With Tenet‘s semi-worldwide release upon us, director Christopher Nolan is back at the forefront of online film discussions. Ever since Nolan began his Batman trilogy, he has been a household name. How did he get there, though? Youtuber Captain Midnight takes a tour through Nolan’s catalog, connecting his earliest, smallest movies to the hundred-million-dollar blockbusters he makes today.
Nolan’s first project, “Following” is an incredibly humble outing. The film was shot mostly on weekends, as the cast and crew all had full time jobs at this point. The movie was financed entirely on Nolan’s salary from his day job. While limited, “Following” did introduce some Nolan-isms. Its plot is an unraveling mystery, the nameless main character is very similar to most of Nolan’s later protagonist, and there’s even a character named Cobb, just like “Inception.”
After “Following,” Nolan shot “Memento,” which was where Nolan really began to shine. “Memento” really leaned into the “puzzle box” narrative concept that Nolan is practically synonymous for at this point. Additionally, this film and his follow-up “Insomnia” showed off Nolan’s talent working with actors, especially when dealing with conflicted, obsessive protagonists.
With the Batman trilogy, however, Nolan truly became a household name. These films really tied together all of the skills Nolan had gained working on his earlier project, leading to what many consider to be one of the best modern trilogies out there. This trilogy, alongside “The Prestige,” were able to combine the heady, twisting narratives of Nolan’s past films with a healthy dose of fan-pleasing action and adventure. This created the perfect mix of popcorn entertainment along with something deeper and more thoughtful, a huge reason behind Nolan’s continued success.
This sentiment is still present in Nolan’s most recent films, from “Inception” to “Dunkirk.” Throughout his career, Nolan has been able to take what he had to work with, and craft some really effective films. The personal, character-driven stories he told with “Following” and “Memento” served to deepen his Dark Knight trilogy, as well as round out films like “Interstellar.” This ability to produce crowd-pleasing, big-screen entertainment that also holds deeper explorations of character and themes are huge reasons behind Nolan’s continued success. Nolan is a great example of building on one’s work and improving over time, as this video essay does a great job of laying out.