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

Published 2 years 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. Someone needs to write a comprehensive article on the “generational factor” regarding film and pop culture. I would give it a shot, but it would turn into a book, and I just don’t have time for that.

  2. I guess what I’m trying to say is: Good writing, and dialogue -Vs’- Big explosions, and Kung Fu. It seems to be a generational thing. Star Wars IV had just the right amount of big explosions and Light Sabers for me, but my Dad didn’t care for it.

    Directors’ like, Michael Bay, and JJ Abrams to me are just Horrible Hacks, but my Son loves their films. So, it must be a generational thing. I would love to see a good study on the subject.

    • Stabber.

      So, I am assuming you are like me. My Dad was not a fan of Star Wars, but oddly, my grandfather was.

      Now, I am not a Bay fan, and JJ Abrams I can get into. But, CGI have replaced good story telling.

      Me personally, I can watch Transformers once, and I can watch Goodfellas, The Departed, The Untouchables countless times. Because of the story they each entail.

      • +1

    • Bay & JJ make awesome pop corn films, thats what they set out to do, thats what they aim for and thats what they achieve, film fundamentalists should just let them do their thins :) Take what you do for a living, you may not be the best in the world, or you may be the best…. still wont please everyone either way.

    • But I’m 40 and I am geeking out over Skyfall Batman and the new Star Treks so how do you explain that or am I just goofy? lol

  3. I’d say there’s a difference between influencing, and making a carbon copy. The only place I see a “carbon copy” is with the Star Trek Into Darkness teaser. Not one time during the two times that I’ve seen Skyfall did I think about the comparison this article made to The Dark Knight Trilogy and even now I feel the comparison are a stretch. Same with the Star Trek 2 trailer and the Inception trailer. Of course I hated Inception. Voice-over in trailer were a thing long before The Dark Knight and Inception trailers came out.

  4. You can’t compare Skyfall and TDKR as the former was done shooting before the latter premiered at the cinema. Any similarities between the two are coincidential.

    • :| Skyfall was influenced by The Dark Knight… Sam Mendez even admitted it in many interviews.

      • The Dark Knight, yes, but not The Dark Knight Rises. Besides, it is rather the other way around. This article lost me when it compared Skyfall to Rises, I’m sorry.

        • Posters, though… Into Darkness’ poster came out WAY after Rises Poster in plenty of time for being influenced.

  5. This makes no sense to me. Does anyone remember that James Bond is 50 years old. Nolan’s Batman films are new. He drew from Bond. Skyfall was written before The Dark knight Rises by the way, which completely removes any sort of copying of the plot or villains. And speaking of villains, the Joker is completely a Bond villain, as is all of Nolan’s portrayal of the villains, very Bond, very very Bond. Also Nolan has stated many times that he was influenced by Bond, because he’s a huge fan and would love to make a Bond film one day. Sorry to say this, but this entire article is kind of pointless and completely backwards. And don’t even get me started on Inception, which is a massive rip off of so many Bond films it’s hard to keep track.

    • I gotta agree with Lee on this one. Plenty of things thrown in Skyfall regarding Bond, like his childhood for instance, come straight from Fleming’s novels, which predate the Bond and Batman movies by miles. A darker Bond who questions the mortality of his profession and the agency he works for? Also comes from Fleming. In fact, Lucius Fox, at least in Nolan’s films, is a direct homage to Q. I’m not denying that there are influences from the dark knight in skyfall, Mendes said it himself, but there are plenty aspects of Bond, at least the literary Bond, that are obvious a part of Nolan’s portrayal of Batman. I guess the problem is most people only know Bond from the films and not from the books in order to have a deep perspective on the subject

  6. woo hoo

    Just found out…CHRISTOPHER NOLAN WILL BE DIRECTING MY CAR PURCHASE THIS AFTERNOON!

    I cant wait!

    Hmmm…How much is this going to add to the cost?

    So Ladies and Gentlemen. Expect a detail, dark and insidious story on how I purchased my new car. There will be plotholes and the signatures will take over an hour…..

