The director of The Dark Knight and Inception reveals the characters he likes – and doesn’t like – in film.
The filmmaker has spoken out in support of Babylon A.D., the upcoming dystopian sci-fi film co-written and directed by Scott Taylor, which he compares to The Hunger Games and District 9. He discusses why he chose to work with Taylor on this project, and offers some insight into the filmmaking process.
The Darkness of Gotham
The most recognizable and successful director of contemporary fantasy films, Christopher Nolan has become known for creating dark and atmospheric thrillers. His films frequently feature well-crafted dystopian settings, where society has collapsed due to the combined forces of nature and man, and the characters he creates struggle to survive in a world where hope is a foreign concept.
The Brit-born director made his debut with Batman Begins, and since then has gone on to direct some of the most memorable scenes in blockbuster cinema. While the Dark Knight is credited with revitalizing the caped crusader genre, Nolan’s latest film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes marks the end of an era; it is the last installment in the current Apes trilogy, and the series’ finale.
Nolan has spoken out in favor of the series, which has become a firm favorite among fans; he told Moviefone that he feels strongly about giving the film adaptation “the perfect ending that it deserves.” The director went on to praise Andy Serkis, who plays the lead in the film, for bringing a new dimension to the character of Caesar. He said:
“I worked with him on The Lord of the Rings and found him to be an immensely talented performer. He can bring a depth and breadth to a performance that you just wouldn’t normally see in the same role. He’s a real gem, and I’m really looking forward to what he does in Apes.”
Some might consider it a bit of a contradiction for Nolan to praise a character he created, but he defends this approach, saying: “I love that about him. I feel like he’s always been a character people can relate to. It doesn’t hurt that he’s very much like us; a few of us are a little more ruthless and a little more ambitious than the majority.”
Caesar, the self-proclaimed ruler of the apes in the film, is a character who lives by these ruthless ideals, and the filmmakers had to find a way to bring this element to life. Serkis told Digital Spy: “It’s the contradiction that makes Caesar interesting. He’s the ultimate alpha male, but you also get a sense that he doesn’t have much experience with women or children and feels threatened by things he doesn’t understand.”
Nolan continued: “We explored a number of options for how to end the trilogy, and in the end, we came up with something quite unique. We wanted to ensure that we delivered a fitting climax to what is, overall, a very optimistic story, and Apes delivers that in spades.”
From Comic Books to Film Stereotypes
While Christopher Nolan has praised characters he created for their uniqueness, he has also spoken out against some of the film industry’s less-than-favorable depictions of women, race, and religion. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is the Planet of the Apes series’ ongoing battle with The Hunger Games for popularity – it was recently reported that Apes had surpassed The Hunger Games as the most watched film at the global box office, with more than 200 million views on YouTube as of April 2017. While the series is generally well-regarded among fans, its depiction of women in particular has drawn criticism.
In the first film of the trilogy, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the genetically engineered super-soldier Caesar leads his army of apes against a group of humans led by a single mother, played by Jennifer Lawrence. One of the most prominent criticisms of this scene is that it is a misrepresentation of male-female relationships: according to a report in The Wrap, Lawrence felt disheartened by the scene, which she considered to be “insulting and objectifying.”
Lawrence is far from the only female creator who has felt this way about the series: it has been reported that other female directors were excluded from the production of Apes due to concerns about how their input could potentially affect the tone of the finished product.
The End of an Era
Despite its popularity, Dawn of the Planets of the Apes also marks the end of an era for Nolan. After spending more than a decade crafting a body of work that established him as one of the most recognizable filmmakers in the industry, Nolan is stepping back to take a break from the spotlight. While he will still be involved in the creative process behind the cameras for several projects, he will refocus on the task of raising his children.
With Babylon A.D., Nolan will co-write and direct an entry in the burgeoning apocalyptic genre. Similar to his previous work, this new film will feature an apocalyptic setting, rising food prices, and hordes of mutated creatures threatening to destroy our world. It will be the first solo feature film for the director in five years, since the 2014 adaptation of Dunkirk (which he also co-wrote).
For his part, Serkis is taking the opportunity to further explore the nuances of the character he has been playing for the last 10 years. While Caesar’s arc will come to an end with the final installment of the trilogy, Serkis intends to continue exploring the character’s internal struggles in future projects. He told Variety:
“It’s been an incredible journey playing this character, and I’ve enjoyed exploring every aspect of his psychology and interiority. Now that the trilogy is over, it’s time for me to move on to other projects and allow Christopher to enjoy a well-deserved break.”
In the meantime, Taylor will continue to search for the perfect ending to what has been perhaps the most tumultuous trilogy in cinematic history. He told Variety: “It’s been an absolute honor to work with such a brilliant director as Chris, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. He’s a visionary in the film industry, and an even better person.”
The director, who began his career in children’s television, went on to discuss the impact of The Dark Knight on his work:
“When I first heard about The Dark Knight, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little bit intimidated, to be honest, because it was such a well-known and beloved movie. But I quickly learned that The Dark Knight is absolutely unique in the canon of film. It’s such a dark but fun movie, and it certainly helped me find my voice as a filmmaker. It also inspired me to think about different ways of telling stories, through sound and vision rather than solely through dialogues.”