The Peri- and Post-Batman Eras: The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar, and Dunkirk

Welcome back to The Christopher Nolan Chronicle.  Before we dive into today’s article, the editors would like to share some unfortunate news.  Due to unforeseen budget cuts, the Chronicle will be forced to close upon the publication of this article.  It has been a pleasure evaluating the works of Christopher Nolan, and at last – after this final post – we will be able to answer, once and for all, our burning question: Was Christopher Nolan better before or after he directed the Batman films?

First, let’s start with The Prestige.

The Prestige, 2006

The Prestige is, in many ways, a quintessentially Nolan film.  It features several twists that make you question what you’ve just seen, and it has many of the cast members we often see recurring in Nolan features.  The Prestige tells the story of two magicians entangled in a years-long, intense rivalry in which they each hope to assert their magical supremacy.  The battle is fraught with obsession, lies, jealousy, and – for one of our magicians – dangerous and deadly consequences.

As usual, we’ve checked in with our friend Dylan to find out what he thought about The Prestige:

A film about illusion crafted by the master of cinematic illusion himself. The Prestige is a criminally underseen masterpiece of Christopher Nolan’s, as it was sandwiched between two Batman films, and I’m glad it’s gotten more attention as time has passed. It’s mesmerizing to see Nolan’s parallel between magician and filmmaker, as his film is designed to create a similar sense of awe and puzzlement as a magic trick itself. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are exceptional in their roles, hammering home the profound themes of rivalry, obsession, and toxic ambition. On the surface, the film is exhilarating and engaging, but as you peel back the layers, you realize how deeply tragic it is, and its final moments are bound to send goosebumps up the arm. To me, The Prestige was Nolan’s greatest illusion yet, and perfectly encompasses everything he does so well, from his attention to detail, non-linear storytelling, impeccable design, masterclass performances, and compelling dialogue. It could’ve been a mess in the wrong director’s hands, but Nolan shuffles every card in the deck perfectly. Abracadabra.

We rated it 8.5 / 10 | Dylan rated it: 10 / 10

Inception, 2010

Inception is arguably the most visually-interesting film Nolan has ever created.  Despite this film coming out now ten years ago, the visual effects and CGI hold up very well.  It is another film in which we see the story beats Nolan likes to include in many of his movies, namely here we have an ambiguous ending that makes us question the main character’s motivations throughout the entirety of the film’s events.  Interestingly, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in this movie has a last name of Cobb, the same last name as the sneaky burglar our protagonist teams up with in Following.  Does that mean anything?  Who knows.  But it’s something.

Let’s see what Dylan thought about Nolan’s mind-bending dreamscape:

Inception is first and foremost a visual masterclass. The sheer enormity of it all is hypnotizing. Every set piece is stunning, particularly the spinning hallway that leaves me astounded every time. I do think the film feels a tad excessive in its exposition and explanation, but given how intelligent the writing and unique the concepts are, the wordiness is almost welcome. No single actor overshadows the other, as they work cohesively as an ensemble, embracing the nature of the mission being a team effort. For a film as bloated as Inception, it’s surprising how quick the runtime flies by, with Hans Zimmer’s killer score fueling the pacing and tension building of the entire piece. There’s no other film like it, and if I had to name one single work to describe Nolan’s style and brilliance in a nutshell, this is the most Nolan of them all.

We rated it: 9 / 10 | Dylan rated it: 9 / 10

And now we move on to the Post-Batman Era.

Interstellar, 2014

Now we move into the Post-Batman Era.  First up, Nolan’s space opera starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.  Interstellar‘s story chronicles the adventures of a group of explorers who 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.

