Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman was introduced in 1938 — that’s even before World War II — and ushered what we know now as the Golden Age of Comics. The first superhero comic book movie (discounting Zorro), titled Superman and the Mole Men was released in 1951, the year when An American in Paris won six Academy Awards including Best Picture. It also happened to be the year where the first X-Ray moving picture process was demonstrated. In 1966, Batman starring the late Adam West hit the big screens. An unfit Batman running around carrying a bomb over his head is still considered one of the greatest historical moments of our time. The point is, superhero comic books and their adaptations have been in the background of pop culture since before your daddy started taking swimming lessons in your grandpa’s ballsacks. But, it wasn’t cool back then.
Back in the day, nerdy comic book guys had to hide under their blankets, under their beds, in basements of Native American houses, in the outskirts, away from public eyes, for fear of jocks punching them in the face or worse yet giving them the infamous wedgie. Getting laid was also not an option. And nerdy comic book girls had the figure of Marilyn Monroe, were always butt naked and appeared in the dreams of nerdy comic book guys, as real ones were nonexistent. This was our cultural landscape from the dawn of time all the way through to the 90s and even early 2000s.
Oh, how times have changed.
Today, a walking, talking comic book encyclopedia has 275% more chance of getting laid than a shirtless college basketball player with glistening abs. And that my friends, is a stat I conjured out of my butthole three seconds ago. It is true, though. These days, being a comic book geek (or film geek in general) is considered COOL.
In 2017 alone, there are six comic book movies set to be / already released — Logan, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League. How did we go from one comic book movie a year at the most, to six comic book movies in a single year? Not to mention the bazillion comic book TV Series such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Arrow, Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, that have taken over our small screens. Once upon a time, there was campy, crapfest, sorry excuse for a movie, Batman & Robin that was ridiculed, laughed at but also ironically made a lot of people say, “That’s a comic book movie. What did you expect?” Now, critics are pushing hard for both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart to get Academy Award nominations while Warner Bros is planning an Oscar campaign for Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins. How did this happen?
In the 50s and 60s you went to a western. So at this point, you’re going to a superhero movie.
When did being cool go from gunslinging men riding horses puffing away on a cigarette, to men and women in iron suits and colourful tights with outlandish powers?
When did Superman stop wearing his underwear on the outside?
The new wave of comic book movies started in 2000 with Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002, it still wasn’t a BIG DEAL — not to undermine those good films. I’m not just talking about box office numbers, nor how good those films are quality wise. I’m talking about cultural impact. And it wasn’t until 2005 when Christopher Nolan released a little film called Batman Begins that the world really started to see comic book films in a different light.
Back in April 2015, Christopher Nolan was voted as TIME’s 100 most influential people, and for good reason. To large Hollywood studios — Warner Bros in particular — Nolan’s name is synonymous with money. Over the past decade and a half, Nolan’s movies have grossed more than 4.2 Bil USD at the global Box Office, which is a feat not many directors have accomplished and not many will. And because of that, Nolan remains one of the only directors who can enter a studio with an idea and walk out with a bag full of cash and his balls dry. If Christopher Nolan wants 165 Mil USD to make an ORIGINAL film, he’s getting that 165 Mil and then some. But what separates Nolan from say a Michael Bay is the fact that Nolan’s movies aren’t your typical blockbuster films. Nolan doesn’t need giant robots, preschool level humour and slow-mo bouncing boobies to sell his movies.
Christopher Nolan kinda reminds me of Steven Spielberg. And I’m talking about the Spielberg that made films like Jaws and Jurassic Park, not the new Spielberg that helmed BFG. Spielberg was one of those directors whose name was enough to sell a movie. And I’m not just talking about movies that feature giant sharks and dinosaurs. Even his less grandiose “smart” movies like Minority Report made more than 350 Mil USD at the global Box Office. While Spielberg’s name doesn’t sell like it used to, Christopher Nolan is just getting started. Forget The Dark Knight Trilogy (which I will get back to in a bit), Nolan’s most complex film to date, Inception, which focuses on planting ideas in dreams within dreams within dreams, managed to rake in 825 Mil USD at the global Box Office and eight Oscar nominations (including a Best Picture nomination), and winning four of them, making him one of the few directors in the world who can consistently please critics, The Academy as well the most casual of fans.
