‘Skyfall’ & ‘Star Trek 2′: Are We Seeing the Christopher Nolan Influence?

Published 1 year ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:28 pm,

Star Trek 2 Dark Knight Rises Skyfall Comparisons Discussion Skyfall & Star Trek 2: Are We Seeing the Christopher Nolan Influence?

It’s undeniable that Christopher Nolan has changed not only the face of superhero movies with his acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy, but the face of blockbuster movies as a whole. With a potent mixture of auteur filmmaking technique; ambitiously-designed set pieces that often utilize practical visual effects; and stories that are not afraid to be as philosophically sophisticated as they are entertaining, Nolan has classed-up the American movie blockbuster in a way that few in Hollywood ever thought possible (that is, if one wanted to make megabucks at the box office).

However, Hollywood is a place where few brave big risks – and even fewer dare to stray from the well-blazed path left in the wake of a big risk that has paid off. That is to say: more and more big-budget blockbusters are starting to look very “Nolan-ish” (in the opinion of more than a few moviegoers) - but are Sam Mendes’ James Bond blockbuster Skyfall, and J.J. Abrams’ upcoming sequel Star Trek Into Darkness drawing from the Nolan well a bit too much?

A friend of mine approached me recently and said something interesting: “Did you notice how Skyfall was a lot like The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception?”

Truthfully, Skyfall came so fast during the beginning of the holiday season rush that I didn’t have much time to dissect it that closely  (other than on our Skyfall podcast); however, my friend had the comparisons already sketched out thusly…

-

Set Pieces

daniel craig james bond contract Skyfall & Star Trek 2: Are We Seeing the Christopher Nolan Influence?

All blockbuster films use big set pieces to stage their major action sequences – but Skyfall seems to borrow quite a lot from the book of Nolan:

  • The Macau casino where bond first meets Silva’s (Javier Bardem) flunky Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) bears a striking resemblance in both design and visual presentation (cinematography) to the dream sequence in the Asiatic-style estate which bookends Inception.
  • The opening chase sequence in Skyfall is somewhat reminiscent of the Mombasa chase sequence in Inception.
  • Silva’s abandoned island base of operations is reminiscent (in design and presentation) to Cobb’s limbo world in Inception.
  • The Shanghai assassination sequence in Skyfall is also very reminiscient (design, presentation) to the Hong Kong sequence in The Dark Knight.
  • There is a lot of practical (albeit ambitious) design to the set pieces in the film (the train chase, London subway chase, Skyfall manor, etc.), and much of it in the vein of Nolan’s films.
-

Characterization

skyfall james bond trailer Skyfall & Star Trek 2: Are We Seeing the Christopher Nolan Influence?

Character development is an important aspect of any story – but in the case of Skyfall, the similarities to Nolan’s Batman films are too numerous to ignore. Besides being a darker, more modern-minded depiction of an iconic character, here are some specific elements of Skyfall that recall some of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy:

  • In Skyfall, we delve deeper into Bond’s past: he’s a wealthy orphan who was trained to battle evildoers… just like Bruce Wayne.
  • Bond struggles with the dark morality of the organization that trained him… just like Bruce Wayne.
  • Bond returns to his mansion home, Skyfall, only to have it stormed by a group of villains who burn it to the ground… just like Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.
  • Bond has his own “Alfred” in Kincade (Albert Finney), the wise-cracking old groundskeeper who guards Skyfall manor.
  • After a debilitating physical/emotional blow, Bond goes into depression-heavy seclusion, until a threat born of the past resurfaces… like Wayne in Dark Knight Rises.
  • A weakened Bond is  outwitted by Silva and must reclaim his former glory before he defeats his foe – like Batman vs. Bane in TDKR.
  • Q (Ben Whishaw) provides Bond with (grounded, realistic) technical advantages and a healthy dose of wit – like Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) did in the Batman films. (Ok, so that’s what Q has ALWAYS done, but still…)
  • Bond’s closest collaborator, M (Judi Dench), is burdened by the weight of her past choices and deceptions and must make painful amends – like Commissioner Gordon in Dark Knight Rises.
  • Both Bond and Batman (and their directors) share a penchant for standing on rooftops gazing out over their respective cities. (Ok, so we’re sorta joking here, but still…)
-

The Villain

Skyfall Silva interrogation scene Skyfall & Star Trek 2: Are We Seeing the Christopher Nolan Influence?