Dylan wrote about Nolan’s out of this world drama:

Interstellar is Nolan’s biggest endeavor to date, but his style and “outside the box” thinking really caters the conceptual side of the film nicely. I do acknowledge some of the issues with the third act, but some convoluted plot holes aren’t enough to undermine just how powerful Interstellar is on both a visual and emotional level. It’s by far Nolan’s most sentimental, and the scene where Coop looks through his video messages, watching life literally pass him by before his very eyes is the only Nolan moment that makes me openly sob, let alone shed a tear. The sheer ambition of Interstellar is what reels me in every time. The size of it, the scale of it, the gorgeous Hoyte van Hoytema cinematography, paired with Hans Zimmer’s beautifully daunting organ score. I’m frustrated at myself for never seeing this in a theatre. One of the most impressive science-fiction epics of our generation, and Nolan’s most endearing despite its imperfections.

We rated it: 7.5 / 10 | Dylan rated it: 9 / 10

Dunkirk, 2017

The latest film Christopher Nolan has directed, excluding his 2020 outing, TENET, is the World War II epic, Dunkirk.  This movie tells the amazing true story of the evacuation of Allied soldiers from Belgium, Britain, Canada, and France.  These soldiers were cut off and surrounded by the German army from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk between May 26th and June 4th, 1940.  Dunkirk earned Nolan three Academy Awards in technical achievements and another 5 Oscar nominations.

Dylan’s review of Dunkirk is too long to re-publish here, but suffice it to say, his four-paragraph review is full of high praise for Nolan’s achievements in this film.

We rated it: 7.5 / 10 | Dylan Rated it: 9 / 10

That’s a Wrap!

We now know that the Pre-Batman Era of Nolan’s filmography started off quite strong, with an average rating for his first three features coming in at 8.16 / 10. We also know that the Batman Era came in with an average rating of  7.67 / 10.  And now, we’ve determined that the Peri-Batman Era (The Prestige and Inception) scored an average 8.75 and the Post-Batman Era (Interstellar and Dunkirk) scored an average 7.5 / 10.

The Final Question

So, the question remains, was Christopher Nolan better before or after he directed the Batman films?  Well, that remains to be seen.  Given that the Pre-Batman Era has a comparable score to that of the Peri-Batman Era and the Post-Batman Era has a comparable score to the actual Batman Era, it seems like Nolan is a generally consistent filmmaker.

So now, we turn the question over to you all.  What do you think?  What era was the best for our father who art in cinema?  Do you have a favorite era?  Let us know in the comments and on social!

TENET TALK: New Posters for Nolan’s Latest Film

Welcome back to The Christopher Nolan Chronicle.  Today we are taking a slight break from our usual programming to bring you an update on our father who art in cinema’s latest film: TENET.  Special thanks to Hoai-Tran at SlashFilm for compiling these posters for us so we can analyze them.  Let’s take a look.

Tenet Posters Featuring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson

The first few posters feature the two main characters in the film, The Protagonist and The Protagonist’s Handler (Neil), portrayed by John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, respectively.  These are some slick and stylized posters featuring key moments from the trailer that first dropped way back in January this year.  Next up we have a few posters showing the characters individually, two featuring John David Washington and one featuring Robert Pattinson.

Tenet Posters Featuring Elizabeth Debicki

Elizabeth Debicki plays Katherine Barton, an art appraiser and the estranged wife of another character, Andrei Sator.  She gets two posters of her own here, and is featured in the background of one of John David Washington’s posters above.

Tenet Posters Featuring Kenneth Branaugh and a Mystery Man

These last two posters show Kenneth Branaugh, who plays Andrei Sator and a mystery man.  Who do you think this mystery man is?  What do you think his role is?  Let us know your theories in the comments.

Some Final International Posters

As you may have noticed, some of these posters are for international marketing of the film, and we thought it would be cool to highlight some non-western marketing materials since TENET was initially released outside of the U.S. and U.K. markets.  Take a look at these posters from the Chinese market.

Share Your Thoughts on these TENET Posters

Which poster is your favorite?  Do you plan to see TENET now that it’s in theaters stateside?  Let us know your theories in the comments below!