    Hans Zimmer is going to do the SCORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is going to be EPIC!!!!!!!!!!

    A MUST SEE!

    Who is going to play me? God I hope Scarlett Johannson gets to play my wife!!!!!!!!!

    Joseph Gordon Levitt is going to be the Salesman!

    • LO freaking L!!!

  7. The more I look at it, the more I have to think. It is never the directory, but more so the studio and producers. They are the ones who want a large return on their investment. They ultimately dictate what the director can and cannot do.

    Now Disney, did it right. Said “Ok Joss, here is 250 Million dollars. Make the Avengers.”

    Ok the results are in ..”Joss here is a Blank Check, do what you want.”

    Now Warner Bros/DC now have a problem. Do we follow the Successful Dark Knight formula, or do we make a movie in the vein of The Avengers? No Director wants to go tit for tat in another directors shoes, nor does he want to do a carbon copy of another Director’s Film

    Perhaps Studio executives do not have a grasp on how intelligent some of the movie public are. For the most part, any number of us on Screen Rant can put our collective minds together and come up with a Justice League Movie or any DC Hero Movie that would rival any Writer or Studio could put out. Why? Because we are fans, and we have a wide enough base that we could make a decent script.

    How many of us would it take to correct Green Lantern?

    But Studios do not want a Story, they want a large return on their investment, even if that investment has no story, but a lot of what they think the public wants.

    How many trailers have we seen in the past 10 years tell us exactly what the target was going to be? How many times did we Watch Trailer for GI Joe and knew the Eiffel Tower was going to be hit, before it was actually hit. Movie Studios think that is what we want, the shock value, the destruction of a landmark, mass hysteria and the such.

    I rather have an compelling story over a Michael Bay induce Eye and Ear Attack.

    • I wish the Nolan formula was applied to Green Lantern

  8. This one is for you Jeff W. Chris Nolan is directing a movie about my bar mitzvah. It starts out with a wild night in Vegas where things get dark and gritty after an encounter on a rooftop. Tom Cruise will be playing Rabbi JusForU.

    • Kels….tell me when it premieres lol

  9. I love Chris Nolan. But Screen Rant is quickly becoming a “Nolan FanBoy” site, as Mashable is with Apple. As “Lee” wisely reminded us above, Nolan drew from Bond plots and villains, not the other way around. And Skyfall was written before TDKR and wrapped shooting before TDKR was released. So the entire analysis above is coincidental, or gives Nolan far too much credit given 50 years of amazing Bond character and plot development, not to mention Ian Fleming mastery.

    • Mendez inspiration was the dark knight so any similarities regarding that film, not rises. Is not a quincidence

    • @ Jon Rosenbluth

      I like Nolan’s films on Batman for what they were. But I think i agree with your second sentance. It almost seems almost everyone on here think Nolan’s a God,especially with it comes to CBM. But i noticed on other sites people don’t share the same kind of love for his Batman trilogy or other films like on here. So maybe you have a valid point.

      • He’s regarded as one of the best directors around at the moment, he’s just finished one of the most succsessful trilogys of all time, 2 years after making an original blockbuster in amongst remake after remake, and in Memento has a cult classic, and you guys are suprised when people love him? What you think people come on here and lie?

  10. Skyfall kind of ruined Bond for me, or at least Mendes’ Bond. Javier Bardem dropped the ball. Suger from No Country Old Men was one of the greatest villains of probably that past 20 years yet SilI wasa was very boring. A

  11. Well obviously with “Skyfall”, since Sam Mendes himself said he was inspired by “The Dark Knight”. I personally think it proved to be an amazing success because unless you want to sit there and analyze the movie piece by piece like a scientist and have no fun, it was a really good movie overall. Is taking inspiration a bad thing? Not by any means. It’s good because now you’ll have better movies in the future. How dare we not take 5 steps back and make films like we did in 2002, which weren’t all bad but don’t live up to today’s expectations

  12. A very silly article, particularly in regard to Skyfall. Mendes has acknowledged The Dark Knight, particularly that audiences will accept a more cerebal blockbuster, and Nolan has been vocal about the influence of Bond – especially with Inception which he called his 007 film.

