Christopher Nolan's Sci-Fi Filmography & Concepts Explained | THE MOVIE CULTURE

Christopher Nolan’s Sci-Fi Filmography & Concepts Explained

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Christopher Nolan's Sci-Fi Movies from Prestige to Tenet

There’s a symphonic relation between Christopher Nolan and Mind-Bending Sci-Fi movies. The highly revered director always has a new trick up his sleeve and in a period where Cinema has gotten cluttered with predictability, his movies have the ability to rightfully challenge the viewers into thinking hard and deep.

The stuff he creates has a personality of itself and it stays with you, regardless of your opinion of the content. From his first offering in 2005, The Prestige, he discovered a niche of cinema that wasn’t yet wholly conquered yet. Apart from a few directors like David Lynch, no one associated with the very specific genre of making good, mind-bending sci-fi movies.

And after more than 15 years since The Prestige came out, he has a global audience who craves deeper insight into his mindset. What goes into his mind when he sits on that table to write a sci-fi movie is something that we will never know for sure, but the one thing we can do is pay a tribute to his work by spreading the word.

Although his films don’t need that much awareness, his name is enough. With that, let’s trace his journey from The Prestige to Tenet and look at the ideas and concepts which were dominant in all of them. 

The Prestige

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in a still from Christopher Nolan's 2006 film The Prestige

The Prestige, in my opinion, is the most underrated movie by Christopher Nolan. Obviously now when his offerings have become popularized for their out-of-the-world set pieces and concepts, The Prestige was more about jealousy and a cancerous passion, and she sure created an absolutely engaging and dark Sci-Fi out of it.

The plot revolved around two magicians, Robert (played by Hugh Jackman) and Alfred (played by Christian Bale). What happens when a trick takes hold of your entire life? Robert goes through this experience when he realizes that Alfred has a trick that is beyond him. Such simple magic, yet it plays a trick with Robert’s ego as he embarks on a journey to figure out how Alfred duplicates himself in the show every night.

There’s a sense of mutual respect in this relationship that causes him to believe that it isn’t just the ordinary tale of a twin. It is much deeper and much crueler. More than a Sci-fi, this story played off as a psychological thriller that forces one of the best magicians in the world to go mad. His jealousy and thirst to be the best isn’t barred by Alfred’s trick, but Robert’s own perception of his trick. 

And Robert’s search for the trick leads him in many places and a lot of solutions. David Bowie played Tesla in the movie and it accurately highlighted the plight of him, living under the shadows of Edison. His inventions and models were groundbreaking but the fact that it took Robert so long to reach them is a testament to how under-credited Tesla was for all he did.

The Prestige ends on a massive cliffhanger, but that’s hardly the main takeaway of the film. The hunger for success and the psychological impact of unhealthy competition is something Nolan tried to bring out with the script, and he definitely went dark with it. 

Inception

Leonardo DiCaprio and Cillian Murphy in a still from Christopher Nolan's 2010 film Inception

Inception is the project which made Christopher Nolan a legend in the cinema world. First of all, the concept of a heist inside a dream is something no ordinary person can conceive, and Christopher Nolan isn’t an ordinary person by any means.

Cobb (Played by Leonardo Dicaprio) assembles a team in order to pursue a mission and finally go home to his children. If there’s anything more complicated than the mission itself, it’s the hazy and undeniably deep personality of Cobb which drives the humane aspect of the script.

Like The Prestige, Christopher Nolan has a knack for inducing rich emotional stakes in the movie which simultaneously affect the high octane concept of the script. There are layers in the mission, and a heist needs to be planned accurately. But how does one plan a heist which is going to take place in a dream.

And what real-life concepts will and will not affect a heist which has no physical semblance in the real world. Here Christopher Nolan introduces the concept of Maze in Inception. A dream is but a carefully constructed map which should be traversed like one traverses a maze. There should be hurdles and there should be contingencies. The more equipped you are, the deadlier the enemies will be. 

Inception is truly breathtaking from a Science Fiction point of view. It is one of those few movies that definitely changed Sci-Fi’s genre for good and gave Christopher Nolan the title of the most coveted director working in the industry today. And apart from all of that, Inception is just too damn fun. With the spectacular performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, the mesmerizing set pieces, and the orgasmic score by Hans Zimmer, it ticks all the boxes, and then some more. 

Interstellar 

Matthew McConaughey in a still from Christopher Nolan's 20014 film Interstellar

Interstellar is the most personal and heart-wrenching movie by Christopher Nolan, and I am sure this opinion isn’t unpopular. The premise revolves around an Astronaut, Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey), and his mission to save the world.

The world is about to end soon, and everything that humankind has built. And Cooper goes off on the mission, leaving his daughter and his family back on earth. There is no estimation as to when he will be back from this journey. But ever since his first step into the aircraft, all he can think about is getting back and that’s what drives him to go further into the mission.

It’s a journey against time wherein the places they visit have a varied functioning of the concept and each minute they stay there results in their family growing old by years. It’s haunting when you think about the actual loss of the mission isn’t just being away from your family, but outliving them. This fear of an abruptly ended relationship forms the deep core of Interstellar and Christopher Nolan is just so freaking good at doing it.

The scene with Cooper staring at the black screen on his shuttle and witnessing the growth of his family over the years is so shattering as none of us is actually familiar with the concept, not in the way it is presented. And the sheer existence of it makes us fearful for the protagonist and that’s an emotion which is very rarely done in an exquisite manner.

Interstellar is all-out glorious and arguably one of the most beautiful films ever conceived by Christopher Nolan. Each frame utilizes the setting so perfectly and it is truly absorbing and engaging to take it all in. 

Tenet

John David Washington and Elizabeth Debicki in a still from the film Tenet

Tenet is Christopher Nolan’s latest Sci-fi movie and it is definitely not without its flaws. I think it is my least favorite out of all these but that hardly makes it bad. There are a lot of people divided on Tenet and while I do believe that Christopher Nolan bit a lot more than he could chew, there’s stuff and set pieces in the movie which make you absolutely lose your mind.

But the time-reversal concept of the movie is definitely hazy. I mean all of the concepts created by Nolan are hazy, that’s the entire point of his movies, but Tenet has a character about it which makes it tedious to even go back and analyze it. Where all of the above mentioned movies were inviting in a manner, Tenet makes you want to shut your brain and just blatantly enjoy the action in a mindless manner, because the more you try to go deeper into it, the less you understand it.

The movie is even self-aware about it, but it hardly makes it any better. But yeah, the action sequences are something that no one has ever seen before and it’s kind of getting repetitive to say the same thing about each and every movie, but it’s perfectly apt. The lack of a properly constructed emotional arc is also a big part of why Tenet doesn’t prosper that well. 

But well, this is just my opinion, and Tenet is the kind of movie where 10 different people will have completely different opinions about it. So if you still haven’t seen it, I would definitely recommend it. Not for the concept, watch it for the thrill and the bombastic soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson which makes each and every hair on the body erect. 

The Movie Culture Synopsis

Christopher Nolan is a director who isn’t stopping anytime soon. With each movie, he creates a sense of uniqueness which is impossible to beat, and what he does from here is surely going to be beyond extraordinary.

Author

  • Hardik is a Mumbai based writer who is a cinephile. Nothing interests him more than movies and visual entertainment. His other hobbies include reading and singing (At least, he likes to think that he sings well). You can connect with him on his Instagram.