The Pre-Batman Era: Following, Memento, and Insomnia

Welcome back to The Christopher Nolan Chronicle, today we are discussing the Pre-Batman Era of Nolan’s filmography.  In the four-year span between and including 1998 and 2002, Christopher Nolan directed his first feature-length film, Following, the mind-bending mystery, Memento, and the psychological thriller, Insomnia.  In an effort to ensure The Christopher Nolan Chronicle maintains its reputation as an unbiased publication, we have consulted the reviews of Dylan R., a film fan from New York City, as a benchmark against which to compare our own findings.

In pursuit of our quest to answer whether Nolan was better before or after he directed the Batman films, it only makes sense to start at the beginning.  First up, Following.

Following, 1998

Christopher Nolan’s Following follows Bill as he follows random people around London.  Are you following?  The film is shot in black and white on 16mm, which was the most expensive part of the film’s $6,000 USD budget.  Coming in with a 69-minute runtime, the pacing in Following is deliberate and precise.    Nolan wastes no time on overlong character backstory and nixes any setpieces that aren’t strictly necessary to tell the story he wants to tell.  Despite that seemingly short runtime, the film makes room for not one, not two, but three plot twists, and none of them feel cheap or unearned.

Dylan R. writes about Nolan’s Following:

Following is an impressive debut from Christopher Nolan, and a great example in creating something meaningful with practically zero budget. We see so many glimpses of what Nolan’s career would eventually grow to become: brisk pacing, darker tones, unique editing, and great attention to detail. Whereas other filmmakers would feel restraint with a budget like this, Nolan uses it to his advantage and the film has a very raw feel because of its few takes, natural costuming and set design, and imperfect sound mixing. It has its faults, and may even be the least memorable of Nolan’s large-scale body of work, but it is still something special and incredibly promising.

The Chronicle could not agree more with Dylan’s assessment of Nolan’s debut feature film, but would like to add nuance to one particular line Dylan mentions.  Following may not be Nolan’s least memorable film for any inherent faults within the picture itself, but rather because it lacks the larger-than-life setpieces, dramatic reveals, and flourishes that would appear as soon as his next film, two years later, in Memento.  Following is an innocuous picture that doesn’t stand out, not because it’s bad, but because it doesn’t resort to major theatrics to tell its story.

We rate it: 7.5 / 10 | Dylan Rates it: 7 / 10

Memento, 2000

In his next feature-length outing, Christopher Nolan takes on a mind-bending, time-bending mystery starring Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a widower with a memory problem trying to track down his wife’s rapist and murderer.  It’s not Amnesia, though, Leonard would like you to know.  He can recall everything up to the event of his wife’s death, but cannot store new memories he has made since then.  He knows what he has to do and why, but can’t remember how he got to where he is or where he’s going next.  Memento tells one story in two halves, with alternating scenes taking place in alternating moments of Leonard’s chronology.  The jarring nature of this storytelling serves its purpose, as Nolan confuses his audience just enough to disorient them much like Leonard’s disorientation, but not enough so that the picture is convoluted and unwatchable.

It’s hard to discuss what makes this movie so great without getting into spoiler territory, so let’s just see what Dylan has to say:

Memento is one of a kind. Nolan really perfected non-linear storytelling that doesn’t feel gimmicky, but instead effectively conveys the fragmented headspace of Guy Pearce’s character, constantly trying to put clues together to find answers in this never-ending spiral of unknowingness. Not only is it beautifully structured, but it has some deeply effective tragedy throughout. With more of a budget than his debut, Nolan showed just how powerful his artistic eye could be, with some stunning imagery and attention to detail throughout. Nolan would go for bigger spectacle later in his career, but Memento may impress me more because of how engrossing it is on its concept and narrative structure alone, not relying on a plethora of special effects to enhance it. I find myself even more engaged with every rewatch, discovering more and more little twists and tricks along the way. One of Nolan’s best.

We would like to echo Dylan’s assessment that Memento is particularly impressive for what Nolan was able to accomplish on a still-minimal budget (albeit larger than what he had for Following).  Also, as Dylan mentions, there are few, if any, special effects present in this film, with Nolan relying solely on the strength of his narrative storytelling, deliberate editing, and intentional cinematography.  He gives us just enough to be half a step ahead of Leonard, but not enough to see anything more coming.