A good villain is essential to any great hero’s tale, and Nolan certainly created some memorable ones in his Batman films – a fact that Skyfall seems to pay homage to…

  • Silva is an insane (but somehow charming) villain with a substantial physical deformity (like Bane or The Joker).
  • Silva is oddly sensual about physical violence or intimidation (like Bane, The Joker or Two-Face).
  • At one point, Silva impersonates a cop to kill a public official (like The Joker).
  • Silva uses the underground sewer/tunnel system in his terrorist plans (like Bane).
  • Silva is a threat from the past (like Bane), and is a good guy who was twisted into evil (like Two-Face).
  • Silva gets a nice interrogation scene with our hero, like Batman and Joker in TDK.
  • He tries to go out murder/suicide style while dispensing his “justice” like Two-Face.
-

Now, dear readers, before you get up in arms trying to defend Skyfall, just know that I’m not drawing these comparisons out of thin air: director Sam Mendes has openly admitted that he was influenced by Nolan’s Batman films:

“We’re now in an industry where movies are very small or very big and there’s almost nothing in the middle [...] it would be a tragedy if all the serious movies were very small and all the popcorn movies were very big and have nothing to say. And what Nolan proved was that you can make a huge movie that is thrilling and entertaining and has a lot to say about the world we live in, even if, in the case with ‘The Dark Knight,’ it’s not even set in our world. It felt like a movie that was about our world post-9/11, and played on our fears, and discussed our fears and why they existed and I thought that was incredibly brave and interesting. That did help give me the confidence to take this movie in directions that, without ‘The Dark Knight,’ might not have been possible. Because also, people go, ‘Wow, that’s pretty dark,’ but then you can point to ‘Dark Knight’ and go ‘Look at that – that’s a darker movie, and it took in a gazillion dollars!’ That’s very helpful. There’s also that thing – it’s clearly possible to make a dark movie that people want to see.”

And, after watching the first trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness, it seems as though J.J. Abrams is experiencing a similar frame of mind:

The film certainly looks like it will be The Dark Knight of Abrams’ Star Trek trilogy – a darkening tale in which the now-established Enterprise crew has their heroic values challenged by a terroristic enemy (who is possibly one of the franchise’s most popular villains). It seems that the terrorist holds the populace of Earth (or Starfleet) hostage in a similar way the Joker did, and that the film will quite possibly go so far as to sacrifice some major characters (as The Dark Knight did).

Granted, ever since The Empire Strikes Back, all middle chapters of a trilogy tend to skew this way – but The Dark Knight definitely set its own precedent on that design. As many fans have already pointed out, this Star Trek 2 trailer mirrors a lot of what we saw in the first Dark Knight trailer – including voice-over narration by the villain wherein we are introduced to the major themes of the story:

It’s also hard not to note the Inception-style sound effect that runs throughout the Into Darkness trailer (Baum!):

Also hard to ignore the “Franchise logo in the midst of destruction” poster promoting Star Trek 2 - much in the same vein as Nolan’s Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises promo posters:

CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION

Star Trek 2 Poster Dark Knight Rises Poster 570x256 Skyfall & Star Trek 2: Are We Seeing the Christopher Nolan Influence?

By now we should all know: Hollywood operates on a “lighting strikes twice” mentality. If someone comes up with a formula for success – like Nolan seems to have done in the last half-decade – then there are sure to be shades of imitation (whether real or imagined).

