For my money, Christopher Nolan is, without question, one of the most influential directors of my lifetime. Considering his body of work, most notably The Dark Knight (my second favorite movie of all-time), he’s also one of my favorite filmmakers. Nolan, more so than any director in Hollywood not named Scorsese or Tarantino, is given a blank check by the powers that be to bring whatever vision he has to life. In the age of sequels, spin-offs, and reboots, Nolan is a true auteur of original blockbusters and for that, his value to the entertainment industry is immense. But just because Christopher Nolan knows how to make a gripping movie doesn’t mean he has a grasp of the socioeconomic factors that are currently grappling with the industry he so desperately wants to single-handidly save.
Yesterday, following Warner Bros’ shock announcement that they would be releasing all 17 of their 2021 films on HBO Max, Nolan put out the following statement to The Hollywood Reporter. I warn you: try not to let your eyes fall out of your head due to the velocity at which you roll them after you read this truly pompous quote.
“Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.”
“Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.” [via THR]
While I have multiple issues with Nolan’s statement, let’s begin by focusing on the actual content and address the laughable amount of self-indulgent melodrama he deploys by opening with the ole “last night we went to sleep and this morning we woke up” trope. Nothing screams genuine seriousness like turning your public statement into a public pseudo-screenplay, right?
Then, there’s what’s at the core of Nolan’s statement, and that’s money. Don’t get me wrong, he’s doing his damn best to fool you and he seems to have most people convinced that his designs are borne out of a respectable adoration for the medium of cinema. Forget the fact that debuting movies on HBO Max will not only allow more people to see these projects but to do so safely, Christopher Nolan only cares about his films being seen on a big screen for big dollars. IMAX tickets are fucking expensive. And at the end of the day, that’s really all he’s bitching about: he’s literally waxing lyrical about the potential that his movies will be seen *on smaller screens*. Say that to yourself out loud and try not to chuckle. This isn’t even an actionable plan yet, not a single film has been released on HBO Max: at this stage, the HBO Max move remains a hypothetical strategy for an unprecedented time. Let’s say the vaccine is wildly successful and everyone is cured by May (doubtful, but for the sake of the hypothetical). Surely Warner Bros would reverse course, right?
As is often the case, the HBO Max controversy is about money, not art.
— Sean Fennessey (@SeanFennessey) December 8, 2020
Lionsgate, James Gunn, lots of other talented & dedicated filmmakers have reason to be frustrated, especially if they weren’t consulted about their movies going to #HBOMax.
But Nolan pushed #Tenet to theaters. It cost the studio millions but he got his way. Now, here we are.
— BD (@BrandonDavisBD) December 8, 2020
Now, to be clear, this isn’t to say I inherently disagree with Nolan, or the slew of talent that’s reportedly unhappy with the studio’s decision, such as James Gunn, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, etc. But, as far as I’ve seen, all of those wonderful actors and directors have kept their frustrations private thus far and haven’t put out a statement acting like they’re the steward of Hollywood’s morality and consciousness.
By far the most frustrating aspect of Nolan’s pompousness, though, is his apparent ignorance of the role he’s played in all of this. Lest we forget, it was Nolan who pressurized Warner Bros. to release Tenet in August — making it the only major blockbuster release of the summer. The studio moved heaven and Earth for Nolan so he could live out his fantasies of reducing the movie industry only for Tenet to barely crack $50 million domestically (don’t even bother coming at me with its international gross — all of these HBO Max films will also be given an international release, so worldwide box office is obviously not the number they’re looking at). Nolan was wrong about Tenet despite having it go his way and now, not only is he trying to have his cake and eat it too, but he’s publicly lampooning the studio who helped turn him into a global star.
Frankly, despite his obvious and immense genius, Nolan always thinking Nolan knows best is exhausting at this point. Warner Bros is a business, we are the consumers, and all of us are in the midst of a historic pandemic. Despite the fact that pre-existing norms and traditions are being thrown out the window, Nolan’s movies will still be seen and he’ll still make millions. God forbid they’re seen on a smaller screen in the comfort of our own homes as the globe copes with a once-in-a-century health crisis. The movie industry, Christopher Nolan included, will be just fine. It’s about damn time they started acting like it.