[The terms ‘underrated’ and ‘overrated’ seem to have the primary purpose to fuel angered debate firing at misdirected targets. So apologies are in order seeing as the thread title was mostly chosen to dishonestly garner and whore out thread views. Nevertheless, the point of this post will be to offer criticisms of Nolan’s films in an itemised fashion.] On the surface Nolan’s films appear to be intelligent and thought-provoking. Looking past the admittedly classy stylish film-making, this perspective starts to appear superficial once you try and piece together Nolan’s clumsy and often arduous jigsaw puzzle. Nolan’s films have lots going for them. There are interesting ideas that bind together nicely to pull the viewers in, but fall short in creating much sense of identity, thematic value and lasting impressions. ‘Memento’ and ‘Inception’ present ideas (read: many ideas) that you happily go right along with, before realising perhaps the journey wasn’t all that worth it. ‘Memento’ tells most of its story reverse chronologically, which appears brilliant on the surface. It seems like a great plot device as we learn new things along the way with the amnesiac-stricken protagonist. Where the film falls short is in its identity. At the end of the film the viewer, sits though a somewhat unique set of rules and nuances to follow, and leads them to ask just what exactly was the point? Were we supposed to root for the protagonist? ‘Inception’ is the best example of relying on convoluted rules to unjustifiably make the viewer care about the conclusion or any point to the story. Nolan all but highlights this with a last second deus ex machina baiting plot device: “Guess what: it might all be a dream!” With all these rules to keep up with, Nolan tries to answer any and all incongruities one may have – yet that just opens up the door to meticulous criticism. Our heroes invade Fischer’s (an arbitrary and unnotable character) mind, which happens to be armed with mercenary killers who know to attack our heroes, but are mysteriously mute. Both films ultimately try and force too many (albeit somewhat interesting and intelligent) ideas and plot-turns down our throats without a sense of relevant thematic value. Repeat viewings highlight this; you watch again for its stylised and cool presentation, not to find more coherence in a coherent-lacking story. 'The Prestige' also has an identity problem. It tells the story of two competing magicians – superbly acted by Jackman and Bale - set in a brilliantly believable late 19th century. Once Nolan has established this interesting rivalry, he unfortunately again pulls out a deus ex machina plot device. It turns out we’ve actually been partaking in a sci-fi universe, guys! Oh and you know that guy who doesn’t talk and has that weird fake moustache and looks exactly like Bale? It’s Bale, and that’s a major plot twist revelation. The thematic material is there, but its identity is comprised. Is it supposed to be about the magician rivalry or Tesla’s sci-fi achievements? Nolan’s two ‘Batman’ films falter again with confused identity. Nolan pulls us into a very serious and grounded-in-reality superhero film - move over fans of the fun Burton films! What made the two Burton ‘Batman’ films in part so appealing was our strong intangible connection with the hero. He’s Gotham’s hero, unambiguously stopping at all costs extremely well fleshed out villains in the Joker, Penguin and Catwoman. Nolan’s films forego that path and instead focus on crime drama and thrills. In ‘Batman Begins,’ we’re presented with Batman’s origin; a question which, apart from his brutally slain parents, isn’t all that relevant. So, Bruce Wayne decides that he should dress up in a fight-restrictive costume just so that the “symbology” of his fear can be noted. Sure, Gotham needs a symbol, but the costume itself doesn’t really matter and trying to justify this with a few sentences here and there is haphazard. And much like earlier, since ‘Begins’ is so grounded in reality let’s go prying a little, shall we? What are we supposed to make of Ducard’s (well acted by Liam Neeson) background – just what is his deal, where does he come from? Why does he care about Gotham so much? What exactly is The League of Shadows’ story? When Bruce was asked by them to execute a murderer he responds with “I’m not an executioner,” but then goes ahead and burns down their entire temple, to protect Gotham, just like Ducard was protecting life from the murderer, no? Next up we have Katie “I’m a district attorney” Holmes’ character – generic and perplexing. She gets accosted by a scary man in a bat costume and instead of fleeing or at least acting surprised, she calmly addresses him and slips in a “Who are you?” for formality. Ducard shows up towards the end literally and arbitrarily out of nowhere to let us know that Scarecrow was working for him all along – of all the things to sweep under the rug! Also, dear viewer, Wayne enterprises seems to be missing a water vaporiser device which is just what our villain needs to unleash toxin! Let’s just hope that he doesn’t figure out that a cool train sequence is the most effective way in doing so. Hey, Gordon is a main character of sorts, let’s get him to be a hero and use Batman’s tank to save the day. It’s all incredibly contrived. In Burton’s films our hero drives a Batmobile and Batwing which is an extension of his character. In ‘Begins,’ Batman drives a tank-car which might as well be driven by anyone rich enough to have one. In 'Dark Knight,' it’s a motorcycle this time around. I guess though that’s this films’ least of its problems (that scene was actually fantastic). It’d be even far-reaching to call 'The Dark Knight' a film about Batman. It’s a crime thriller where the protagonist happens to be a vigilante dressed as a bat and the villain happens to (explained by a few sentences) be and look crazy. To again contrast with Burton’s films; Jack Nicholson’s Joker is very detailed and gives us one of the most memorable and iconic villainous scenes in history. “The MIRROR!” should be enough said. In ‘The Dark Knight,’ the Joker more or less just runs around creating havoc somehow. Just how did he rig the hospital or the ships with explosives – and just what was the point of that very unrealistic presentation of human psychology? All it did was distract the viewer from... well to be honest, the film cuts back and forth so much it’s hard to say. In summing up, Nolan’s ‘Batman’ films present us the paradox that plagues Nolan’s other films. This time it’s with ‘Batman Begins,’ a film grounded in “reality,” just not particularly coherent, and ‘The Dark Knight,’ which is a Batman film, just not about Batman. Saving the best for last: ‘Insomnia’ is without thematic problem and Nolan’s best film. With the risk of sounding contrarian and to bolster ‘overrated’ claims, it should be pointed out that 'Insomnia' is Nolan’s lowest rated feature film on IMDb. Maybe it’s just coincidental that the only feature film that Nolan didn’t have a part in writing is his most coherent. The film has fleshed-out and interesting characters, an interesting and absorbing plot, and a satisfying conclusion with an appetite for more. And maybe it’s coincidental that Nolan had a great blueprint to work from – as it’s a remake of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s ‘97 version. Comparing the two we find that the original is quite a bit less hollow than Nolan’s effort, but each has their flaws. The main thing to take away from the comparison would be that a better connectedness with the characters exists with the original. But it’s a commendable effort from Nolan nonetheless which shows that his talents may be best served when he isn’t writing. Nolan’s films are stylish, seemingly intelligent and well-made on all counts for the most part, but they lack that cohesive whole, that thematic resonance. 'Memento' and 'Inception' gave us gripping ideas, for no purpose; 'The Prestige' gave us structure, then broke it; his two ‘Batman’ films gave us heroism, if you looked hard enough; and 'Insomnia' is a good little film, although perhaps unnecessary of a remake. Conclusively, Nolan’s films present to us a nice fancy jigsaw puzzle that you happily start to complete – when you do, however, you’re left questioning the puzzles’ final shape.