Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bay to Nolan: A short trip

By the time I finished writing this, I realized that I really only disliked "Inception" and, to a lesser extent, "The Dark Knight Rises." But, I wrote it, so I feel obligated to share.

Michael Bay catches flak from critics and movie snobs for making movies with little-to-no plot, giant explosions, and as much skin as allowed for a PG-13 movie. The critical dislike of Bay’s movies goes so deep that he has only directed one film that has been “Certified Fresh” by RottenTomatoes.com. Despite the constant criticisms of Bay’s films, the general public doesn’t seem to mind, as his movies constantly make more than they cost to make and routinely cross the oh-so-important $100 million threshold.

Because of how much money his movies make, Bay continues to work and will continue to do so until the day finally comes when the public decides that they have seen the world destroyed enough to permanently fill the apparent void in that department. 

With the success that Michael Bay has had, many other directors have stepped up to try to force their way into the hole he currently occupies. Roland Emmerich routinely ends the world, whether by global warming or aliens. Paul W.S. Anderson creates as much distance from the other Paul Andersonas possible by including paranormal critters or Liu Kang in basically everything he makes. Christopher Nolan makes needlessly complicated plots that no one pays attention to because the explosions are neat.

Wait? What was that last one? Must be some other Christopher Nolan, not THE Christopher Nolan, the man responsible for such great films as “Memento” and “The Prestige.” And you’re right. It’s not that Christopher Nolan. That Christopher Nolan deserves all the praise that he gets as one of the best directors in the game. (Full Disclosure: “The Prestige” ranks among my all-time favorite films.)

The Christopher Nolan resposnsible for “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises” though, that Christopher Nolan may be getting a little more praise than he probably deserves. 

Nolan’s early films, starting in 1998 with his debut film “Follow,” and including “Memento,” and “Insomnia,” firmly placed Nolan on the directorial map. Those stories were simple and were as satisfying for the mind as they were for the eyes. Heck, “Memento” has a strong argument for Best Film of the Aughts. He was clearly someone to watch.

Then, Batman happened.

“Batman Begins” felt small for a blockbuster because of the emphasis placed on the origin story at the beginning of the film. However, once Batman became entrenched on the rooftops of Gotham, logic went out the window and the explosions started.

Those explosions and jumps in logic kept right on rolling through “The Dark Knight” and culminating with “The Dark Knight Rises,” which, when looked at for story, had more holes than Camp Green Lake.

Sure, the argument could be made that superhero movies are inherently flawed because superheroes. And that would be perfectly valid argument if “Inception” didn’t happen.

“Inception” was (so far) Christopher Nolan at his Michael Bay-iest with a plot too ridiculous to matter and the set pieces being the most interesting part of the film. There were huge explosions in giant mountains, an entire crumpled civilization, and a room that was literally spinning while Joseph Gordon-Levitt fought some guy. 

As for the plot, it was about dreams. What about dreams? Well, dreams are dreams so dreams.
Chris Nolan’s newest project, which is due for release just in time for the Oscar race in 2014, is called “Interstellar” and is supposedly about wormholes, gravity, and unproven Einstein theories, so it seems that Nolan isn’t planning on taking Michael Scott’s advice and keeping it simple, stupid.

Although this entry may seem hypercritical of Nolan, that is not my mind. I think he has made some very good, occasionally even great, films. However, the gap between Nolan’s more recent work and critical pariah Michael Bay is not as wide as some would like to believe.   


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