christopher nolan
Opinion Pieces

Christopher Nolan Movies Are Getting Shaky? or Are They the Same as They’ve Always Been?

The other day I was sitting here reading about Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s newest entry into the great cinema pantheon. Years ago–probably around the time that he was releasing The Dark Knight trilogy–I proclaimed that he was possibly “the most consistent director working today.” I consider The Dark Knight one of my favourite flicks ever, and the trilogy as a whole one of my favourite series of all-time, but I didn’t necessarily consider him the best director… but definitely one of the most consistent.

So I wondered, is he still one of the most consistent directors in the industry today? With Interstellar and Dunkirk he has started a transition from being consistently great to consistent decent, but could that be true for other moviegoers as well? Not likely, but I needed to investigate, so that pondering became the genesis of what you’re reading now.

That’s me, only I’m not as handsome or as talented or as famous or as rich or… well I have a rabbit, does he? I actually went and Googled that.

So before we get to the numbers, the graphs and the commentary, I’ll explain what I did. It’s nothing complicated because that’s too confusing for my simple mind. I used IMDB, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, the best examples in film criticism and reception among critics and the audience. Not perfect, but the best we got. IMDB represents the fans who rate there, Metacritic I used for critics since IMDB links to it, and with Rotten Tomatoes it has both critics and fans. So what I did was compared IMDB/Metacritic first, then Rotten Tomatoes, and then I combined IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes to see if that would change anything. I used average rating and not median because the median didn’t differ much. I’m Tyler in the charts, in case you didn’t see who posted this.

IMDB/Metacritic–Where Critics and Fans Go to Agree (Mostly)

christopher nolan movies

It became clear as soon as I made this that he is a very consistent director with very few hiccups along the way. It turns out that I’m the weirdo here. Okay, done, roll credits. Thanks for coming out.

Critics rate lower in general but there’s not a huge difference between them and the fans, as we will see below. The critical reception spikes with Memento, The Dark Knight and Dunkirk. The fans have a smoother line with no gigantic leaps up and only one slight dip. Me on the other hand, I’m more erratic from movie to movie but it’s still pretty consistent. I agree with neither of them lately, because it’s too scary to go see Tenet and I keep forgetting to watch Insomnia.

If you’ve read any other articles where I compare opinions, the metric I use is as follows:

  • If there’s a difference of 20 points or higher between who I’m comparing, it’s considered a large difference.
  • If there’s a difference between 15 and 19 points, it’s considered a small difference.
  • If there’s a difference between 6 and 14 points, it’s considered a similar opinion.
  • If the difference is 5 points or lower, it’s considered the same opinion.

As you can see with the chart on the farthest left, a quarter of a time there’s a small difference in opinion but the rest of the time it’s either similar or the same. In the middle chart it shows that I usually agree with IMDB, but when I disagree there’s a big disparity. Come fight me, millions of IMDB users. But with the critics I disagree a lot more, although you may account for that with the way the averages skew lower with fewer ratings. There’s usually no more than 100 critic reviews as opposed to potentially thousands on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

Anyway, now that you can see that I’m a tough rebel who walks the walk and talks the talk, let’s just quickly show some clustered column charts that make it easier to see where the differences are than that rather chaotic line chart above.

I knew I didn’t feel the same as the critics on Dunkirk, but I didn’t realize originally that I differ almost as much on Batman Begins. Are you nuts, critics? I think you could make the case that Batman Begins is better than The Dark Knight, and I have just to play devil’s advocate, but to me it’s like picking children. I enjoy that I agree with IMDB on The Prestige, and it’s the biggest difference between the fans and the critics.

batman begins
Suck it, critics.

Rotten Tomatoes–Where Critics and Fans Hang Out on Friday Night and Get Drunk Without Me

It’s a familiar trajectory for the critics, which makes sense because a lot of them are likely the same critics. Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have different systems to assign ratings, but there’s not that much variance between them here. Really, the same can be said for the fans, and of course mine wouldn’t change.

There are minor modifications to the charts. On Rotten Tomatoes the scores of both critics and the audience differ even less, as evidenced by the chart on the left. By my completely correct standards they don’t disagree at all. Aw, unity. There’s a larger gap between me and the fans according to Rotten Tomatoes, so maybe I’ll just hang out on IMDB… even though earlier I told them to come fight me. I need to rethink my life choices.

There are small changes in the ordering of the films here but numerically they are comparable to the IMDB/Metacritic ratings, so there’s not much of an observation to make here. So let me just crap on Dunkirk for a bit. It was a beautiful movie but there were way too many problems for it to be great, such as the unconventional format of the storytelling not working this time; it felt dry and heartless, and the performances were merely okay. Truthfully, it was boring and war should not be boring.

With that said, Harry Styles released “Sign of the Times” the same year and THAT’S a jam.

Joining Forces, Does Anything Change? Well, There’s Indecent Hand Gestures, for One

The final act of this article is where I combined IMDB with the Rotten Tomatoes audience, and did the same for Metacritic and the Rotten Tomatoes fans. I understand that means there is overlap and some people have their ratings counted twice, but I wanted to see what would happen when I took the websites into consideration together.

Sometimes when I make a report things just line up perfectly and not as I intended. I did not plan to be giving the middle finger to the fans and the critics regarding Interstellar but I stand by it. Like Dunkirk it was tedious, but it had the added expense of having awful sound design. I don’t hate it–I don’t hate any Nolan movie–but this is the closest I have ever gotten.

Aside from that, there’s not a lot else going on. A lot of the same rules still apply, as they should because Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB/Metacritic were similar anyway. This would have been more interesting if the fans rated drastically different on each website, but that’s uncommon. Still, it’s nice the brother/sisterhood going on between them, even if it means I’m left out in the rain.

So what did we learn today class? Well, we learned that Christopher Nolan is still insanely consistent to both the fans and me.

The fans still, in general, adore his filmography, whereas I acknowledge that he’s still steady as an artist, but he has trended downward from great territory to decent. Perhaps Tenet will break the pattern, but until I see it I have no idea. It looks like a movie I should love so we will see soon.

The critics, on the other hand, are decidedly more exciting. While they also felt he was consistent, their opinion has been like a dysfunctional relationship for the last three movies. That’s fascinating and it makes what Nolan does next incredibly curious.

And no broken legs.

Let me know what you think about this in the comments below. If you enjoy me doing this, I can do this for other directors or even actors. Even though in this case I was one of the more dynamic aspects of the inquiry, I acknowledge and understand that maybe you clicked this just to see how critics and fans align. So tell me what ya think, we can work something out.

If you want the inside scoop on what Christopher Nolan is doing next, you can always find out by clicking here and going to the super secret insider website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *