Great Debate: What Should Christopher Nolan Do Next?

By Katey Rich and Kristy Puchko 2012-07-23 14:10:46discussion comments
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Christopher Nolan is done with Batman. He's said so over and over again, in a million different ways, and you can't really blame him for being so definitive-- he's devoted nearly a decade of work to his Batman trilogy, with pauses for other films in-between, and he's ended the franchise so clearly on his own terms that to revisit it would only cheapen it. Nolan has made it clear that he has no real interest in the broader superhero world-- beyond producing Man of Steel, of course-- so we can expect his next directing effort to be something different, likely something original, and hopefully something as ambitious as everything that's come before it.

But just how ambitious should it be? And given how much Nolan has changed as a filmmaker since he began the Batman trilogy, should he be returning to leaner films like Memento and Insomnia, or following his ambition to even greater heights? Kristy and Katey decided to duke it out, not to tell Nolan what to do, exactly, but to figure out what we hope to see most from the man who's arguably the most powerful filmmaker working right now. Nolan can do anything he wants, and here's what we'd like to see it be.

KATEY: So Kristy, without getting bogged down too much in The Dark Knight Rises, I think we both agree that it's not Christopher Nolan's best work. Am I right?

KRISTY: Definitely.I mean, as we discuss in TDKR Explained, there's a ton of loose threads dangling that made it a mess structurally.

KATEY: Exactly-- and when I think back to Memento, I can't figure out why the Nolan brothers were never able to bring a narrative that tight to a single Batman movie. So now that Nolan is done with Batman, he's got basically the world at his feet. He can do anything. But what do we want to see from him the most?

KRISTY: I'd actually love to see him get away from these sprawling, complicated narratives and get back to a lean and tight thriller like Memento and Insomnia. He's so fantastic at creating this inescapable feeling of dread, but it gets lost in his bigger world films.

KATEY: See, I think I agree with half of that. Those two smaller films are really solid, but what Nolan has proven with the Batman movies and especially Inception is that he has crazy ambition. When you've got someone with the capital to make a giant movie, and the will to make it completely wild, it seems a shame to waste that. It's hard to think of a filmmaker, save maybe James Cameron, who makes such ambitious films on such a giant scale.

KRISTY: That's true, and I don't want to lose the spectacle of Nolan's later works, just the bogged down narratives. Both Inception and the Batman films have too many characters to be fully developed, and while they are exhilarating on a first watch, the feel weak in revisiting when the spectacle is less new. I'd be down for spectacle and action as long as he kept the principal cast count down.

KATEY: But at the same time, the more his repertory grows, the more fantastic they are-- the returning cast members from Inception were many of the highlights of The Dark Knight Rises, and I'd love for him to keep up the good fight on making Tom Hardy a star. But I think there's a balance between the insanely intricate narratives and the big casts that allows him to bring in these great actors without driving the audience crazy.



KRISTY: I just think his ambition gets ahead of him sometimes, and I'd rather see something tight than grandiose and vague. But I'm with you on his eye for talent. He's great at figuring out what else an actor can do. Like making Joseph Gordon-Levitt an action star!

KATEY: So what's the balance between Nolan returning to his tight, noir-ish roots and maintaining that ambition? After all, the guy's gotta keep moving forward.

KRISTY: I don't want him to just totally slash budget and return to the small films he started with, I more want his next film to have their sort of focus. It's that inescapable noir setting where I think he thrives. To that end, I'd like to see him get back to R-rated films where his dark stories won't be sanitized by the quest for a PG-13 rating.

KATEY: YES. That was my biggest thought watching Insomnia today. The way that movie deals with blood, and frank depiction of nudity, and the toll of violence is immense, and can't be done in PG-13. I don't think anything he's made besides the last two Batman movies really required an R-- Inception was glossy enough to get away with it. But I'd love to see him tap into that darkness again, fully, without trying to appeal to broadest audiences. So maybe he does need to get away from big movies to do that.

Though, then again, Fox gave Ridley Scott a bascrillion dollars to make Prometheus with an R, and it turned out great.

KRISTY: Yes, I think he's got the kind of pull he could get a studio to back a major R-rated thriller. And it would be amazing to see what he would do within that freedom.

Plus, it might inspire more studios to let more R-rated epics to be made and we might actually see Guillermo Del Toro's At The Mountains of Madness! Kick this trend into gear, Nolan!

KATEY: So to wrap up-- Nolan is now probably as powerful as a director can ever be. Do you think he'll do right by that power? Either by his own talents or by the industry in general.

KRISTY: Well, I don't believe Nolan is driven by box office, so I don't think there's fear of him becoming a sellout or something, but I do worry that he'll continue to go in this murkier and murkier ideological terrain that's made for some messy efforts.

KATEY: Yeah, that would be my main concern too. But I also think he's been improving as a director-- not as a storyteller, but as a straight-up director-- and I'm interested to see where that development takes him. If he and Jonah Nolan can cook up an original, straightforward idea together, I feel like they could seriously put together a real masterpiece. They've come so close so many times that you have to almost expect it.

KRISTY: I totally agree with that, and I'd love to see what could happen if his ambition could fuel a tightly written narrative with the directing skills he's honed over a string of striking features.

KATEY: Well, given his penchant for secrecy we may not know what his next movie is until he's finished shooting it. So we'll revisit this discussion when Christopher Nolan's Mystery Box hits theaters in 2014!

KRISTY: It'll have some vague name that will infuriatingly give us nothing to go on!

KATEY: It wouldn't be Nolan if if didn't.


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