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When Interstellar is released this week, Christopher Nolan will be able to add “speculative fiction epic” to the genres he’s conquered in his career as director — a list that currently includes grim superhero movie (the Dark Knight trilogy), noir crime (Memento), psychological thriller (Insomnia) and “freaky-deaky head trip, no really, what was that” (Inception).
With less than 10 movies under his belt, Nolan has become recognized for his ability to create tense stories that touch upon contemporary social concerns, paired with an impressive visual style that dazzles and distracts from narrative trickery that’ll pay off before the movie’s end. (It’s not for nothing that Nolan made The Prestige, a movie about magicians and stage trickery; he’s a dab hand at misdirection himself.)
At this stage in his career, it feels as if he could do anything he wanted next, but perhaps he should turn his head to another burgeoning genre makeover: the Disney movie remake. Sure, we’ve had Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland and 101 Dalmatians so far, but just imagine what Nolan could do with other Disney classics.
Or better yet, step into my imagination machine and let me do it for you.
Told in nonlinear fashion, Nolan’s Cinderella becomes an exciting, chilling story about one woman’s anxious search for her own identity. With memories of being both a high-society socialite with an expensive shoe habit and a poor, put-upon house cleaner, Ella — as played by Marion Cotillard — has to solve the mystery of the glass slipper before Charming (Cillian Murphy) does. Who is the true Ella — or are both personalities as fake as each other? Michael Caine plays a supporting role as a mouse turned into a particularly dour horse, who happens to be Ella’s aged confidant and one true friend.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Bambi, traumatized and unable to move on with his life after failing to prevent the murder of his mother (shown a number of times in slow, stylishly shot flashbacks). Falling in love with his childhood friend Faline (Jessica Chastain), he has to struggle with his own flawed morality, his obsession about his dead mother and the fact that he’s a goddamn deer before he can confess his true feelings. Michael Caine plays a supporting role as Thumper, Bambi’s aged confidant and one true friend.
In an audacious move that may alienate some fans of the original, Anne Hathaway plays both Elsa and Anna, with the much-loved song “Let It Go” replaced by a 22-minute Imax sequence in which the two Hathaways stand on visually spectacular frozen landscapes while elaborate Hans Zimmer orchestral music sums up not only their emotional journeys but the emotional journey of all human beings who have ever had to deal with sibling rivalry. Michael Caine plays a supporting role as Olaf, now transformed into an aged confidant and one true friend.
Beauty and the Beast
Bravely using the classic tale as an investigation into the nature of mob rule, Nolan’s reimagined Beauty and the Beast controversially pushes Belle to one side to focus on the dual struggle of the Beast (Ken Watanabe) to regain his lost humanity and the townsfolk, led by Gaston (Tom Hardy), losing their own individual humanity to the terror of groupthink. An allegory on the contemporary surveillance state and our need to demonize the unknown, Nolan’s story nonetheless finds room for Angela Lansbury to return to the role of Mrs. Potts, the singing teapot. Michael Caine plays Lumiere, an aged confidant and the Beast’s one true friend — who just happens to be a talking candlestick.
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