This post is part of Sci-Fi November, which you can read all about here.
I haven’t seen “Interstellar” yet, but I have seen the teaser trailer, the official trailer, TV commercials and some feature stories in the NY Times, so I’ve been given an impression of the film and know it will have moments of sheer transcendental brilliance, and it will be an overlong, bloated slog that will leaving me feeling dissatisfied.
Here’s my Half-Baked Theory on Movies Directed by Christopher Nolan: the shorter the running time the greater the satisfaction.
Case in point: “The Dark Knight” (clocking in at 152 minutes was a thrill ride, until it had to go and not end and follow through with the Harvey Dent / Two Face story). Thus it ranks as one of his least satisfying movies. “The Dark Knight Rises,” which is 13 minutes longer, is proportionally more dissatisfying: so much great spectacle (Hines Ward running as the football field behind him collapses? Wow!) and then so many stupid fist fights – FIST FIGHTS!?!?
Of course, I just came up with that theory off the top of my head, but the lengths of Christopher Nolan’s movies aren’t something that I alone am interested in. Peter Sciretta over that the Slash Film website even created this chart (URL for the chart is here):
So let’s test my Theory: This would be the rank of CN’s 9 feature-length films he’s directed:
4. The Prestige
5. Batman Begins
7. The Dark Knight
8. The Dark Knight Rises
I haven’t seen “Following” or, as I’ve said, “Interstellar,” so does that mean “Memento” is his most satisfying film for me, at least? Yes. But “Insomnia” at number 2? I did enjoy that film, but it seems more like a solid procedural, and not something groundbreaking like “Memento” or epic like the Batmans and Inception. At least it wasn’t as long and, really, despite the advances in movie theater comfort (larger, reclining seats), anything more than two hours long can be hard to sit through.
Here’s the thing about Nolan’s longer movies: Eventually, I realized I was sitting in my seat. Eventually, they always fail to maintain a sense of my being transported and absorbed into the story. Of course, one of the most brilliant moments of film occurs in a Christopher Nolan film, when – magically, it seems – three action films are happening at the same time in “Inception” AND each has an impact on the other, as the van goes over a bridge, a building seems to lose sense of gravity, and a chase speeds over a snowy mountain fortress.
Will there be moments like that in “Interstellar”? Or will there be long overwrought and pretentious passages that aim for importance but fall flat? I expect both. But that won’t stop me from seeing it, from being part of this cultural moment.
Why would I even bother prejudging a movie? I’m just being honest with myself. Another theory of mine is that most people begin to make judgments about art, movies, books, TV shows etc. long before they come into contact with the thing itself. For some, it is because they have a past with a director, actor, author or artist, and so they upcoming New Thing is fraught with Expectations.
Added to the mix are the marketing efforts of galleries, museums, publishers, and publicists, who want to get Their Person Involved in the cultural thing out in front of the public and on the top of people’s minds through things like trailers and TV ads and print ads and appearances on TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, blogs etc. And all of that publicity and marketing can, in itself, create whole new levels of expectations.
And it is in those expectations that the prejudging begins.
In my previous life as an arts editor at a daily newspaper, I often enjoyed the privilege of getting books, movies, and TVs far in advance of the public release dates. Sometimes I’d bring screeners home for shows like “Game of Thrones” or “True Detective,” and my before sliding the DVDs in, she’d want to know (as any consumer would want to know): Are these any good? And I’d have to tell her that it would be up to us to find out, and that I would likely write about them.
Now, though, the advance reading copies and screeners are a thing of the past, and so I find myself enjoying watching things in real time, and that also means being more in tune with how I prejudge the things I see.
What do you think?