    But your list of ‘more obvious influences’ is farcical (and a stretch far too far to include The Dark Knight Rises).

    ‘Darker’ character attributes are straight out of Fleming and very much part of Craig’s approach from Casino Royale. And since Dr.No, Bond set the template for action set pieces and chases, deformed villans, casinos, set design etc etc – and for interrogations Bond and Le Chiffre takes some beating…

    If we used your approach in reverse to Nolan’s films we could say that Batman’s exit from Hong Kong was a straight lift from Thunderball (which it basically is)or that the Miranda/Bane set up is that of Renard/Elektra (which is really taking it too far, and no doubt there are other ‘humourous…obvious influences’

    The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Skyfall are superb films from great film makers, and if they influence others to produce more intelligent blockbusters all the better…and hopefully those writing about film will up their game as well.

  13. As a huge fan of the Dark Knight trilogy, if that’s what filmmakers turn to for inspiration, I’m not complaining.

    The more blockbusters featuring well-developed characters, exciting set pieces, and practical effects the better.

  14. What I think made Skyfall so successful was that it was a lot more like a Bourne movie. It had three iconic Bourne elements, which were the staple motorcycle chase scene, a fist fight to the death, and lots of Parkour elements. Personally I don’t think Skyfall held a candle to Bourne Legacy or Ultimatum in this respect. Legacy really pushed the boundaries of the super spy genre and even managed to top Ultimatum in some ways (i.e. adding a female sidekick that wasn’t merely a prop).

    • James Bond is the reason Jason Bourne existed. It’s the other way around, Ian Fleming wrote James Bond as a literary character way back when and that’s the version Daniel Craig’s era is trying to emphasize on in his portrayal and the films themselves.

      You either prefer one or the other, but don’t act like James Bond took influence from Jason Bourne when the influence for Jason Bourne lies within the true origin of the James Bond character

  15. God, I’ve seen Chris Nolan’s influence all over the place! Hans Zimmer imitation music, realistic interpretations… In my opinion there is an embarrassing amount more than this to use as evidence that Christopher Nolan has changed the “Hollywood Cinema” landscape.

  16. I think that Nolan haters outnumber the Nolan fanboys. Every article I read on screen rant about Christopher Nolan has at least 5 comments in the comment section talking about how annoying Nolan fanboys are, and how Christopher Nolan is so overrated, etc. Nolan’s movies are pretty good, don’t be a hater. It doesn’t mean DC is better than Marvel. As a matter of fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with DC vs. Marvel. Just because someone says Nolan makes good movies or his influence is visible in other movies doesn’t mean they are trying to say DC is awesome and Marvel sucks, and I feel like a lot of Nolan haters subconsciously think Nolan praise is Marvel criticism.

  17. I think this article is influenced by Chris Nolan!

    But seriously, the Star Trek poster is a easy yes.

    I do wounder if every “Dark” Action/Science Fiction will get this treatment. Coming out of Skyfall the only thing that came to mind was the Joker/Silva.

  18. Yes, how dare they be inspired by good movies xD

  19. Grasping for straws here. If there’s any seeming imitation going on, it’s by the studios’ marketing departments that think trying to mimic Nolan will get more butts in seats, even if the end products doesn’t really follow Nolan’s style all that closely (just look at all the fuss over the Iron Man 3 trailer being “dark” and “Nolanesque” even while Feige says that the movie isn’t that dark).

    Nolan didn’t invent dark (or practical effects and set pieces, though he might be a throwback to a ‘purer’ (as far as movie-making goes)time that such was the only way to go).

  20. Nolan’s movies are great so of course it’s great that others are taking inspiration from him… the thing is to stay on the right side of a line between inspiration and flat out copying though. No one likes a rip-off.

    … but luckily that hasn’t happened yet.

