Nolan Out of Batman Universe, Into Sci-Fi with DiCaprio?

If it wasn’t for The Prestige, who know what would’ve come of The Dark Knight. Director Christopher Nolan pulled out of Gotham for a spell and went back to his Memento roots, specifically concentrating on playing with our minds in a twisty environment much like his brain-rattling Guy Pearce vehicle. From a screenwriting standpoint, both his “thinking man” pictures are complex and thematically rich. They’re the pictures that shaped him into the filmmaker that he’s become today, so the news that he’s stepping out of the world of action again ( source) before he contemplates a third Batman picture was comforting. Even more pleasing is the fact that he’s hopping behind the desk to write it himself.

The other details, however, aren't as reassuring. Yet.

Nolan’s next picture, currently entitled Inception, is set to begin filming this summer. The Hollywood Reporter states that the concept is a “contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the ‘architecture of the mind’”. Everything else about that little quip sounds fine, but that word “actioner” just leaves a sour taste in the mouth; part of what makes Nolan such a visionary director is the way he can attach himself to humanity, something that enriches and ferments as he steps away from the Hollywood machine of big-time explosions and branding.

Casting Leonardo DiCaprio
in the lead role doesn’t exactly instill confidence, either. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s developing in leaps and bounds as an actor – along with his heavily-touted success in The Departed and Revolutionary Road, his turn in Blood Diamond goes largely underappreciated -- but the move screams of marketability “push” from those on high. Now, that’s going off of hearing little-to-none about the script, or his character, so that’s just talk at this point.

What troubles me outright is that Nolan’s gap between the big-budget projects and his independent mind-benders looks like its closing -- and quick. The Prestige had the unique position of being right between a director’s two big-budget pictures, which can be seen by how much more “expensive” it looks compared to either Memento or Insomnia. However, Nolan’s adaptation of Christopher Priest’s story still delves deep into his contemplative psyche, digging up ugliness about our perception of immortality and perfection in life. Creating that couldn’t have had zero effect on the filmmaker when he was cherry-picking elements from graphic novels and his corroborated brainstorms with his brother, Jonathan, about building a dynamic between a man of chaos hell-bent on deconstructing the world and a millionaire who skulks the night in a high-concept bat suit looking to purge a city of wrongdoers. But as Nolan slowly evolves into a big-budget mastermind, it's looking like he might be taking less and less opportunity to soak back into the qualities that build the pensiveness in his pictures.

Here’s hoping that Inception, due out in 2010, will guide Christopher Nolan back into his conceptually-labyrinthine mind. Needless to say I’m jazzed about seeing what the director’s going to next -- especially on his own writing/directing -- but I’m more hopeful than certain that it will take him out of the Hollywood woodwork enough to craft another visionary entry into his catalogue. But, hey, this is the director of Memento we’re talking about, so it’s not like I’m worried whether it’s going to be a strong work.


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