Just to be clear, I’m not saying this is a bad thing; I for one love Nolan’s body of work and think that the blockbuster movie genre would benefit (read: has already benefitted) from his example. It’s just humorous to see some of the more obvious influences; but if Skyfall‘s box office numbers are any indication, moviegoers are not at all upset about getting a similar experience.

 [poll id="470"]

Skyfall is in theaters now.

Star Trek Into Darkness will be in theaters on May 17, 2013.

Source: Hat Tip to SR Readers Evan and Alex.

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TAGS: batman, skyfall, star trek into darkness, the dark knight rises

143 Comments

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  1. Of course villians need to be charming to some degree. Look at Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. Jack Nicolson’s Joker, and Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

    I do see where you are coming from though.

    • Holy crap, I would have followed Marlin Brando into the Heart of Darkness, What an incredible screen presence, what an incredible actor.

  2. I’m glad to see that Nolan’s use of practical visual effects is making its way back through Hollywood.

    • seriously!! theres a point where you have too much CG!! practical effects for the win! thats something I love about directors like nolan or even jon favreau they use CG when necessary not because they’re obsessed with it! *cough* george lucas *cough*

    • Didn’t the Bond movies always used practical effects, though? So I’d be more inclined to say that Nolan copied the Bond moviemaking method rather than the other way around.

  3. was there movies before nolans batman movies?

    • According to most.. no… (sarcasm)

      • :D

  4. Thank your friend for pointing this out Kofi.

    I saw Skyfall the other day and made a comments to my friends of the same similarities with The Dark Knight Rises in the screenplay (The use of the word Shadows, bond girl/catwoman, villains disfigured, etc.) –

    (The screenwriters of both must have been exchanging notes over the phone and email…)

    I thought it would be cool to post on my blog but you beat me to it….

    IMHO I believe Nolan like Kubrick and Spielberg will have a long reaching influence on future filmmakers as well.

  5. I dont deny Nolan’s influences in recent action films, but to give him credit for Star Trek and Skyfall is a little bit too much. Sure there are similarities in story and execution, I would argue in the case of Bond, it’s in the reverse. If anything Nolan modeled Batman off the best of the Bonds, if not the movies then the novels and stories they’re based off of. Intricately plotted escalating set pieces with complex characters are nothing new to action films or thrillers. Look at the 70′s Blow Out, 3 Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, etc. While not huge 200 million dollar productions, their essence I think is the same. I’ll give Nolan credit for being a good story teller and for taking Batman seriously… but that’s about as far as I’ll go. That Star Trek poster is just lazy… Skyfall’s poster is Iconic Bond.

    • My thoughts exactly. Nolan is just going back to the roots, to the films that had influenced him, rather than the other way around.

  6. I agree with alot of these but Am I the only one here too that thought Silva acts an AWFUL lot like Hannibal Lector???

    • Exactly! I was just going to say that, and then to use another Thomas Harris reference, it also feels a lot like Black Sunday

  7. This article was stupid. Quit comparing everything to the freaking Batman movies, they arent even that great

    • It can be compared because there are many simularities. Its not like they are comparing lincoln to batman…

      • It’s still stupid. Why is Batman such an epitome to ‘dark’ films, these fanboys need to stop. Can’t an action film be dark anymore without Dark Knight comparisons.

        • Its not batman its the movie itself, wether you liked it or no is up to you but
          It had a major influence on the film world, not only cause its darker but its blend of indie qualities in big budget filming. If you dont like the film that perfectly fine but the dark knight is still one of the most influencal films of the decade (but not all time)

          • Agree with Trey. :)

    • Ditto

  8. I´m so damn sick of those Nolan comparisons all the time. If I take a crap tomorrow and post a pic online, they´ll all say it was directed by Nolan, because it´s dark and gritty.
    Can´t you people enjoy movies without comparing them to Nolan´s films? Get a life.

    • There are times when writeers/commenters are grasping at straws but it’s clear that Nolan has been influencing Hollywood ever since Batman Begins. Which went on to be an inspiration for Iron Man.

