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Commentary: Appreciate, don’t overrate Christopher Nolan

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

There was once a time when our beloved celluloid Batman had been reduced to shreds.

That time was 1997.

Joel Schumacher’s “Batman & Robin” was an overblown, campy debacle so widely panned that it took nearly a decade to cleanse our memories, regroup and revive one of the most popular fictional heroes of all-time.

What Christopher Nolan did with 2005’s “Batman Begins,” the gritty, origin-story reboot, was just lovely, wasn’t it? It restored order to a Batman universe that had been beaten to hell and back in the late ’90s.

It goes without saying how good “The Dark Knight” was. It made Batman arguably the most popular superhero of our time.

Now we have “The Dark Knight Rises” slated to hit theaters Friday and it’s not a stretch to assume it will be on relatively equal footing with its predecessors.

But for all of his successes, I think we might be overrating Nolan just a tad.

That’s the culture of “fanboyism,” or, for those of you less Internet savvy, “really, really, really, really liking something or somebody way too much.”

It’s easy to see why people like him. His filmography is impressive and it appeals to the masses. Plus, he’s got the good graces of the geeks for how well he’s handled

Batman. But some of the things these people are saying are quite overstated.

First, let’s look at what happened Monday. When the first reviews for “The Dark Knight Rises” began appearing at RottenTomatoes.com, fans went crazy.

However, when a couple negative reviews were posted (one turning out to be satire that was later pulled from the website), fans unleashed their fury, overloading the comments on Marshall Fine’s review atHollywoodAndFine.com with hate.

Rotten Tomatoes tweeted Monday, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” It’s right.

Not only are these people putting too much in a Rotten Tomatoes score anyway, but their rabid, irrational fanhood is ruining it for the sane users on the website.

It’s also especially absurd behavior considering none of those fans have even seen the film yet.

But back to Nolan.

I’ve heard folks on the Internet say Nolan is one of the greatest directors out there today. While he’s probably safely in the conversation somewhere, I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

There are better directors than Nolan out there. Some of them are familiar names, some of them not. For my dollar, I’d take names such as Steven Spielberg, David

Fincher, the Coen brothers, Woody Allen and Darren Aronofsky over Nolan.

Even foreign directors such as Alfonso Cuarón, Jean-Luc Godard and Akira Kurosawa, among others, have more impressive resumes.

OK, so maybe he’s not the greatest director in the world right now, but his most ardent fans say he’ll go down in history as one.

Will he, though?

His Batman trilogy has been more than impressive. I love it. I’m a stout Batman fan and I can’t think of many trilogies more rewarding than this one. But is it enough to put him at the top of a list including names such as Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola, Orson Welles and Spielberg?

Not quite yet. Critics have eaten up his two Batman films, but apart from Spielberg, it will take a lot more than summer popcorn fare to rank among the all-time greats when all is said and done.

Apart from Batman, I think the reason most fans gush over Nolan is largely because of “Inception.” Not necessarily that film specifically, but the reasons behind why they like it.

A lot of people seem to think “Inception” is brainy cinema at its finest. To them, it’s a reflection of how brainy Nolan’s films are.

Sorry, but his films aren’t that brainy.

“Inception” is an original idea, and we should heap praise upon Nolan for tackling an original idea when the market is oversaturated with remakes, reboots and adaptations, but what about it is particularly smart?

Just because you can’t tune out like you can during a “Transformers” film doesn’t mean it’s smart. For all intents and purposes, nothing about the ideas Nolan presents in “Inception” are earth-shattering, and I doubt he would say they are.

The same roughly goes for “Memento.” The story-telling method isn’t conventional and Nolan deserves praise for thinking outside the box, but its vehicle for telling its story is nothing we haven’t seen before somewhere.

Like “Inception,” “Memento” is good. It’s just not cinema you can only appreciate if you have an IQ more than 140.

His Batman films aren’t that smart, either. They’re just good, too. And not dumb.

Smart and good aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

I’m not a Nolan-hater. As I said, I love both of his Batman films and I will probably love the new one. I liked “Inception,” though I’ve come down on it a lot. “Memento” is also quite good. But this is one of the problems of the Internet and this fanboy, herd culture.

It’s entirely possible Nolan could go down as one of the all-time greatest directors. As of now, I don’t think he will. We’ve built him up too much. We’ve set the bar too high.

Sadly, that’s probably going to be the reality for any director popular among the bourgeois for as long as the Internet is around.

Plus, look at directors such as Kubrick, now regarded as one of the greatest who ever lived, whose films were largely misunderstood and even panned when they were released because they truly challenged audiences.

Nolan’s films don’t do that.

Time will tell, though. And I don’t mean to discredit his work by any means. But it might be a little unfair to keep building him up to the stratosphere when maybe he should only be built up to the troposphere.

But at least we can all agree his Batman films are way cooler than “Batman & Robin,” though, right?

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