    • Exactly, there shouldn’t be any problem with taking inspiration. Copying is a different story

      • Yup. And after reading some of the other comments, I’m reminded how Nolan was influenced by Bond films and novels like a Tale of Two Cities!
        So it’s all really a circle of inspiration if you think about it…

        • WHOA
          @ The Avenger? What do you mean Tale of Two Cities was a novel?

          I saw both movies?

  21. I must be one of the few people that didn’t think The Dark Knight was that good. Batman Begins was good. Dark Knight was just one long drawn out picture that did little to carry my interest. And I love Batman.

    No comment on Skyfall as I haven’t seen it, and only just saw the other two and they didn’t do anything for me as Bond movies.

    So I hope The Dark Knight rises is good.
    On Star Trek – Abrams has left out so much technobabble that makes Star Trek science fiction, that it wasn’t Star Trek despite what Trek legend Nimoy says.

    That said, I tend to find fans of these things are too big on being purists, complaints about Bana’s Hulk which was a great story (Hulk dogs or no) – Green Lantern was fine as a Disney like picture, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find my view was well on the outer at screen rant.

    • I think “Batman Begins” is a better Batman movie, but “The Dark Knight” is a better movie movie, and “The Dark Knight Rises” aims to fall back towards being more of a Batman movie than a movie movie IMO

    • I love Batman too. Which is why I hated Nolan’s vision of it.

  22. Quick correction – the chase scene in Inception was in Mombasa, not Mumbai.

  23. My EXACT words to my girlfriend right after the shot of Silver (Skyfall) stumbling away with the burning wreckage of Bond’s mansion behind him:

    “That looks IDENTICAL to the shot of the Joker stumbling away from the burning wreckage in the middle of the street during The Dark Knight”

    Seriously, if Silver had accidentally fired off a few rounds from his assault rifle, like the Joker had, it would’ve been a shot-for-shot clone. Not complaining, tho, because I loved Skyfall.

  24. I saw SKYFALL last night and yes it has C.N. influences. Long & boring.

  25. The chase scene in “Inception” was not in Mumbai, it was in Mumbasa.

  26. Okay, OBVIOUSLY, the Dark Knight Rises did not influence the plot of Skyfall; they were released within a few months of each other.

    • “The Dark Knight Rises” did not influence “Skyfall”, but “The Dark Knight” did

  27. Yea, I’ve always hated the unoriginality of George Lucas following Nolans more serious tone on Empire Strikes Back and Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom..and of course the original Star Trek 2 Wrath of Khan obviously ripping off Nolan…

  28. Blah Blah Blah. This sounds like some discussion I would have had with other students at a Perkins Restaurant at 3AM after 7 cups of coffee. Did you miss out on the Barenaked Ladies song: It’s all been done before? If you did you should google it, and while you are at it expand your movie knowledge a bit.

    Come on when you use spirit gum to hold some of these bricks together it all falls apart:

    Silva is an insane (but somehow charming) villain with a substantial physical deformity (like Bane or The Joker). *Yes there are so few villains with physical deformities in movies….*

    Silva is oddly sensual about physical violence or intimidation (like Bane, The Joker or Two-Face). *Or like Onatoppa from Goldeneye, or any other myriad villains in the last 25 years.*

    At one point, Silva impersonates a cop to kill a public official (like The Joker). *Like in Maniac Cop and Psycho Cop*

    Silva uses the underground sewer/tunnel system in his terrorist plans (like Bane). *Like Black Dragon did in the Mortal Kombat game? Or the Morlocks in the X-Men Comics? Or the Black Vulkar in KOTOR?*

    Silva is a threat from the past (like Bane), and is a good guy who was twisted into evil (like Two-Face). *or like 006, Carmen Sandiego, Anakin Skywalker, Doc Oc, or Sideshow Bob?*

    Silva gets a nice interrogation scene with our hero, like Batman and Joker in TDK. *Too many to name*

    He tries to go out murder/suicide style while dispensing his “justice” like Two-Face. *again too many to name*

    I am unsure if you even have straws sir.

  29. And as far as the poster thing goes take a look back at the Cloverfield poster…