      “Favreau also described his approach as similar to an independent film, “if Robert Altman had directed Superman”,and also cited Batman Begins as an inspiration.He wanted to make Iron Man a story of an adult man literally reinventing himself, and realizing the world is far more complex than he believes.[ Favreau changed the Vietnam War origin of the character to Afghanistan, as he did not want to do a period piece.”

      • Whatever you say, I don´t see any BB in Iron Man. And Whatever “Favreau changed the Vietnam War origin of the character to Afghanistan, as he did not want to do a period piece.” had to do with the whole topic.

        • I just gave you the whole quote. But Faverua indeed took inspiration from Batman Begins which came from a conversation with Shane Black. Who is ironically directing IM3, which looks to have taken an inspiration from Nolan as well. Hate him all you want, he still is the inspiration for IM.

          • Nice. ;)

    • LMAO

    • lmao!

  9. I think you are seeing Nolan’s influence. Just like there was an Alfred Hitchcock influence…. and next you’ll start seeing Joss Whedon’s influence.

    And then you’ll see the next big movies director become an influence. It’s a never-ending cycle and not necessarily a bad thing.

    • I would wholeheartedly disagree. Whedon’s only success on a cinematic level was Avengers, and that film has massive flaws on a technical level, versus Batman Begins which did something completely different for a comic book film (Grounding it in a quasi-realistic tone and universe), versus Avengers which did something much better than had been done before, but had been done none the less (X-Men, anyone?). Whedon didn’t bring anything new to the table. He just made the Team up movie seem possible, even though Bryan Singer did that over a decade before.

      Whedon has done some amazing things with Firefly and now Avengers, but he will never come close to having as much influence on popular cinema as Nolan has. Every major motion picture company is trying to capture what Nolan did in Begins and the subsequent films in his Batman trilogy. Going forward, everyone is going to try to replicate him, whether it’s DC’s rumored plans to make Justice League with a Nolanesque serious tone, or what Sony has done with the Spider-Man franchise. Furthermore, Inception, being one of the few completely original blockbusters of the past decade, is of course going to be copied to death with the stupid “BAHM” noise thing. Inception was brilliantly marketed, so obviously other companies will follow suit.

      Whedon will never be on the same influential level as Nolan, plain and simple.

      • wow! can you tell me the next winning numbers of powerball? whedon will NEVER be as influential? you know that as fact?

        • Im with jeffro, id say whedon has a bettet chance than some directors he is very clever, nolan just has a head

        • Start

      • I love Inception. But the Batman movies took a great character and (within the scope of the films at least) marginalized who he is. Batman was a human being who through combination of gadgets and training fought SUPER villains. Nolan’s films weren’t realistic, they just weren’t as unrealistic. And in being not as unrealistic they moved Batman from fighting against beings that should easily best him, to fighting against other regular humans. Can’t tell you how boring the 1st and 3rd films were for me. The second was okay, but only because of Ledger. The premise of Nolan’s Batman movies was that sometimes you need billions of dollars in toys and lots of advanced training to kill 1 person. Something the search for Osama Bin Laden already taught most of us.

        • Instead of wasting my time writing a long reply, I’ll just paste what another user posted whose sentiments I share wholeheartedly.

          “People who hate on Nolan need to stop projecting their own personal dislike for his films onto articles like this. Just because you personally don’t find his stuff to be your cup of tea, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have the influence it has (and I’m not a big fan of all of Nolan’s stuff, although I do admit I’m pretty impressed with his work). His films have generally been critically very well-received, they’ve made good money at the box office and they’ve also worked their way into pop culture.

          These aren’t just opinions, or fanboys projecting their craze for the director onto current trends. Whether you liked TDK or not, it did make a lot of money and it was popular with both the public and the critics – and any winning formula, as the article notes, will be replicated in Hollywood. So it’s not necessarily implying that every director is being inspired by Nolan, but it’s definitely not wrong to say that the industry is moving in that direction partly because of Nolan’s films.

