Christopher Nolan Retrospective
Today The Dark Knight Rises, the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s enormously successful Batman trilogy and the movie I have been waiting to see for months, finally opens in theaters. I have closely followed Christopher Nolan’s writing and directing career since first seeing Batman Begins in 2005, and I am constantly astonished at his incredible world building, complex plots, and depth of character. Since his first full length film in 1998, Following, Nolan has continued to experiment and grow as a director and as a screenwriter with his brother, Jonathan Nolan. Now, when the majority of summer releases are purely popcorn movies, Nolan has managed to perfect the art of the intelligent blockbuster.
Memento (2000) – Nolan’s second feature length film and the first to garner financial and critical success, Memento follows Leonard Shelby, a man suffering from a rare brain disorder that prevents him from forming new memories, as he tries to solve his wife’s murder and exact revenge. Since its release, Memento has gained a cult following, aided by the brilliantly executed non-linear storytelling style and, most memorably, Leonard’s extensive use of tattoos as notes.
Insomnia (2002) – A remake of an earlier Norwegian movie, Insomnia stars Al Pacino as an LAPD detective sent to investigate a murder in a small town in Alaska. There the ever present midnight sun and the resultant insomnia wreak havoc on the detective’s grasp on reality. Perhaps Nolan’s least well known feature film, Insomnia is a smart, riveting psychological thriller that met with instant critical success.
Batman Begins (2005) – An ambitious reboot of a highly successful franchise, Batman Begins is a dark, gritty reimagining of the Caped Crusader. The first in a trilogy focusing on the origin, rise and fall of a superhero, this is a more psychological, human and nuanced portrayal of Batman. Although not unanimously well received, it did pave the way for the success of The Dark Knight.
The Prestige (2006) – Based on a novel by Christopher Priest, this is the story of two magicians in late 1800’s England who engage in an intense and all-consuming professional rivalry. Perhaps Nolan’s most divisive film, it is one that I adore for the intricate plot, atmospheric qualities, and strong performances from Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.
The Dark Knight (2008) – The second of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, this is, quite possibly, the best superhero movie ever made. At the very least, it’s the superhero movie against which I now judge all subsequent superhero endeavors. Heath Ledger’s tour de force performance as the maniacal Joker was applauded by critics and fans alike and garnered a posthumous Academy Award.
Inception (2010) – My favorite of Nolan’s movies, it follows a corporate espionage team as they enter a target’s dreams and attempt inception – planting an idea deep inside the mind. Featuring a heavy hitting, all star cast lead by Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception is a complex and multi-layered story framed by imaginative world building and sweeping visuals.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - Released in theaters today, we will have to wait and see if the conclusion to the Batman trilogy lives up to the hype!