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From the most recent Interstellar to Inception, Memento, and even The Dark Knight series, Christopher Nolan has a knack for creating incredible, mind-bending movies that are difficult to compete with. Though he has touched the superhero world with his take on the caped crusader, Batman, Nolan’s trilogy is nothing like any other superhero movies to date. Nolan movies have a very distinct style to them, they make the viewer think in ways many other films can not, especially Marvel movies.
In a recent episode of The Colbert Report, the always hilarious Stephen Colbert sat down with Christopher Nolan to discuss Interstellar and Nolan’s tendency to do more with movies than just entertain. Colbert starts his interview asking Nolan why he wants the viewer to think so much. Colbert compares Interstellar to the recent Marvel blockbuster stating, "When the movie is over, I’m still thinking about the movie, like Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t make me do that. Why do you want to make me think? Why can’t you just have s*** blow up?"
The often serious Christopher Nolan actually lets loose in this interview (which is uncommon). He answers Colbert explaining that he does his fair share of blowing shit up, but ponders why you can’t have that and make people think at the same time. Nolan explains the difference between a movie such as Interstellar to a movie that is solely action based entertainment, such as Guardians of the Galaxy:
"I was going to say, don’t do me down on the blowing s*** up. I’ve blown up a lot of s*** in a lot of movies. And I enjoy it very much but I love movies that are very entertaining hopefully. Hopefully the first time you see it you’re on a real ride, Interstellar is certainly meant to be an experience… And then if there’s more to it than that. Something that rattles around in there afterwards maybe you’ll come back and see it again and find more in it."
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Marvel movies. But there’s a certain predictability to them that I’ve never felt in a Nolan film. And his point is solid. The first time you watch a Nolan movie, there is always something rattling around in your head when the credits hit, and not just then, but you continue to think about it for days later. When you revisit the movie, it’s like watching an entirely different film, there are aspects of it that went unnoticed before that when found rework your own ideas of the movie entirely. Think about the first time you watched Inception, then compared to the the 4th. They are two different experiences, because once you have an outline of the plot, you start picking up on the minute details that may have been overlooked the first few times.
Marvel movies have their easter eggs. They give sneak peeks to what future movies hold, but rarely does a Marvel easter egg change your entire understanding of the film as a whole. They take you on a ride, an entertaining and exciting ride, but the ride stays on a predetermined track. Within Nolan movies, you can add your own tracks to the ride. Ones that skew off of the pre-built path, and let your mind wander deeper into thought changing the basic projection.
Another major reason that Nolan movies will never be like Marvel movies is that Nolan grounds his movies in reality. His take on Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy is a Batman that exists in a realistic human society, nothing too fantastical. And he does the same in the recent, Interstellar. Despite the movie taking place in the future, and even in space, Nolan does his best to keep it as relatable and realistic as possible. In his interview with Colbert he added, "Even though it’s a science fiction film, I wanted the feeling of dread, the feeling of imbalance perhaps between the human race and the planet to be real, credible."
Though Marvel does a good job at creating relatable characters, their world is completely separate from ours. It's doubtful we'll ever see a big green Hulk smashing the streets of New York City, whereas a gadget-heavy Batman is a bit more believable. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, Nolan movies and Marvel movies attract similar audiences and are seriously entertaining, but they are different styles with different goals for the viewing experience.