'Prestige' Author Slams Christopher Nolan's 'Dark Knight' Trilogy As "Shallow" And "Badly Written"
"To me, that's a real major lack of judgement in Nolan, to go for superhero films. I feel this very strongly"
Christopher Priest isn't too keen on Christopher Nolan's blockbusters. Indeed, the author of The Prestige, which Nolan adapted into a 2006 film starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as feuding magicians, didn't hold back in describing the wildly successful Dark Knight Trilogy as "boring and pretentious," and his other works outside of Memento and The Prestige as "shallow and badly written" and "embarrassing."
In a video interview with French movie site Skript, Priest talked at length about his best-selling novel, but inevitably got on to the subject of Nolan's adaptation and his feelings on Nolan's other works. Priest's initial lukewarm thoughts on Nolan was a taster of what was to come later in the interview. "I've only ever had one meeting with him, when the film was finished. Because I wasn't very interested in him. We all have different points of view on the world. To the world he's this great, innovative filmmaker; to me, he was a kid who wanted to get into Hollywood."
Priest then details a fascinating story of the bidding war for the movie rights to The Prestige. "We got three offers. One was from Sam Mendes, who just made American Beauty; it was exactly at that point. On the day I heard from Mendes, he was up for seven Academy Awards for American Beauty, and in the end he won five, including Best Film. So that was a superb offer. It was going to be his next film after American Beauty, so I was keen on that."
With Mendes pretty much nailed on to adapt The Prestige, Nolan and his people threw a Hail Mary pass: "Word got back to Nolan or his wife, who is his producer, and I got a message, email or something, that said 'There's a motorbike on its way; don't decide anything!' And so an hour later a motorbike came to my house and gave me a VHS; that's how long ago it was — a VHS of Following — and there was a note on it that said 'Watch this film, and try to imagine what the filmmaker can do with a Hollywood facilities behind him.' So I watched the film, and I took a chance and decided that Nolan was probably going to be good, and so I selected Nolan over Mendes. I don't think he knows that."
Priest says he took a chance on the young and clearly talented Nolan, as Mendes was already made, and he wanted to support young, up-and-coming talent. The author's gut feeling proved correct, and he was incredibly happy with the result. "I think its probably his best film, [along] with Memento. Of the films he's made, those two are supreme."
Regarding Nolan's other works, Priest was bluntly critical. "I don't like his other work; I think its shallow and badly written. I mean, I've got kids who like superheroes, and they think the Batman films are boring and pretentious. They like things like The Avengers and Iron Man because they're fun," he said.
Of the Dark Knight Trilogy: "It's a wrong move to take a superhero and give it psychological realism. There is no psychological realism. He's a bodybuilder who jumps off buildings. I'm sorry I feel really strongly about this."
Priest thinks that the audience's reaction is proof of the wrongheaded approach Nolan took to superhero films, detailing how he had witnessed people being bored and distracted only to be engaged with moments of action. "And every now and then the guy jumps off the building on a rope, and they watch it and go, 'Woo!' Then they lose interest. To me, that's a real major lack of judgment in Nolan, to go for superhero films. I feel this very strongly."
Priest concludes by offering Nolan some advice. "What he's trying to be is some kind of modern [Stanley] Kubrick. And I think he'd be better off being a modern [Alfred] Hitchcock, basically. A maker of well-made films like Memento and The Prestige. And these blockbusters are just embarrassing, I think. I haven't seen the new one yet."