Noland makes impossibly illogical movies that his fans mistake for depth and complexity. Many watch the films repeatedly to derive meaning (often, I bet, under the influence of marijuana). CGI, mystical psychobabble, crushing sound all make for a powerful cinematic rush, but where is character, story, logic? Does this writer/director know how to tell a story without resorting to dreams, time warps, identity deception and CGI? If a protagonist is tied to a railroad track with the train screaming towards him, all he has to do is transmorphe through a CGI dreamscape at the last moment to avoid being pulverized.
At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman clearly has the Joker entrapped, hung upside down off a skyscraper. Does he arrest him? No, they have a brooding philosophical discussion. Next scene: the Joker has escaped? When? How? Where? I’ve asked a hundred people how the Joker escaped and they all give different, albeit enthusiastic, responses.
Don’t get me wrong – I hate formulaic movies where you know everything that is going to happen. I revel in always guessing where a director is taking me. Pedro Almodovar (whose screenwriter, like Nolan, is his brother) is a master at wrapping things up at the end. Nolan has nothing to wrap up because his movies don’t make sense.
Here are my five worst films by America/England’s worst director:
Leo DiCaprio is so adept at jumping around in people’s minds, his character is able to leap from Shutter Island to this confusing mess. He is some kind of tortured, high paid “mind thief.” Oy Vey.
The Dark Knight
So Batman is a humorless, introspective, life questioning Darth Vader impersonator? Let’s roll out all kinds of famous actors in colorful bit parts and let Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman do their veteran magic. At least half of the billion dollars this movie made was for Heath Ledger’s brilliant take on the Joker – the only redeeming thing in Noland’s canon.
Visitors arrive at Nikola Tesla’s mountain mansion in a hoary, dreary CGI Euro winter frost. Moments later they are dining on Tesla’s sunny tropical balcony, a palm tree in the background. Was Tesla able to warm whole countrysides with his inventions so he could eat lunch outdoors? This is the closest Nolan has come to telling a traditional tale; but can he leave good alone? Great art direction and atmosphere of the Victorian London magic and illusionist scene devolves into a groan inducing plot twist that explains all the uninteresting things that have come before (no spoilers here).
This film was tortuously boring and confusing, but since I had never heard of Nolan, I gave him high marks for originality and high concept. Why not have a film unravel backwards, though, without such tortuous side trips through memory loss, murder and other off the wall plot points? I eagerly awaited his next film. What did I get? Insomnia.