Speaking of The Academy, let’s talk about how Christopher Nolan quite frankly ruined the Oscars. Well, Grantland film critic Mark Harris says ruined, I say fixed. For more than 60 years, the Best Picture list at the Oscars consisted of five nominees. It has been THE Oscar tradition. However, six years ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was hit by a massive backlash when Nolan’s The Dark Knight AKA one of the finest pieces of art ever created, failed to receive a Best Picture nomination at the 81st Academy Awards. C’mon, I get Slumdog Millionaire, Benjamin Button, Milk and Frost/Nixon. But The Academy had to be on 200 different types of drugs when they chose effing The Reader over The Dark Knight. There was a huge revolt, not just by fans but by people in the industry as well. Everyone carried pitchforks and flaming torches. Even the Bible was amended, for the eighth deadly sin was committed.
- Not nominating The Dark Knight in the Best Picture category
This led to the most sensational amendment in 60 years of Oscar history: From 2010 onwards, the Best Picture list was increased from five nominees, to a maximum of 10 nominees. While The Dark Knight did not win the Best Picture Oscar, this incident serves to highlight Christopher Nolan’s mass appeal and power, in what many are calling, The Nolan Effect. The reason why fans, critics, and studios can even think, “I hope X comic book movie gets an Oscar nomination,” is because Christopher Nolan made that a possibility. Why do we think the likes of Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman has the slightest potential to get an Oscar nomination for Logan? Because Heath Ledger RIP won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as The Joker in Nolan’s The Dark Knight , all those years ago.
I read this line somewhere a while back, but for the life of me, I can’t remember where. It goes something like this:
Michael Jackson may not have invented the Moonwalk, but he popularized it.
Just like that, Nolan did not invent comic book films but he sure as hell popularized it. You know what else he popularized? “Dark and gritty,” for better or worse. Notice that after Batman Begins, the phrase, “dark and gritty reboot” was constantly thrown around? From Planet of the Apes to Star Trek to Man of Steel all either went full-on dark and “realistic,” or in the case of The Amazing Spider-Man, still fun but with dark and gritty twists and turns. Even the James Bond franchise which for 44 years has been enjoyable, campy ridiculousness took a dark turn in Casino Royale in 2006. Invisible cars and fancy gadgetry were substituted with blood and Bond getting his bare testicles whacked. Not that I’m complaining; Casino Royale is by far my favourite James Bond film of all time. But whether or not going dark and gritty is the right direction for every movie to take is a discussion for another day, but there is little doubt that Nolan and Batman Begins kick-started a trend that has only slowly started fading away recently, probably because people realised that there is only ONE Christopher Nolan in the world.
Nolan isn’t the best director working in the industry today. The likes of David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Denis Villeneuve make much tighter, engrossing films. Nolan for the most part, isn’t the best at writing characters and dialogue. But he is definitely the best idea guy working right now. Every movie he has made thus far, aside from Insomnia, is inventive, even the ones that aren’t original. Memento is a based on the short story written by Chris’ brother Jonathan, for Esquire magazine. In his first wide-released feature film, Christopher Nolan expanded his brother’s story and presented it in a manner that is wholly original. The film has two separate timelines, one in colour and the other in black and white. The movie also is shot in a way that makes the audience feel as disoriented and confused as its lead character. As mentioned before, The Dark Knight Trilogy reinvigorated the comic book film genre, by making these films dark, gritty, realistic and very much a psychological-thrillers.
The Prestige isn’t just a movie about magic, but the movie in and of itself is Christopher Nolan doing a 120-minute elaborate magic trick. Inception may or may not have been inspired by Satoshi Kon’s Paprika, but while similar in concept, Inception feels brand new, jam packed with wholly unexplored ideas. In fact, Inception is perhaps the best heist movie ever made. Interstellar, which I consider as Nolan’s worst film to date also consists of grand ideas revolving around the space-time continuum. A couple of weeks ago, I watched Dunkirk. Now Dunkirk is obviously not an original story, seeing how it’s based on actual historical events. And a World War II film isn’t exactly an original idea either. However, Nolan’s storytelling mechanism was most definitely original. What he gave us, is a film with little to no dialogue and absolutely no fleshed out characters. And it’s bloody brilliant. In slightly over 100 minutes, Nolan made me feel like I’m one of those soldiers on that beach, and in the sky, fighting to survive. It was a cinematic experience unlike any other. It is storytelling unlike any other.
Nolan man, what a fu*king genius!
Hey, you! Yes you, hot stuff. Do you think Christopher Nolan is a GENIUS? What is your favourite Nolan movie? Or perhaps you think I’m a nutjob who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. Leave a comment below and let me know whatchu think.
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