          No one ever said he invented ‘dark’ or ‘gritty’ movies; he just innovated by taking elements of what already existed and made them his own way. His stuff came out when it hadn’t been done as successfully in more recent times. It did very well. And now it’s become influential, both economically and artistically (to a point).”

  10. They should take an influence from Nolan and stop animating so much of the action. Like in skyfall it was distracting, in the opening sequence when you can tell the majority of it was animated. Nolan is cool in that he does as much as he can in real life and he uses a lot of models.

    • But the Bond intros are always animated in some way; Especially the newer ones that take advantage of CG. Aside from that, Skyfall’s special effects were done by Chris Corbould, who also did the Dark Knight trilogy.

  11. My big objection here is that I seem to be the only one who thinks this Skyfall movie was the worst movie of the year, contrary to all reviews that say it’s the best Bond movie of all time.

    • I wouldnt put it in the worst catigory by far but i enjoy goldeneye and casino royale more.

  12. Skyfall was without a doubt influenced by The Dark Knight but it definitely wasn’t a bad thing! I haven’t had any Nolan vibes from Star Trek 2 though. It’s a little too early to judge I think.

  13. Why do you presume The Dark Knight Rises was the first action film to be dark or something? Seriously, this article is a waste of time.

  14. People who hate on Nolan need to stop projecting their own personal dislike for his films onto articles like this. Just because you personally don’t find his stuff to be your cup of tea, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have the influence it has (and I’m not a big fan of all of Nolan’s stuff, although I do admit I’m pretty impressed with his work). His films have generally been critically very well-received, they’ve made good money at the box office and they’ve also worked their way into pop culture.

    These aren’t just opinions, or fanboys projecting their craze for the director onto current trends. Whether you liked TDK or not, it did make a lot of money and it was popular with both the public and the critics – and any winning formula, as the article notes, will be replicated in Hollywood. So it’s not necessarily implying that every director is being inspired by Nolan, but it’s definitely not wrong to say that the industry is moving in that direction partly because of Nolan’s films.

    No one ever said he invented ‘dark’ or ‘gritty’ movies; he just innovated by taking elements of what already existed and made them his own way. His stuff came out when it hadn’t been done as successfully in more recent times. It did very well. And now it’s become influential, both economically and artistically (to a point).

  15. You guys Think its bad.

    I just found out Christopher Nolan is directing my son Christmas Play.

    Cant wait to see how dark Scrooge is going to be!

    • Jeff you are a one man knee slapping show lol

    • Lol..

  16. I think it’s too early to tell if Star Trek will even take any influence. The “darker” tones of movies are popular right now, so of course they’d market them that way. Trailers are obviously not made directly by the fimmakers themselves; and like Iron Man 3, which the trailer shows as “dark”, Kevin Feige says that “it won’t be too serious, despite what the trailer might have you believe.”
    Maybe the only reason people think Star Trek looks darker is the absense of over-the-top lens flares.

    • Marvel is headed in the opposite direction with their movies as Nolan’s movies, and I am afraid that this will influence DC’s movies more than the other way around.

  17. Ive seen Skyfall twice now and I think its my favourite 007, I loved it, my father who is a hardcore Bond fan said its in his top 3, but to compare every film that comes out now to Nolans work is getting boring, im sick of hearing about it tbh, look I love Nolans movies dont get me wrong, TDK trilogy is the best set of superhero films made imo, “The Prestige” is an underated masterpiece! But hes NOT THE ONLY DIRECTOR ON THE PLANET! and just because a film is “dark and gritty” doesnt have to mean its copying Nolan..

    • But mendez said his influence was the dark knight..

      • There’s a difference between influencing and copying which is what this article’s suggesting…

  18. Skyfall I thought was the way Bond movies should be in the modern day and sure, they might have taken just a little influence from Nolan but IMO, it’s almost the other way around in that Nolan was influenced by Bond.

    Just so happens that Mendes decided to take the traditional approach to Skyfall and add in his characteristic style that made his dramas so successful.

