Christopher Nolan may not have had a new movie in 2016, but he’s still near the top of the list of the most influential directors working today. He’s the mind behind the three Dark Knight films (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises) as well as other other smart blockbusters like Inception, Interstellar, The Prestige and Memento. His next film, the World War II epic Dunkirk, arrives next summer.
Film enthusiasts can argue about which of Nolan’s movies are the best – and some have even argued about how great they are at all – but there’s little doubt that Nolan’s films are worth talking and arguing about. And it turns out, the posters are, as well.
A Twitter user named Rob Trench pointed out a pattern this week: Several of Nolan’s films have posters that are strikingly similar. He explained their similarities as “depicting the backside of central characters with lots of dark colors and shadows.” Trench’s tweet provides four examples of posters for Nolan movies that feature a strikingly similar image: That of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception and Dunkirk. Two other Nolan movies, Interstellar and Memento, also feature the protagonist’s back to the camera. Take a look:
Does this tell us anything about Nolan as a director, or about his work? Not especially. For one thing, Nolan is not believed to design his own movie posters. For another, most major movies these days – including all of the above – have multiple posters for different characters in different poses, some of which include the characters facing forward. For instance, both most well known posters for The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight rises feature Batman facing forward (albeit still with “lots of dark colors and shadows”).
For another, there are many, many other movies, not directed by Nolan, which feature characters’ back to the camera. The website Rsvlts.com published a post this week that pointed out both the Nolan back-to-the-camera tendency (which it calls “The Christopher Nolan”), and another poster trope called “The Cold Shoulder,” which has been used by dozens of movies from non-Nolan directors.
Not to disparage the work of movie poster designers, who often create gorgeous, iconic work, but poster design is a field that particularly lends itself to repeated use of the same tropes, especially for similar genres of movies. Is the back-to-the-camera trend striking, as applied to Nolan movie posters, and is it an interesting coincidence? Yes. Does it tell us much about the nature of Christopher Nolan’s work? No, it really doesn’t.