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Christopher Nolan has made some absolutely stunning films over the course of his career, from Memento to The Dark Knight, and has proven himself to be one of the most creative storytellers currently working in the industry - but he has stirred up some debate with the release of Interstellar. The film has received the most mixed critical response of his career, and while it made a healthy $47 million in its first weekend, it was his first since Insomnia 12 years ago that didn’t open at number one. Of course, this isn’t a cataclysmic disaster, but it does have us thinking about how it should shape Nolan’s future and his next project.
Looking back on the career of Christopher Nolan, weighing his greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses, as well as looking at his trends, we’ve come up with a list of five things that the filmmaker should consider changing about his current work habits as he starts looking for his next directorial adventure. Read on!
Try Out Some More Warmth and HumorWith Interstellar, Christopher Nolan clearly took a few pages out of the Steven Spielberg handbook (most clearly in the relationship between Cooper and Murph), but it would be in the filmmaker’s best interest to take it up another notch with his next feature. It was around the time that Inception was released that critics began noting how strangely cold Nolan’s films tend to be, and while Interstellar was definitely a step in the right direction, that movie is still undercut emotionally by the science behind wormholes and interplanetary travel. While he shouldn’t necessarily go out and try to make a romantic comedy, he should try and pursue a project with the close relationship between two people – be it romantic, familial or friendly – as the central focus of the story.
No More Dead Wives/Fiancées/GirlfriendsLooking at Christopher Nolan’s filmography as a director, you may notice that there is a recurring character device that has been employing for just about every film he’s ever made: the dead wife/fiancée/girlfriend. From Jorja Fox in Memento to Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight, to Marion Cotillard in Inception to Matthew McConaughey’s completely absent spouse in Interstellar, Nolan has spent years making films about widowers, and it’s time to move past it. At this point it’s starting to feel like a crutch, providing his male protagonists with an understandable inner darkness and pain. There’s an infinite number of creative and unique alternatives that Nolan could be using to get this across, and he should start looking for them with his next project.
Keep It ShortMaking a movie with a runtime north of 140 minutes is a gamble for any filmmaker, as they are betting that their material is interesting enough to hold an audience’s attention for that long. Christopher Nolan has bet on himself his last four times out – his films averaging a length of about two hours and 39 minutes – but he should start considering the benefits of a shorter narrative with his next film. More than the fact that Interstellar has a bit of a dragging problem, there is also something to say about creative restraint and discipline. It’s an important quality for any artist to have, and in Nolan’s case it would bring him back to his earliest roots. After all, 1998’s Following clocked in at a ridiculously tight 69 minutes.
Scale It BackThanks to the Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and now Interstellar, Christopher Nolan has found himself branded as a spectacle filmmaker – even though that isn’t necessarily what he should be notable for. Looking at his body of work, what makes Nolan a special director is his ability the craft unique non-linear narratives with high concept splashes. In the last 10 years he has shown that he can definitely do that well with a big budget and a good amount of effects, but they aren’t necessarily necessary to play to his strengths – all you need to do is look at the infinitely rewarding Memento as an example. Obviously a compelling story is what will ultimately lure Nolan to his next movie, but he hopefully isn’t thinking that he absolutely must blow the audience away with spectacle every time out from now on.
Try Working With A New ScreenwriterChristopher Nolan is primarily known for his work as a writer/director and his collaborations with his brother, Jonathan Nolan, but he has worked with third party material before. Back in 2002, it was screenwriter Hillary Seitz who adapted the mystery drama Insomnia from the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name. Given how stale Interstellar’s script was compared to the scope of Nolan’s visual style, it may be time for the director to revisit this thought. In determining his next project, it may be healthy for him to look in directions he hasn’t previously and find a personal voice that he hasn’t been fully explored yet. He could certainly go over whatever script he finds with a red pen and fit it more to his own style, but at a base level it could be a smart change of pace.