  19. This is totally obnoxious, now everything has to be dark and gritty wtf

  20. Now I would be flattered or offended by these comparisons depending on my resume of movies I have made.

  21. One could argue that it’s the other way around and that Nolan copied Sam Mendes. Just watch Road to Perdition (2002) and tell me that the narrative and visual styles don’t resemble what Nolan did with the Batman movies years later.

    • Nolans influences for the trilogy are blade runner, heat and tale of two cities. And those films probably had influences it will continue on down to hitchcock and others.

    • Maybe so but what Nolan has done is something that has never been done with superhero movies and blockbusters before and probably should’ve been done a long time ago.

  22. what people seem to forget is that Nolan got his influence from seinfeld. the episode “the betrayal” is also referred to as the “backwards” episode, and aired 3 years prior to memento.
    lawyer’d!

    • Memento was based off a short story jonathen nolan wrote. But very funny i remember that episode lol

  23. I was surprised that no one had mentionned it before but since te first time i watched skyfall, it was obvious that it was inspired by the dark knight. Sooooooooo many similarities and i was like i hope Nolan is not mad lol but any writer or artist will tell you that they were inspired by someone. Originality is imitation with a personal touch. It’s not a bad thing that they resemble the dark knight. It shows that the studio finally realized that the audience will not stand for weak stories but is willing to spend enough for a good story. Just like the 3d phenomena. When they started to lose money, they realised that hmmm! Maybe not all movies should be 3d or hmmm maybe we should give the audience better quality 3d movies… lol :)

  24. This is a good thing. I was happy that Nolan changed blockbuster movies with The Dark Knight Trilogy and I hope that other superhero movies and blockbusters will follow suit. The Dark Knight is my all time favorite movie and IMO the way all movies should be made. Good actors, good directing, practical effects, IMAX filming, and for blockbusters and superhero films realistic and dark.

  25. Just because my butthole is dark and gritty doesn’t mean it’s influenced by Chris Nolan.

    • LMAO!

    • Are you sure? Critics tell me otherwise.

      • On the contrary. Its gratuitous explosions and scent of turd proves a Michael Bay influence.

  26. Your day of reckoning is upon you.
    The time you fear so much, that you know you cannot avoid is now your final breath.

    Your death will be cold, it will over come you. You will grasp the cold hand of death and you will rush to meet the great abyss.

    Captain. Your time of death is now upon you. You will dies last, as your beloved crew fall right in front of your eyes…One by one..They will feel death, and they will fall in the great abyss to their eternity of darkness and despair.

    Capt’n Crunch. Your death is here.

    Breakfast a Christopher Nolan Film
    Directed by Christopher Nolan
    Produced by Christopher Nolan

    Christopher Nolan as Chris Nolan
    Jonathan Nolan as Johnny Nolan
    Sean Connery as Granpop Nolan
    Angelina Jolie as Momma Nolan
    Dame Helen Mirren as Granma Nolan
    Christian Bale as Cap’n Crunch
    and Michael Caine as Milk.

    • when can i get my advance tix for this?

  27. Movies have always borrowed ideas and tactics from other films. Theres more than one 3d movie isnt there? I remember people crying for a more realistic approach to their heroe’s like Batman, after the fiasco of the Kilmer and Clooney days. Nolan delivered in spades and started a very successful trend. I think we are getting better films for it. Skyfall is arguably the best Bond ever and Star Trek is looking to be just as exceptional. I want interesting stories and great characters. Nolan is a master at his craft and love seeing other use his films for inspiration.

  28. another thing i found similar between skyfall and tdk is rao silva and joker likeness for laughter.Bond being out of shape like batman in tdkr.NOLAN IS BOSS

  29. I quite agree, unfortunately it doesn’t make skyfall good. Also is everyone using that ‘boom’ Prometheus music in their trailers now???????

    • That came overly popular after inception and transformers. Im sure it was used beforehand but now its in like every sci fi action trailer