Why Oppenheimer Is A Problem For Christopher Nolan's Next Movie – Screen Rant

Oppenheimer looks like a $100 million spectacle, but given that it’s simply a biopic about a man’s struggles, Nolan’s movies have gotten too big.
Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer looks like another huge spectacle from the director, but that just adds to the increasing problem with the director's movies. The celebrated filmmaker has become known for innovating cinema, whether it's with his original storytelling or extensively using IMAX cameras. His use of the technically advanced cameras in movies like The Dark Knight is why they've become common use in Hollywood. Nolan uses them to shoot huge, explosive, and practical action sequences, and the IMAX cameras make the scenes look way more expansive, but that's actually part of the problem.
Nolan's 2023 movie Oppenheimer is a biographical drama about the titular physicist, who was at the forefront of the creation of the atomic bomb. While it's set during World War II, it's mostly about J. Robert Oppenheimer's personal life, his struggle with his profession, and his inner conflicts. More than anything, it's a character study, and with a budget of at least $100 million, it's one of the most expensive character studies ever. A biopic about Oppenheimer doesn't necessarily need to cost $100 million, and while it'll undoubtedly be spectacular-looking, the focus on the biographical drama's action is a step too far and a bad sign for Nolan's future.
Nolan repeatedly outdoes himself when it comes to the scale and stakes of his movies, literally to the point where Oppenheimer is about a bomb that could wipe out humankind. However, as the movie is more of a personal story, all that scale is simply a pretty backdrop. Nolan could have made a way more engaging drama with a lower budget, as those explosive effects could draw attention away from how harrowing Oppenheimer's story really is. Memento is the perfect example, as Nolan directed the small-scale thriller with just $9 million and without any bells and whistles. It arguably wouldn't have connected with audiences as well if it had an epic $100 million budget.
Every consecutive release from the filmmaker has been bigger and way more ambitious than anything he's done before, but that came at the expense of the writing. While Tenet has some of the most jaw-dropping action sequences ever put to film, it has just a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is way below what Nolan is used to. And Interstellar's score isn't much higher, as it sits at 73% on the review aggregate site. Though his blockbuster movies are epic, his smaller, more story and dialogue-focused movies are greatly missed. And epic, loud scores, increasingly massive all-star casts, and broad action scenes don't make up for it.
There's no denying that Batman Begins changed the movie industry when it comes to taking comic book projects seriously. And he totally pushed the envelope when it comes to technical elements, even if Nolan did destroy three IMAX cameras. However, he also pushed the envelope with his pre-Batman Begins movies, not with epic action sequences but with completely original storytelling. Before the 2005 superhero movie, Nolan directed two incredible thrillers, 2000's Memento and 2002's Insomnia, both of which featured the best writing of Nolan's movies. When it comes to Nolan's more recent blockbuster movies, the writing has taken a backseat to the expensive effects.
While Inception and Insomnia have just as mindblowing narratives as Memento, they're still full of plotholes and loose ends, not to mention they require a major suspension of disbelief. Though Memento and Insomnia lacked IMAX cameras and $100 million effects, they had amazing writing. The 2000 movie follows a man with Amnesia who is trying to uncover his wife's murderer, but the film is played in reverse and features a truly sinister twist. Insomnia was more on the expensive side, as it had a $46 million budget, but as the movie lacks the spectacle of later Nolan's movies, the bulk of its budget was likely Robin Williams and Al Pacino's salaries.
While Nolan didn't write Insomnia, he directed the brilliant, grounded detective flick in a way that isn't often seen today. Nolan has proved how he can stretch a much smaller budget, and there's a huge gap in the movie landscape for mid-budget thrillers. Given Nolan's reputation, any studio would happily give him $30-40 million to make another Memento or Insomnia-like thriller. Nolan doesn't have to only make either mid-budget thrillers or big-budget spectacles. Like Spielberg and other big-name directors, he can do both, and his output might be more frequent that way too. Unfortunately, Oppenheimer is a step in the wrong direction. It could likely have been made with half the budget and may well have been better for it.

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Currently splitting his time between Madrid and Chicago, Stephen Barker has been a staff writer at Screen Rant since 2020. Since graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University with a bachelor’s degree in Film, Television, and Cultural Studies in 2014, he has written for numerous movie and music websites. Visit Stephen’s personal blog, Quaranste, where he writes about guilty pleasure movies, his latest musical discoveries, and how he stays creative during global pandemics.

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