Critiquing the Critics of Christopher Nolan

By calling Christopher Nolan a pioneer in his early forties, of course, in the field of film-making might bewilder the minds of some individuals, yet what must be perceived in order to grasp why the film-maker is considered or perhaps I should say, earned the right to be called an innovator is his work of art through films. Such a simple fact and such notion that my mind comprehends is not to disclose it, for I am a fan of his work. It is to understand the meaning of Christopher Nolan’s body of work, not only as a director that he is, but who also contributes as a screenwriter at times respectively.

Yet, such notion as simple as it is to be understood is ignored by some of the critics, who define Nolan’s work as shallow, dramatically clumsy, and technically inept. Such remark as harsh as it sounds will not by any means affect the enthusiasm of the film-maker; it is saddening to read such remarks and as a fan, yes, I have the right to divulge that the sweat dropped from my forehead. After sharing the harsh remarks by some of the critics against Nolan’s work with one of my friends and a contributor to Masters of Cinema, who is also the founder of Cinematic, Travlis Hallingquest whose essay on Christopher Nolan, which you can read here shared his opinion with me saying, “I think that some critics (young and old) have a problem with such a young filmmaker already being declared one of the greatest of all time. It happened to Spielberg when he was awarded the prestigious Irving G Thalberg award after only 20 years of filmmaking. I say this only because most people are awarded this after 40-50 years of experience. Most critics forget that Christopher Nolan basically locked himself in the University College London’s film lab (after studying English Literature all day), at night to learn the sweet science of cinema. If Nolan were not a good writer and director then there would be no need to break down his movies. No one does this with Joss Whedon or even Michael Man films, who by the way are also good filmmakers. But Nolan is in the realm of Spielberg and Hitchcock.”

Mr. Hallingquest’s statement in a way shed the spotlight on some of the essays and film reviews based on Nolan’s work that I’ve read, and what I notice in most of those reviews is that in each the writer’s point of view is bringing the spotlight more on Nolan while it should be focused on the body of Nolan’s work. Most of these critics, as funny as this sound, on purpose make such negative remarks in their take on Nolan’s work. Perhaps it is some type of business that for them, in their circle makes much sense. Making such remarks might stir a bit of controversy among Nolan’s fans. I only say this, for prior to the release of Christopher Nolan’s latest work, The Dark Knight Rises, which is the last Batman film, the fans’ reactions to some of the critics’ reviews included dead threats. For the first time in history, Rotten Tomatoes had to disable user comments after their take on Nolan’s work to the fans did not make any sense. I personally find it logical to be honest; I am not saying that their dead threats were their right act, yet their anger against critics makes sense. Perhaps, fans decided to take the matter in their own words and once and for all conduct a historical internet protest against those individual critics, whose insights lacks the definition of art and pays attention more on Nolan as if there is some kind of grudge game going on.

These individual critics do not at all deserve to be named here, as I have lost respect in their words and in their way of writing about cinema. I strongly believe that when one writes about a film, play or poem must pay more attention to its subject and less on the life of the director, writer or poet. A film-maker like Christopher Nolan shouldn’t be pronounced as a “hack,” misnomer, if you ask me, and utterly unprofessional as it is not only a blasphemy in my opinion, but to anyone who understands Nolan’s work and style. Like any other film-maker, Nolan dares to entertain, but Nolan in reality is not “any other director” who dares to entertain. He, as an artist goes beyond that and dares to challenge the audience minds. Ever film-maker is like a painter, who makes films from their point of view; so therefore, Nolan makes what he is good at from his point of view. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and yes those individual critics are entitled to their opinion as well, but if I were in their shoes, I would try to comprehend where Nolan comes from.

Is Nolan the Hitchcock or Kubrick of our time? – Perhaps in his own way, Nolan is the new Hitchcock and Kubrick. Whatever we have seen from Christopher Nolan so far, and let me be first person to state this, that Nolan’s work from the days of ‘The Following’ and up until now is his baby steps. And the minds who claim that Nolan’s work isn’t perfection will claim again in the next 30 to 40 years as their insight on Nolan’s films like today will not focus on Nolan’s work, but the man himself. The very notion that Christopher Nolan is or not the new Hitchcock or Kubrick raises the question. Tom Huddleston of TimeOut London in his article, Why Christopher Nolan is not the new Stanley Kubrick, explains why the director of “Inception” hasn’t yet scaled the great heights of Kubrick. I ask why Tom Huddleston in his article would compare Nolan to Kubrick. – What we must understand from such article is that Tom Huddleston at least thinks that Nolan’s name should be mentioned as a director and innovator next to Stanley Kubrick’s. The article raises the question and answers it itself to us.

I think the critics should consider Nolan as one of the most influential film-makers of the early 21st century, his films have earned over $3 billion at the global box office and with each film Nolan in an artistic manner have raised the bar by introducing new and original concepts; challenging not only himself, but his cast and crew to bring the best picture possible for the audience. Nolan’s take on the technology of IMAX itself is a pioneering act. He thought that if such equipment exists to show quality picture and sound by capturing the space and wilderness why not take the advantage and format the action sequences of a film with the help of IMAX cameras. Egoism doesn’t play the factor when it comes to Nolan bringing the IMAX technology on the set of his film, there are those who believe that Nolan, who once made independent pictures is now capable of doing what others can’t. Such accusation is mind-boggling, for the introduction of IMAX technology by Christopher Nolan plays the game of trust versus ego. If Nolan, as a film-maker, screenwriter and as an artist wouldn’t be trusted, today we wouldn’t be able to see his work under IMAX microscopes.

Kubrick, as I see and I am sure everyone will agree that he was indeed an original thinker. If he would see Nolan’s work and understand Nolan’s vision, he would disagree with the minds of those who claim that Nolan is not an original thinker. In Kubrick’s time, when he was behind the camera, that era was Kubrick technology. Just like when Steven Spielberg’s Jaws released, it was Spielberg technology and during Star Wars was Lucas technology. Today, in this contemporary world that we live, our life is surrounded with technology. So, Nolan as a film-maker  lives with today’s technology, therefore it is safe to say, Nolan technology. It has nothing to do with ego, perhaps it is more in regards to the environment and I am sure more about the style of making films. By saying that Nolan isn’t an original thinker while his Inception is considered a masterpiece, makes it sound like the gravity of accusations are words fading in the air as smoke. Nolan’s work today will define his work in film-making in the next 10 and 20 years. It is then; perhaps the same critics who bash his work today will write that Nolan was an original thinker from the start.