Christopher Nolan is one of the rare filmmakers who gets to spend almost unimaginable amounts of cash from studios to make the kind of movies he wants to make. Some of his works include extraordinarily ambitious directorial feats, such as his work in special effects and his preference for analog over digital.
Unless absolutely necessary, the director prefers to use practical effects instead of computer generated imagery. To showcase his and his team's abilities, the following ten entries will discuss ten effects from his films that, unbelievably, are not CGI. While a heap of these may be easier to do with computers, the effort put into doing them practically makes them more believable and gives them an impressive sense of weight. Here are 10 such effects you wouldn't believe aren't digital.
10 Flipping The Truck In The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight's influence on comic book adaptations cannot be overstated. It elevated the genre to new heights by treating the character as realistically as possible. The dedication to practical stunts and effects helped make the heightened scenarios believable.
One of the most impressive things done during the production was flipping over a truck in the middle of Chicago. Using explosives, a massive piston, and a fearless driver, the crew managed to pull off the stunt for real, only using CGI to edit out the ramp underneath the truck.
9 Frozen Planet In Interstellar
In an age where CGI is used liberally for science fiction, Interstellar sought to utilize practical effects to realize more plausible outer space environments. The planets explored by the characters used mostly real world locations to depict the harsh settings.
The frozen planet where Doctor Mann is stranded, for example, was filmed in Iceland. a country that has been used before to substitute a foreign land. Prometheus filmed primarily in the small country, though Ridley Scott's movie makes no attempts at scientific accuracy.
8 The Freight Train In Inception
Because Inception largely takes place in dreams, a lot of strange things happen. One such event sees a large freight train rampaging right through the middle of Los Angeles. Miraculously, the sequence was not a result of computers, but ingenuity.
They didn't literally lay down tracks in Los Angeles, but instead dressed up a truck to look like the train and sent it down the street to smash up a few cars. Nolan's style made him the perfect choice for putting literal dream worlds on the big screen.
7 The Corn Fields In Interstellar
Corn is one of the only crops still growing in Interstellar's dying world. The opening scenes spend a lot of time on the main character's ranch where he grows the vegetable. Instead of rendering the fields with computer magic, the production opted to grow their own huge cornfield.
The production and Nolan probably never imagined becoming farmers in the service of the cinematic arts, but the director's disdain for CGI turned them into agricultural experts. Reportedly, they sold the corn at the end of production.
6 Rotating Hallway Fight
Of the many impressive action scenes in Inception, the rotating hallway fight stands out as especially unique. As a result of a car crash in the first layer of the dream, Joseph Gordon-Levitt battles some dudes while the whole world rotates and gravity shifts.
To achieve this, the hotel rooms were built with the ability to be turned upside down. Not only was it difficult to choreograph, but it also presented some real hazards as the set presented a large enough drop to harm someone. Joseph and his co-stars deserves credit for doing the scene himself, showcasing his impressive physicality.
5 The Dogfights In Dunkirk
Dunkirk is focused more on the tension of surviving a war zone rather than the characters' plights or the overall armed conflict. It follows three individual, occasionally intertwining paths, one of which is a pair of Spitfire fighter planes.
The aerial battles were all done in the air, putting IMAX cameras into places they'd never been before. Anybody else would have utilized smaller cameras, but the high quality cameras put the audience into the intense fight in a way no other aerial sequence had done before.
4 Dust Storms In Interstellar
Earth's dying wails in Interstellar come in the form of immense dust storms, much like the ones that devastated the US during the Dust Bowl.
To create the effect, the team set up massive fans to make the particles move around on camera as if they were swallowing the planet's surface. Real dust wasn't used, of course, for the safety of the actors. Instead, they blew around a food additive so it wouldn't harm the professionals engulfed by the effect while still achieving the desired visual.
3 Midair Plane Hijacking In The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises opens with the villainous Bane and his crew kidnapping a doctor from CIA custody in midair. The magnificent showcase was accomplished with impressive stunt work and one miniature.
For the ending of the sequence, they really did drop the plane from the sky. The Dark Knight Rises gets a lot of flack for not living up to its predecessor, but the action is still great and it is an entertaining film from start to finish... even if Tom Hardy's Bane is hard to understand.
2 The Water Planet
Another beautiful location in Interstellar is the planet covered in water. When the crew lands, they see nothing but the source of life for miles upon miles. Eventually, a giant wave comes and puts their lives in jeopardy.
Except for the mammoth-sized tsunami and the flying ship, everything else in the scene is natural. To capture this barren environment on film, Nolan and crew shot on top of a melting glacier. It wasn't a comfortable environment, but well worth it to achieve the effect.
1 Dunkirk Used Paper Cutouts
Sometimes, complex problems have simple solutions. While some of the larger crowd shots utilized CGI in 2017's Dunkirk, the production crew employed massive amounts of extras and even paper cutouts to fill out the scenes.
Most would dismiss two-dimensional, lifeless stand-ins in this day and age of advanced computerized visuals, but this simple practical effect works like a charm in the final product. Even with the super-detailed IMAX cameras, the cutouts don't stand out that much when put against the other realistic effects.