This article was originally published in July 2017 after the release of Dunkirk. Nolan's Tenet has been the first blockbuster release of the Covid Era. It's had mixed reviews. I personally feel that it is Nolan's weakest film and a good time to revisit this piece on the heights the director was reaching the last time he unleashed a film on us.
With the release of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk to positive critical acclaim the question has come up once again, the way it first did after the release of Inception back in 2010.
Is Christopher Nolan the Kubrick of our time?
Recent publications claiming he is the new heir apparent to Kubrick's throne has sent the social media film scene into a spin, with some in total agreement and other's vehemently defending the legacy of Stanley Kubrick. One thing that can't be denied is the level of filmmaking of both directors. Both highly skilled with films to back it.
To shed some light on this, it is important to look at Kubrick and his impact on filmmaking. What we do know is that he is ranked amongst the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time. Although he hasn't been with us for over eighteen years his work has certainly stood the test of time. Apart from a couple of his early feature films, all his films are usually categorised as masterpieces.
His influence on current filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, George Lucas, James Cameron, Woody Allen, Terry Gilliam, and PT Anderson, amongst many others, is well documented.
2001: A Space Odyssey is just as influential as it's creator. It was groundbreaking for its time in 1968 and paved the way for films like Star Wars which came a decade later. There are subtle hints of 2001 in Nolan's Interstellar in 2014 and the question arises: Did Nolan consciously try to create something as grand and thought provoking as Kubrick's film?
One aspect in which the films of Kubrick and Nolan differ is in their initial reception by critics and the public. Kubrick's films were often misunderstood, although many were commercially successful. The great American film critic, Pauline Kael, called 2001 "a monumentally unimaginative movie."
Nolan's films, on the other hand, are well received by critics and audiences and pull large numbers at the box office. His films to date have grossed over 4 billion dollars world-wide.
Both directors have left an indelible stamp on all their films. They each have a certain style and tackle themes and symbols that lie much deeper than the surface. It's easy to identify their films as being a Kubrick or a Nolan picture. So is Nolan the Kubrick of our time? There is only one answer to this question and that is that it is premature. It's too early to tell. Kubrick made his first feature in 1953, 64 years ago. His work has had time to gestate in the collective conscious of the film world. Christopher Nolan directed his first feature in 1998. His work is just reaching early adulthood. A better question to ask is will Christopher Nolan's work in 30-40 years time have the same level of influence as that of Kubrick's?
Paul Thomas Anderson summed it up well when he said:
"We're all children of Kubrick, aren't we? Is there anything you can do that he hasn't done?"
Will the Paul Thomas Anderson of the future say the same thing about Christopher Nolan?