When telling the story of Christopher Nolan; what better place the start than the future?
In the summer of 2014, excited moviegoers exit their local cinema, hands greasy from popcorn, chatting about the film they have just been privileged to. For any other film, a good portion of these patrons would rather wait till a pirated version shows up on the internet or becomes available at the nearby Redbox. It’s not a special effects laden thriller, or a romantic comedy promising mass appeal that awakens the sleeping giant, but instead a quirky pet project biopic detailing the compulsions of billionaire Howard Hughes. More so, it’s the film’s director, Christopher Nolan putting bodies in the seats. Nolan has long been a household name, but his fame hit legendary status with his involvement in 2013’s Man of Steel, an edgy, relevant reworking of the Superman franchise that proves once and for all Nolan’s artistic vision and devotion to intelligent, creative film making knows no topic too played out, or too obscure.
Christopher Nolan with actor Heath Ledger
Christopher Nolan with actor Heath Ledger
Flashback to the here and now. At 41 years old, Nolan certainly has the cinematic world captivated. 2012 promises the release of The Dark Night Rises, the final chapter Bruce Wayne’s trilogy which put Nolan on the map. Although Batman Begins (2005) can be considered a commercial and critical success, it was 2008’s The Dark Night which transformed the series into something more than a comic book remake. The Dark Night utilizes all the tools Nolan has now become famous for; it is dark, visually intriguing and intellectually involved.
Then, in 2010, Nolan broke new ground with Inception. Many regard Inception as Nolan’s masterpiece, and considering he worked on the script for ten years, putting it off to gain more experience with big budget films such as the Batman trilogy, Nolan might agree. Inception is as deep conceptually as it is aesthetically stunning; the culmination of a focused and storied career.
Of course, emotive tales questioning reality and one’s own perceptions are one of Nolan’s calling cards. While attending the University College in London, a school he chose specifically for its’ film making facilities, Nolan made a critically acclaimed short film; “Tarantella.” A scant three minutes, the film follows a young man as he attempts to squash a bug terrorizing his apartment. Only seconds after succeeding in insecticide, the man realized the bug was a miniature version of himself, followed by the protagonists untimely squashing on behalf of some unseen giant.
Nolan’s first feature length project, Following builds on similar themes of perception and deceit, although in more concert terms. The film centers on a young writer as he stalks potential novel material. This leads him into a world of burglary and deceit, eventually ending in the arrest of the protagonist, known only as “The Young Man.”
His first widely released film, 2000’s Momento, uses amnesia as the narrative framework: the protagonist loses the ability to create new memories, using notes and reminders to uncover the true nature of his wife’s murder. The film garnered a sizable cult following in addition to nominations for a Golden Globe and an Oscar in the category of Best Screenplay His follow up, Insomnia (2002), starred Al Pacino, a corrupt police officer dealing with the mind altering effects of sleep deprivation. The Prestige  (2006) follows two illusionists engaged in an arms race of prestidigitation.
By the time the first Gotham City caper appeared in 2005, Nolan’s films already displayed his signature mix of flash and
Christopher Nolan and Actor leonardo dicaprio in Inception
Christopher Nolan and Actor leonardo dicaprio in Inception
psychological complexity. His films can stand toe to toe with the big budget action flicks in terms of sheer entertainment value and but deliver a truly mind warping experience. While explaining the draw of Inception to the Los Angeles Times, Nolan says: “think of film noir and if you picture the story as a maze, you don’t want to be hanging above the maze watching the characters make the wrong choices because it’s frustrating. You actually want to be in the maze with them, making the turns at their side, that keeps it more exciting.” Inception literally creates these mazes, but Nolan mastered the art of keeping his viewers heads below the waterline long before.
Nolan has yet to disappoint, largely because he knows what works. He utilizes the same tools to surprisingly varied results, be they thematic or personnel. Momento expands on a short story by brother Jonathan Nolan, and the two have since collaborated on The Prestige and the two thirds of the Batman trilogy. Keeping it in the family, every Nolan project since The Prestige has been produced by Syncopy Films, the production company Nolan co-founded with his wife, Emma Thomas. Wally Pfister acts as Nolan’s trusted cinematographer while Lee Smith edits every film since Batman Begins. Nolan has only worked with two composers: David Julyan and Hans Zimmer. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe and Cillian Murphy appear on camera in several Nolan films, among other repeat actors.
Director Christopher Nolan
Director Christopher Nolan
Not surprisingly, Nolan and his usual suspects already face daunting expectations for the next two projects; The Man of Steel and the big screen adaptation of Michael Drosnin’s biography Citizen Hughes: The Power, the Money and the Madness (1985). Nolan tells the Los Angeles Times that he and another frequent collaborator, David S. Goyer “feel we can do it right… We know the genre and how to get it done right.” The extent of the prolific director’s involvement with yet another comic book rehabilitation is uncertain; as of now Nolan has no plans to direct Man of Steel, and will most likely act as mentor.
While Man of Steel clearly treads familiar ground, a biopic centering around billionaire Howard Hughes hardly seems to fit Nolan’s dark and emotionally damaged motif. But Nolan plans to focus  on the hidden side of Hughes’ personality, those mentally unstable moments which saw Hughes obsessively buying every franchise restaurant in the state of Texas, or racking up an $11 million tab at the Beverly Hills Hotel over the course of 1948, or trimming his hair and nails once a year, among countless other eccentricities.
Indeed, the film, another pet project of Nolan, allows him to explore his favorite subjects: psychological uncertainty and endless possibility for visual excess. Nolan has a knack for showing us the end and making sense of the rest later, so although he must first placate his ever fickle audience with the upcoming Batman finale, success in the summer of 2014 doesn’t seem too distant.

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