Writer-director Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. have a special relationship. Having made the self-funded short film Doodlebug in 1997, Nolan went on to make Following and Memento – both to critical acclaim, and both for smaller, independent companies. But, it was 2002’s Insomnia that set the filmmaker on a path to Warner Bros. studios, leading to a multi-billion dollar superhero movie franchise, and the birth of a specifically designed DC cinematic and television universe. Just 13 years on from the release of that initial collaboration, Warner Bros. has announced its intention to deliver Christopher Nolan’s next feature film, on July 21st, 2017 – and the news of what that film will be is still top secret.
It’s an impressive marketing ploy – to begin to build interest in a film so far ahead of its release – and with such tight control on information, it is unlikely to result in the kind of advertising fatigue we so often see with projects from other notable directors, such as Ridley Scott. Nolan’s most recent work of fiction – the sweeping science fiction epic, Interstellar – managed to keep its biggest secrets right up until its release, for example, so hopefully Warner Bros. will take the same approach again.
Although the movie is referred to by the studio as an ‘Untitled Christopher Nolan Film,’ the date initially selected for its release tells us much about the nature of the project, and the expectations Warner Bros. has for it.
First of all, it is a summer release, which indicates a high degree of confidence on the part of the studio, with regard to anticipated box office takings. Summer box office is generally the domain of giant films with a relatively guaranteed audience. For example, Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was entirely a summer affair, as was his Leonardo DiCaprio starrer, Inception. The Prestige and Interstellar, on the other hand, were fall releases, with perhaps less confidence in ticket sales. It could be argued that the idea of ‘awards season’ was also a factor for those two projects, being more centred on performance than money-spinning action set-pieces.
The other point to note is the proximity of this release date to that of other projects on the Warner Bros. slate. It falls among a schedule that includes Wonder Woman (June 23rd 2017), Ninjago (September 22nd 2017), The Jungle Book: Origins (October 6th 2017), and Justice League: Part 1 (November 17th 2017). Most significantly, Columbia has its Spider-Man reboot set for release on July 21st – one week after this new Christopher Nolan entry. The fact that Warner Bros. has slotted this untitled, unknown quantity in amongst projects that are all spinoffs and adaptations suggests that this Nolan film will be an original concept – something that immediately increases excitement levels.
We can say with some certainty that it will not be related, in any way, to a superhero story – despite Christopher Nolan being largely responsible for the increased success Warner Bros. is currently enjoying in its creative partnership with DC. Historically, Nolan has shown himself to be keen to switch up his genres, so it would also be surprising if it was revealed to be another endeavour in science fiction. After a number of years spent delivering juggernaut movies of various kinds, could it be that Christopher Nolan is about to return to his intimate thriller roots – last seen in the brilliant Memento? Perhaps Warner Bros. is hoping to provide some alternative to summer superheroes, with a film by an impressive and proven talent, who is always a box office draw.
Place your bets now.