Creator: Christopher Nolan
I think audiences get too comfortable and familiar in today's movies. They believe everything they're hearing and seeing. I like to shake that up.Christopher Jonathan James Nolan
— Christopher Nolan
(b. 1970) is an English-American screenwriter and director, known for making several Mind Screwy
neo-noir movies, and for reviving the Batman film franchise
. As a good sign of his quality control, his worst
rated film on Rotten Tomatoes
, still has a 73% "Certified Fresh" approval rating.
His films tend to emphasize themes of obsession, deception, guilt, and order versus chaos
. And all of his films are driven by a man lying to himself or others to cope with grief.
Tropes usually seen in his works:
- Anachronic Order
- An Insert: A close-up shot of hands or seemingly non-threatening objects tend to appear in his films. Often at the very beginning, but not always.
- Anti-Hero: Morally ambiguous, psychologically obsessed protagonists are his trademark.
- Awful Truth: Many of his protagonists must deal with this.
- Ignorance Is Bliss: Nolan's films often deal with the theme of fooling either one's self or other people into believing something that's easier to digest than reality.
- Black Comedy: His humor goes both ways: dry wit or this. More noticeable in Memento and The Dark Knight.
- Central Theme: Obsession, deception, and guilt are common themes shared by almost all his films.
- Chekhov's Gun: An armoury of them.
- Chekhov's Gunman
- Close on Title: The Dark Knight Saga and Inception have the title card appear at the end, instead of the beginning. Fridge Brilliance: He put the title card at the beginning of Memento, a film where the events are shown in backward chronological order.
- Dark and Troubled Past: ...that will haunt his protagonists like no other. Sometimes literally!
- Doing It for the Art: He refused to have Inception or The Dark Knight Rises shot/converted to 3D because he didn't think it would look good enough. He also uses in-camera effects over CGI for the same reasons, resulting in some of the most jaw-dropping action sequences on film.
- Fake American: Insomnia and Following are his only films not to have at least one example of this.
- Femme Fatale: To go with his Neo-noir style mentioned below.
- Film Noir: Many of his films are of the Neo-noir variety.
- Fountain of Memes: Several of his films, including The Dark Knight and especially Inception.
- Grey and Gray Morality/Black and Gray Morality
- Humans Are Bastards
- Jitter Cam: His Batman films and Inception use this extensively.
- The Lost Lenore: The death of a love interest is a key plot point and strong character motivator in his films.
- Meaningful Echo
- Mind Screw: Nolan's short film Doodlebug would be the most straightforward example. His resume outside of the Batman films to a lesser extent as well, which can be confusing to follow due to their chaotic narrative structures. Ditto Film/Interstellar, which is told chronologically but can be confusing for those who don't have a great grasp of quantum theory and other space oddities.
- Moral Dilemma: Many and the 'right' choices are often debatable. Usually happens to the protagonists, but sometimes not even secondary characters or extras are spared.
- Multi-Take Cut: He sometimes downplays this trope, such as in the hospital explosion in The Dark Knight. As shown here, Nolan filmed the explosion from several angles, but decided to put only two in the finished movie.
- One-Word Title: Of his nine films, five have one-word titles.
- Once More with Clarity: Used in Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises, to go along with the audiences learning the Awful Truth.
- Playing Against Type: If you only see the casting list of his movies without knowing the characters the actors play, it'll be difficult to guess who are playing the good guys and who are playing the villains.
- Plot Twists: All the freaking time! Even though it's quite difficult to pull off in this time and age.
- Pragmatic Adaptation
- The Dark Knight Saga takes many liberties with the Batman universe, but they are considered to be among the greatest Batman adaptations ever.
- The Prestige changed everything from the plot to characterization, but all without detracting from the original work. And is widely considered better than the usual book-to-film adaptations.
- Production Posse: Often works with the same actors in different films, even beyond the Batman franchise.
- Michael Caine especially for appearing in every one of Nolans films since Begins. Other actors in this posse are Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard and Anne Hathaway. Goes double for Tom Hardy, who played the villain in Star Trek Nemesis. It was supposed to be his breakout role into stardom. Instead, it murdered his acting career right until this little movie called Inception came out... and now he played Bane in the third installment of the The Dark Knight Saga. If Caine's career was saved, Hardy's career was resurrected and injected with steroids.
- On the other side of the camera, he collaborates with his brother Jonathan on writing (see below), his wife Emma Thomas produces, Lee Smith edits (since Batman Begins), Hans Zimmer often scores his films, and Wally Pfister has done the cinematography for all but two of his films: Following (and it was during a festival showing he met Pfister, they have worked together since) and Interstellar (due to Pfister working on Transcendence).
- Reconstruction: The Dark Knight Saga in particular, which takes the pretty fantastical concept of a masked vigilante superhero dressed as a bat and grounds it in a somewhat realistic worldscape.
- Rule of Symbolism: Especially in Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises.
- Rule of Three: His movies are often built around well-defined groups of three. There's the three-act structure of his Batman trilogy, the three-part magic tricks in The Prestige (the Pledge, the Turn, and the Prestige), the three layers of Fischer's dream in Inception (the City, the Hotel and the Mountain), and the three planets in Interstellar (Miller's planet, Mann's planet, and Edmunds' planet).
- Scenery Porn: All of his films, especially The Dark Knight Saga and Inception. There's a reason why Inception won an Oscar for Best Cinematography.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Most of his protagonists qualify.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: A common theme of debate in most his movies with characters representing either side, especially predominate in The Dark Knight Saga. Though the films themselves are on the very end of the cynical side.
- Twist Ending: All films written by him and/or his brother have this.
Tropes that apply to him:
- Auteur License: Hollywood is under the impression that any film in which he has the slightest involvement will turn to box-office gold. Considering his solid three-film streak, it's not exactly far-fetched.
- Batman Gambit: How he got Inception made. Lampshaded by the fact that he used the Batman IP to do it.
- Benevolent Boss: Many actors who have worked with him have also noted that he is very easy to work with.
- Creator Couple: He is married to Emma Thomas, who has produced all of his films since Following.
- Limited Wardrobe: Nolan's signature dark suit, no tie, and dress shirt with a few buttons open. Sometimes he includes a vest or tie.
- Person as Verb: After his approach on the Batman film series, "Nolanize" has been used as a term used by fans, meaning rebooting a science-fiction/fantasy series to strip away all unrealistic elements from it.
- Reclusive Artist: Doesn't have a cell phone or e-mail address, and hid out in a trailer park writing his next project and growing a hermit beard.
- Red Index, Green Index: Averted, since he's red and green colorblind. There's also a distinct lack of either color in most of his works.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: A suit, with or without tie and jacket, has been noted as Nolan's uniform of sorts.
- Sibling Team: His brother Jonathan is sometimes his screenwriting partner.
- Spot of Tea: Earl Grey.
Morgan Freeman: He takes a sip of tea every 10 or 15 minutes. Heís like quiet authority.
Michael Caine: And I actually found out what the tea was, itís Earl Grey tea. Thatís what he drinks, all day long.