Christopher Nolan: A Blockbuster Enigma

Judging only by British director Christopher Nolan’s first feature film, 1998’s independently funded “Following,” it would have been hard to predict that he would someday be helming multi-million dollar film franchises.

On Tuesday, Lionsgate released a 10th anniversary Blu-ray that celebrates Nolan’s breakthrough film “Memento,” and come Sunday, Nolan’s latest mind-bending blockbuster, “Inception,” will be among the 10 potential Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

It’s safe to say Nolan has become a fixture in the film world, and Scene & Heard takes a look at Nolan’s films, as well as what he’s done to secure his spot as a contemporary master of the blockbuster.

Memento (2000)

Critically adorned and universally accepted would be the simplest way to describe the reaction to Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough film.

For many, this was the first time seeing the work of the young director, who weaved a Hitchcock-like thriller out of a man searching for answers to the murder of his wife, all while suffering from crippling amnesia.

Guy Pearce was lauded for his excellent performance as the forgetful protagonist Leonard, and Nolan received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay (the script was based on a short story by his brother and frequent writing partner, Jonathan Nolan).

Batman Begins (2005)

After the positive experience of working on the 2002 remake of the Norwegian crime thriller “Insomnia” for Warner Brothers, Nolan was happy to return to the major Hollywood studio for his largest project yet.

For his next film, Nolan was in charge of rebooting the ailing “Batman” film franchise after it had met its demise in 1997 with the vapid “Batman & Robin.”

“Batman Begins” was a major success at the box office worldwide, but most importantly, it proved to critics that a competent comic book film could be made. Nolan had proved he was capable of handling films that could please both the art house crowd, as well as play to the multiplexes.

The Prestige (2006)

Adapted from a novel by Christopher Priest, “The Prestige” would prove to be quite an interesting film on Nolan’s resume.

Following the story of two bitter magicians hell-bent on outdoing one another, the film evokes a sense of real magic and wonder out of its use of science-fiction elements. “The Prestige” delves into one man’s obsession with destroying his enemy’s life, by any means necessary.

While it was met with a lukewarm critical and commercial response, the film can be seen regularly in syndication, and has developed a significant cult following.

The Dark Knight (2008)

While the untimely death of actor Heath Ledger and the positive buzz surrounding his performance as Batman’s most famous foe The Joker may have aided “The Dark Knight” financially, the film would also prove to be a watershed moment in Nolan’s career.

Drawing very little from Batman’s comic book history, Nolan created a Batman universe that is more “Heat” meets “The Usual Suspects” than it is your standard comic book film. Critics and fans hailed it for bringing an original take to the pop culture icon’s lore.

Not surprisingly, “The Dark Knight” quickly became the second-highest grossing film in the world at the time, and even secured a posthumous Academy Award win for Ledger’s brilliant performance. There was also a Best Picture nomination for the film itself, which marked a first for a film about a superhero.

Inception (2010)

After the enormous success of “The Dark Knight,” Warner Brothers Studios was willing to let Nolan do whatever project he would like. “Inception,” a dream project 10 years in the making, was Nolan’s first choice.

Following a prominent “dream thief” by the name of Cobb, “Inception” was a dazzling special effects ride, as well as an intelligent heist film. Audiences and critics responded favorably, and worries about whether the film was too complex for the average moviegoer vanished.

After the success of “Inception,” Nolan has moved on to directing the third installment in his “Batman” franchise, “The Dark Knight Rises,” and plans to follow that with a biopic about entrepreneur Howard Hughes. Nolan was also honored this past weekend by the American Cinema Editors, where he received the Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award for “Inception.”