We rate it: 9 / 10 | Dylan rates it: 10 / 10

Insomnia, 2002

In the last of the Pre-Batman Era of Christopher Nolan’s career, we examine Insomnia, a psychological crime thriller starring Al Pacino in one of the last fully-conscious performances he would give until 2019’s The IrishmanInsomnia is one of the few Nolan-directed pictures that was not, wholly or in part, written by himself and/or his brother Jonathan, and it does feel that way at times.  Based on a Norwegian Nordic-noir of the same name, directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, the dialogue is, at times, cliche for anyone familiar with the morally-ambiguous hard-boiled detective tropes, and Hillary Swank, playing one of only three living women in this film, is forgettable.  That said, Al Pacino and Robin Williams chemistry (even in scenes where they do not appear on screen together) and the technical aspects of this film, like the cinematography and editing more than make up for generic character work and merely decent screenwriting.

Let’s see what Dylan thought about Nolan’s Insomnia:

I think Insomnia is definitely an underrated work in Nolan’s resume. It is his most straightforward piece, and perhaps his least “unique” on a creative scale—this could be due to its screenplay being the only one not written by Nolan himself—though I believe it’s well directed, and certainly well acted. Robin Williams is definitely the highlight, as I loved seeing him play something so far from his wheelhouse. The use of scenery and atmosphere is impressive, with some gorgeous cinematography capturing Alaska’s vast, foggy landscapes. Insomnia works well as a crime thriller, but even better as a character study, as the exploration into Al Pacino’s character’s psyche is rather fascinating, dealing with guilt, reputation, and secret-keeping in a very profound way. There’s nothing particularly new about Insomnia’s style or structure (compared to something like Memento), but that only brings more emphasis to Nolan’s abilities in other areas, as there truly is a multitude of strengths when it comes to his direction. Insomnia may not be one of Nolan’s upper-tier works, or his most memorable, but is still special in its own right, and still gives us one hell of a Nolan ending, thematic and resonant as expected.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  The Chronicle believes Insomnia‘s greatest strengths are its two male leads, Robin Williams and Al Pacino, and the cinematography only serves to emphasize the mental struggles these characters are facing.  And, while we concede Hillary Swank’s character, Detective Ellie Burr, could have been more fleshed out, it is understandable that she is somewhat forgettable given that the story focuses on Pacino’s Detective Dormer hunting for Williams’s Walter Finch.  As Dylan said, Insomnia is hardly Nolan’s most creative work, but it is, without a doubt, well-made and extremely well-performed.

We rate it: 8 / 10 | Dylan rates it: 8 / 10

That’s a Wrap!

This concludes the Pre-Batman Era of Christopher Nolan’s filmography.  Three very distinct works, each showing off a few of the creative sensibilities Nolan harnesses as a director.  In Following, we see what Nolan can do with a minimal budget and deliberate editing choices.  In Memento, we learn more about Nolan’s fascination with character motivations and, no spoilers, ambiguous endings.  And, in Insomnia, we see what Nolan can do with the financial support of a big studio budget, visionary cinematographers, and, most importantly, an extremely talented cast.

The average rating for the Pre-Batman Era stands at 8.16 / 10.

Stay tuned to the next issue of The Christopher Nolan Chronicle to find out what we think about the most infamous era of Nolan’s career: The Batman Era.

Sources Consulted:

Randazzo, D. (2020 August 10). Nolanography: The Road to Tenet (?) #1 [Review of the movie Following, by director C. Nolan]. Retrieved from

Randazzo, D. (2020 August 15). Nolanography: The Road to Tenet (?) #2 [Review of the movie Memento, by director C. Nolan]. Retrieved from

Randazzo, D. (2020 August 18). Nolanography: The Road to Tenet (?) #3 [Review of the movie Insomnia, by director C. Nolan]. Retrieved from

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