When Christopher Nolan was offered the chance to bring Batman back from the Bat-nipple nightmare of the late nineties nobody could have predicted the rise of both the man and his films into Hollywood legend.
Nolan is a man who has come to be every bit the focal point of his films as his A-list stars and spectacular set pieces. He’s under closer scrutiny whilst in his prime than most great directors are in retrospect. Whether a product of a cynical Internet-driven age or not, it is surely a sign that he’s doing something right.
Upon its arrival in 2005 Batman Begins was hailed first and foremost for not being at all like its forerunners. It was praised secondly for, well, everything else! The film used a few superhero movie tropes, as is understandable with it being the director’s first foray into the genre, however these tropes vanished from sight in time for the iconic 2008 sequel.
The Dark Knight is when the tide turned and people began putting Nolan under the microscope. The notion that a superhero film could be anything but exactly that was radical, and people began to pick at the holes.
Of course there certainly are holes. in the film. Some are pretty large in fact, but there are some that would have barely registered in say, a Superman or Spider-Man flick. For example the old chestnut of how does Character X find Character Y at precisely the right moment? That scenario has been the bread and butter of big budget film making for years, why does it suddenly become an issue for Nolan’s films?
The Dark Knight was fiercely intelligent and was very much a character piece about The Joker, the fall of Harvey Dent and how Bruce Wayne copes with the events that unfold. It was also, as everyone is very aware, a “realistic” take on the comic legend.
For many this is an apparent excuse to go looking for a faultless film devoid of an flights of fancy or leaps of logic – which is a silly attitude to have. His Bat-films are grounded for sure but only comparatively. Thankfully The Dark Knight Rises does more to make this obvious by mixing the tones of its predecessors to triumphant success.
Sandwiched between the two sequels was Inception, which certainly didn’t help matters when it comes to the director’s unwarranted scrutiny. It was another case of Nolan treating his audience like intelligent human beings rather than brain-dead cash cattle to be milked. It was a film that required its audience to actually think about the plot rather than the gratuitous ass-shots of Model-Turned-Actress X-7EY.
Despite its spectacular ambition, Inception was still subject to the fine toothcombs of film fans – as though it were some kind of grandiose Oscar-baiting drama rather than a multi-faceted city-levelling summer blockbuster.
Nolan should be celebrated for making intelligent and highly successful films, not made the subject of an imperfection witch-hunt. Petty debates about whether his films are great or just good should be secondary to appreciating that someone is making high profile films aren’t stupid in the first place.
His post-Batman period will certainly be a very interesting one and may well prove that Inception was a one-off when it comes to his own original ideas (each of his other films have been adaptations of various kinds) but that has yet to be seen.
That’s the future however – in the here and now he should be praised for all of the above. He could very well go the way of tedium like summer movie maestro Steven Spielberg before him but over the course of his seven feature films so far he has proved himself to be exactly what Batman had to be at the end of The Dark Knight – the hero film-goers deserve.