In which we discuss trilogies, why they usually suck, and why Christopher Nolan might be the man to prove that second point wrong.
Christopher Nolan’s two Batman movies, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, have seemingly done the impossible in Hollywood. Not only did they save a dead franchise from cinematic Hell (and believe me, Batman was there after rubber nipples, ice puns and a friggin’ Bat Credit Card), but they are two legitimately good films in their own right. Heck, The Dark Knight builds on the first movie in ways which are rare in most sequels. Yet, we still see the third movie, The Dark Knight Rises, coming up and we all think back to the other cinematic triumphs that should have been. Remember Spider-Man 3? Sam Raimi, coming right off of the critically acclaimed and loved by the fans Spider-Man 2, promised a huge send off to his Spider-Man story only to give us emo hair flips, jazz dance numbers and too many villains? Or Bryan Singer’s third superhero movie, Superman Returns? Singer could have been considered the Nolan of the first part of the 2000’s… until Superman Returns came out and sucked out loud. No action, a confusing and vague history, and Superman’s hidden love child with Lois Lane? No Bryan Singer, just… no. So why should we rest easily in this case? Why should Nolan have our confidence when all others have stumbled on this last, third step? Well, I’ll tell you why.
1) Look at Chris Nolan’s past work. All of it. Start with his first mainstream hit, Memento, and go forward to Inception. The man has literally not made one film that isn’t widely seen as an excellent piece of film making. His worst movie would probably be Insomnia, and that could at worst be called kind of dull. Not outright bad. The man is a quality beast, making sure every detail is exactly right and every actor gives their best performance. Not to say he’s perfect, as his Batman movies have had some problems. Rachel Dawes wasn’t the most interesting female love interest ever and Bale’s Batman growly voice gets grating after a while. But those are minor nitpicks at best, and Nolan did learn from them and improve them in the sequel. Which moves us onto reason number two.
2) Chris Nolan learns and makes things better. Every single movie he makes, he takes things he’s learned from the last one and uses them to make the next one better. Let’s just look at the Batman films alone. Like I said before, Batman Begins had some problems. Rachel, the growl, jerky action scenes. But all of those problems – well, maybe not the growl so much – they all were improved in some way. Rachel got a lot of character development – until she blew up – the action scenes were much better and much clearer, and Dark Knight paved the way for Nolan to make Inception. He’s had that idea for a long, long time. He was even told he could do it a while ago, but felt he couldn’t do it at that time. That’s how much Nolan cares about the effort put into his films. He has a killer idea like Inception and he puts the brakes on it until he thinks he’s good enough to do it. He takes his films one at a time, learning what he can, and then moves on to the next one. Which brings us to…
3) He takes his films one at a time, learning what he can, and then moves on to the next one. Quick question: what was the big problem with the other big huge movies that I complained about earlier? They had big, huge expectations, mostly put on there by the film makers themselves. Sam Raimi put so much into Spider-Man 3, as if he needed to finish this grand plan that he had created for Spider-Man. It had to deal with Peter and M.J., the Goblin legacy, Uncle Ben’s killer and the Symbiote. There was just no room. Raimi painted himself into a corner. The same with X-Men 3. We had the Phoenix Saga shoved into the shortest film in the series, the death of Cyclops and Professor X, a newer and younger cast of mutants, the cure sub-plot – it was just a mess. At least we could blame that one on having a different director and studio meddling. But look at what Bryan Singer did, instead. Superman Returns just felt like a “the cool stuff will come in the next movie, this one is for setting that one up” movie. The kid, New Krypton, the love triangle between Superman, Lois and Richard White; all of that had little resolution. Add to that the fact the film had little action, which Singer promised to up in the sequel, and you get a movie that isn’t a movie, but a set up to a movie. Which makes for a very uninteresting movie.
Nolan does none of that. Batman Begins is a solo Batman movie. Chris Nolan wasn’t thinking of what would happen in Dark Knight while making Begins. He was just thinking of how to make the best Batman movie. When Dark Knight came around, he did the same thing. How do I make the best Batman movie? Not, “How do I make the best sequel to a Batman movie that leads to a third big Batman movie?” He takes his films one at a time. Which means that The Dark Knight Rises will not have that huge weight of having to be super awesome weighing it down. Chris Nolan will treat it like he treats every other movie he does. Looking at his past record, there can be no greater sign that we’re heading in the right direction.
Now, could I be wrong in all this? Sure. Everyone stumbles eventually. Could Nolan lose his spot as king of the comic book nerd’s film making empire? Again, sure. But if anyone can break the third movie curse, I think Nolan’s the guy to do it.