Why Oppenheimer shouldn’t be another Nolan experiment
Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan’s next could-be-masterpiece, won’t hit the theaters until July next year. However, thanks to the British director’s cult following, the buzz mill is already churning at blockbuster pace.
Reddit is abound with fan theories and expectations surrounding the movie. But the common factor that has Nolanites biting their nails is the auteur’s norm-defying vision, which did raise a good many eyebrows after the release of Tenet in 2021.
Ironically, Nolan’s innovative and experimental nature, which is his USP, has led to labyrinthine debates more so now than during his previous releases. The fact that even the most ardent followers of the artist did not entirely appreciate Tenet got me thinking - is the master getting a little too indulgent with his ideas?
Nolan’s “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” philosophy
Christopher Nolan’s films have always had the artistic yet intellectual depth of a scientist approaching a major experiment. In the pursuit of path-breaking filmmaking, however, he might have gone too far with his philosophy of keeping the audience’s brain busy.
In the name of artistic choices, Tenet suffered shortcomings like difficult-to-comprehend dark frames, extra-loud music, not-loud-enough dialogues, etc. To add insult to injury, the sci-fi espionage took the audience for granted by over-sprinkling blatant exposition throughout its runtime. Conversations between the characters were often convoluted as theoretical explanations were thrown around, and the choice of words shuttled between vagueness and oversimplification.
Fortunately, since Oppenheimer is a biopic, the director would mostly have to stick to the hard facts. In such a scenario, Christopher Nolan will most certainly bring out his favorite “Time” card. While he is known for never repeating the same formula, I strongly believe the filmmaker will, once more, devise a sandwich of timelines to deliver the explosive drama that was J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life.
“It’s really about sticking to your guns” - Oppenheimer’s success depends on Nolan’s receptivity to feedback
The man knows what he’s doing, but to ignore audiences’ complaints wouldn’t be wise either. While we hope to see the director at his best, we certainly don’t wish to see him at his most. Nolan must, therefore, ensure an intricate, rich screenplay for Oppenheimer and avoid choking it with indulgent cinematic techniques.
In my opinion, simple yet original storytelling is what Chris Nolan must focus on. Making the audience experience something entirely new should definitely be an aspiration, but not at the expense of a wafer-thin script (say what you will, but Tenet lacked emotion). A deep dive into character motivations and fundamental emotions would be a better route to take with Oppenheimer instead of stuffing it with complex artistry that could come across as another filmmaking experiment.
Nolan believes in using technology as a tool and not as a crutch, which is why he prefers practical effects over CGI. While that’s one of his strengths, his next movie could greatly benefit from him prioritizing story over scale. Oppenheimer’s was an emotional dilemma, and it was more about what preceded his invention and the guilt that followed rather than the atomic explosion itself.
Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Oppenheimer’s life will undoubtedly be exciting to witness, as the source material itself is one of the richest he could’ve picked. Bringing an important historical personality into the limelight is a huge responsibility, and one can expect Nolan to treat it as such. And as long as he tames his experimental nature, the movie is in safe hands.
Starring Cillian Murphy in the titular role, Oppenheimer will release on July 21, 2023. It will feature a star-studded cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh, and Rami Malek, among others.