Is Christopher Nolan worthy of his popularity?


Following the release of the first trailer for Interstellar (below), Nolan’s new sci-fi, an action epic starring Matthew McConaughey, I am struck by the somewhat cultish following that the director and producer has seemed to acquire in the past few years following on from his Batman trilogy.

If the number of IMDB user created lists featuring Christopher Nolan is any judge of a person’s popularity, it would seem he has probably already achieved cult figure status given that there are no less than 990 of these lists, most of which are titled “The Best Directors of All Time” or something to that effect. While one of the “Best Directors of All Time” is a bit too much given that he has only been making films for the last 15 or so years and it’s probably a bit too early to tell, it has to be said that he certainly has a talent for taking somewhat unorthodox themes and making them into accessible, entertaining and on occasion thought-provoking action-oriented films, something which is missing from many of today’s high-budget action blockbusters.

Something that irks me is that die-hard fans of Nolan do indeed treat him like their cult leader; faultless, divine and utterly perfect as a filmmaker. It is impossibly difficult to have a conversation with anyone of this opinion because not only do they refuse to admit that there is a single aspect of any of his films that is even the slightest bit off but suddenly everything you talk about becomes related to him. For example, during university, almost every conversation and seminar somehow managed to end up on the topic of Christopher Nolan because of this one student who wouldn’t shut up about him and seemed to think there always exists a relevant time to talk about this with the lecturer.

The conversation would go something like this:

L: “So what do you define as ‘independent’?”

S: “Well to me an independent film is something where they don’t spend much money and is appealing to a certain type of audience, like hipsters and stuff.”

L: “Right, so you think that money and audience are the main things that define independent?”

The lecturer would then ask other people what they thought but they would usually be interrupted by:

S: “An independent filmmaker is someone like Christopher Nolan, like, even though people don’t really say that his films are indie, I think that there are certain aspects of them which can be independent.”

This is usually the point where I would roll my eyes and the conversation would snowball into this big debate about what his best films are and how good The Dark Knight is. And the ridiculous thing was that everyone else either seemed to be the same sort of Nolan nut or they were asleep.


It is curious to see this sort of obsessive behaviour first-hand because I am constantly reminded of the sort of people who fawn over female celebrities in this way. To me, it is this appreciation of celebrities/filmmakers that is so strange. Perhaps the nature of fandom is something I don’t understand. That’s not to say that I am not a fan of certain cultural and political figures, but I don’t have the same relationship with them as these Nolanites do. However, I have resolved to get over this irritation. Christopher Nolan is the kind of director that makes films of a certain standard and could perhaps be considered consistent in this respect. He is more deserving of respect and cult status than someone such as Sylvester Stallone, whose career is based on two films that were somewhat decent made over 20 years ago. If I was to imagine myself as Christopher Nolan, I would probably be proud of my film career to date.

When the Joker asks in the The Dark Knight “Why so serious?” it not only seems directed at those characters within the film but the film itself even Nolan’s franchise as a whole, as a sort of self-referential joke. This serious tone is something that permeates the entirety of the Dark Knight trilogy and something which was echoed by Christian Bale himself when he was asked where he thought up the idea to put on his famously gruff voice –

“[The voice] ain’t for everybody, but it was the only way I could find how to get into that and to justify wearing the frisking Batsuit, otherwise, he’s just loopy beyond belief.”

Nolan’s Batman is defined by this seriousness and will certainly be remembered for its dark tone, even though, as Bale says, “What kind of guy walks around, dressed like a bat?”


It’s slightly hard to judge but based on the teaser trailer that was recently released, the IMDb plot description: “A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage” and the stellar (forgive the pun) cast of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck, I’d say Nolan’s reputation looks set to continue on it’s upward trajectory.

Perhaps in a few years the Nolan fans will have moved on to someone else who is equally deserving (or undeserving, depending on your point of view) as him. And then we’ll really see who the “All Time Greatest Director” is. But for now and for the immediate future with Interstellar being released later this year the crazed Batman freaks and Nolanites will march on and in all likelihood grow in size.

Interstellar is due to be released in the UK on November 7th.

Lucas has a BA in Film Production and currently runs a blog about film posters. He also writes and reads scripts and has had films screened at the British Film Institute. He is currently working in Latin America and is writing a 6 episode mini-series.