batman film in tone. The other big impact he’s had is the way he’s raised the bar for both comic-book films, as well as all mainstream blockbusters.
Ian: Interesting. Of course, Nolan’s influence on grittier comic book films is clear, but I guess I never thought about how it affect other series’ like Sherlock Holmes and Bond, but I suppose you are right. Batman Begins probably did have a direct influence on them.
Fogs: I lose track on anyone’s “Impact on film”. Sometimes that’s easy to see and say, other times… it becomes a little murky. I suppose the comic book movie influence is arguable, but I might even say the “Comic Book Realism” factor might trace back to the first X-Men, or Spider_Man, which pre date that one. The Dark Knight certainly has influenced those movies to go in a Darker direction, we’ll see how that plays out.
One thing I WISH other filmmakers would follow is his cerebral approach to story telling. Nolan is not afraid to credit an audience with intelligence. Unlike some major filmmakers who dumb their movies down in points for fear of losing anyone, Nolan’s movies all always make you work to keep up. Memento, The Prestige, Inception… those movies make you think they keep your brain activated. When so much of Hollywood’s offerings are aimed at people with IQs of 80, it’s refreshing to find a filmmaker who’s like, “No, don’t worry, they’ll figure it out”.
I think he’s a big Inception fan.
In reference to Fogs’ point earlier, about the realism factor going further back, I sort of agree and sort of don’t. I will agree that the first X-Men film took those characters and definitely put them in a more real world than any comic book film before hand. There also is a fairly dark tone to that first movie. I think Spider-Man is extremely cartoony. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that while darker and more realistic superhero films had been made, Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight took it a step further. To be fair though, yes, they were definitely building on the foundation of what was already established.
Ian: Nolan is incredibly popular among movie fans like ourselves. Do you think the general public is as aware of him these days, after his two hits Dark knight and Inception? Do you think he has reached near household name status, or is he not quite there yet?
Fogs: I don’t know, I think that’s a tough question for me. It’s hard sometimes to see out of the bubble that is the geekosphere. I mean obviously movie fans know who he is… as to the general public though, I’d like to say yes, but I’m not 100% sure.
I think one thing that’s working against that might be that “The Dark Knight” overshadows everything. You know? He might get the “From Christopher Nolan”… but it’s most likely followed by “Director of the Dark Knight” and that may be what people focus on.
Seriously, I think sometimes we movie nerds take the public awareness for granted, seeing as its such common knowledge for us. I remember having to list David Fincher’s filmography to several people right as “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was coming out.
Cooper: As Fogs said, it’s hard to answer this question when you’re a movie geek. But I would say he has. I’m a teenager, and I often shake my head at the film tastes of my peers. But almost everyone I know knows who Chris Nolan is and loves his movies. Yes, for most people it’s just The Dark Knight and Inception, but I’ve also found my share of Batman Begins and The Prestige fans. He obviously isn’t a household name on the level of, say, Steven Spielberg, but I’d say I’ve directors to emerge in the last decade, he’s the most widely known.
Ian: Nolan seems to be one of those directors who likes to use the same actors in his movies. He worked with Christian Bale in both Batman and The Prestige. Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, and Michael Kane from the Batman flicks were also given roles in Inception, and now lots of Inception stars are going to have role sin Batman 3 (Levitt, Hardy, and Cotillard). Do you guys like this consistency? Or do you wish he would branch out and try working with new people?
Fogs: I’d be quicker to say new people if the people he was working with weren’t top-notch. LOL. I mean, Bale, Levitt, Hardy, Cotillard? That’s a great cast. It’s probably a good sign that’s he’s actor friendly that all of these stars want to work with him again.
Cooper: If using the same people means we get consistent acting across his filmography, I’m okay with that. It be interesting to see him work with new people, but he seems to have a good handle on casting. If anything, I wanna see him give more work to his Memento cast. Guy Pearce, Carrie Ann Moss, and Joe Pantoliano need work!
Ian: Yeah, I suppose if they are as great of actors as they have, then go for it! Just so long as it doesn’t reach ridiculous Tim Burton levels of recycling the same actor and actress all the time. Also, Guy Pierce will be in Prometheus. He’s doing just fine.
Here’s a question I’ve thrown at you guys with the last two talks, but which might be a little more difficult this time (at least for me). What would be considered Nolan’s signature film? Which film is he most recognized for? Which film defines him?
Cooper: Inception probably captures him as a filmmaker best. In many ways, it’s the ultimate Chris Nolan films. It takes the big budget spectacle from his Batman films and crosses it with the studies of the mind from Memento. However, he’s gonna go down as the guy who made The Dark Knight, almost guaranteed. Being a huge Dark Knight fan, I have no problem with this. So yeah, my answer is The Dark Knight.
Fogs: It’s got to be “The Dark Knight”. I still think it’s his best film, too, although as Dan says, if you’re going to make an argument on technical merits, perhaps “Inception” is his best job as a director.
But “The Dark Knight” is his best movie, and it’s already enshrined by the public in the pop culture consciousness. It’s #1 on Flickchart and in the top ten on IMDb’s Top 250. It’s going to be a hard film to top, no matter how long his career lasts.
Ian: Good points, both of you. Mind you, Inception does seem to encapsulate the kind of director he is with his complex plot webs and minds twists, like he had previously shown us in Memento and The Prestige. But yeah, its gotta be The Dark Knight. Funny how his signature film is actually a sequel.
Ian: I like the approach he takes to effects. He uses CGI only when necessary, but otherwise relies on classic visual tricks and stunts. This was best seen in Inception. But I don’t think he’ll necessarily be seen as someone who pushes the envelope like Cameron or Jackson. At least, not yet. He still has a long career ahead of him, I’m sure.
On the subject of what to expect from him for the future, I have two closing questions for you both. First, as per tradition, what would you say your top three Nolan films would be? Secondly, what do you hope or expect from him in the future?
It was AWFULLY hard not to call that a “Tie” for third and work in “The Prestige” there.
I’m HOPING that The Dark Knight Rises lives up to its predecessor, although that’s a rough order. And then beyond that, I am so hoping he has used his influence for the good on Man of Steel. Aside from that I just hope he stays with the mentally challenging movies, I respect that so much from him.
2) The Dark Knight
However it’s extremely close. I love all three of these films a lot. As for the future, obviously I want The Dark Knight Rises to be awesome. Beyond that, I just hope he continues to make quality films that engage the mind. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes after Batman.
I have to put BB on that list, since I was so elated that we finally had a good batman movie. I had been an outspoken detractor of the Burton films before that and had resigned myself to the fact that I may never get a decent Btaman flick.
As for the future, I hope that after the batman trilogy he focuses on more puzzle-type films and stays away from franchises and the like. He’s someone I can see us getting a lot of original stuff from, which would be a fresh breath of air these days.
And that’s all for our director’s talk today. Feel free to comment on your thoughts of Nolan or anything the three of us may have said. Until next time!