I waited until all the noise was done, until all the fuss was over, to post my deep thoughts about The Dark Knight Rises because, well, there was a lot of noise and fuss. I mean, you can read a review anywhere and Ian Buckwalter already had a pretty cool conversation. After I saw the movie a second time, I realized that I didn’t need to write a “review” of the movie as much as I needed to write a letter of appreciation to Chris Nolan. There is no one that makes movies like he does, and I’m happy he does what he does.
Chris Nolan makes movies I want to see.
Doing this, constantly and consistently producing a product I enjoy, is a rare and beautiful undertaking. No one else makes movies even close to the quality Nolan does. There used to be people who did. Michael Mann and Spielberg and the others. These guys used to care and create these wonderful worlds that I sat down and just bathed in. Remember the first time you saw Jurassic Park? The first time when the T-rex attacked the cars with the children inside? I think about that moment a lot, actually. At least once a month. I think about the T-rex roaring at the screen and what I thought the first time I saw the movie. SPIELBERG IS A BAD ASS. The moment I saw that, I knew that there was no one even as close to amazing as Spielberg and I was confused that men tried.
Spielberg is still Spielberg. He has made good movies. But, you can tell, he stopped caring a while ago.
Michael Mann, a director that Nolan is a fan of, has also made excellent movies. One, Heat, is one of my favorite films. But, I think Mann hit his apex with Heat. Maybe Spielberg hit is apex with Jurassic Park. Maybe that’s why they are bored. They’ve made their masterpieces. Creating perfection, I’ve heard, is a horrible experience.
Nolan hasn’t made his best movie yet. In a weird way, I don’t think he’s even trying to.
Let’s look at his films, for examples.
Following is a great film, but short, with a conclusion that is confusing. Momento is also great, but it’s gimmicky. It’s a movie, told backwards! Insomnia is boring, but a movie about staying awake is a hard sell. Prestige is brilliant, in places. But, if you’ve read the book, you’re instantly disappointed (the book is amazing). Batman Begins is a stock hero movie. It does something new with the Batman myth, but nothing new beyond that. The Dark Knight is inspired, but is it because of Heath Ledger’s spectacular creation of a the Joker? And with a fallacy-infused “Who is more moral, the civilians or the crooks” scene, with the boats and the bombs, I mean, it’s just eye-roll inducing. Inception (my favorite) is full of small plot holes and the end “kick sequence” makes very little sense. The Dark Knight Rises is wonderful, but it’s a long movie. And there’s the threat of a nuclear bomb, a threat that is so obviously “horrible” that the audience has no choice but to be afraid. Nuclear bombs aren’t subtle, and art is all about being subtle.
I’m not saying all those movies are bad. On the contrary, I love every single one of those movies (maybe not Insomnia). Inception is always a joy to watch. My point is that all those movies are flawed. I think they are flawed ON PURPOSE. His movies are “off” just enough.
He might be making these flaws accidentally, or subconsciously. His movies are getting better and better, though. He uses special effects as tools, not as a cane. The actors in his films can actually act. There is a deeper message in all his stories, with people being motivated beyond the petty ideal of love or justice. His characters are motivated by guilt, pain, revenge or confusion. He tells stories about people, even with all his brilliant sets and his impossible love of scale. I can watch his movies over and over again because I’m watching someone try to make art the best way he can, even if he is hobbling his movies so he has to make the next one, to make it better.
Movies are fun. I’m glad we as a people haven’t become so damned jaded that we can’t enjoy them. I’m glad there is a guy like Christopher Nolan out there with a real desire to make them. And I hope, truly, he never makes his perfect movie.