Our generation is extremely blessed to witness the works of Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan while they are still alive. I say this because any shootout between two film directors becomes a bit one-sided when one of them has passed away due to the sheer respect that cinephiles have for most directors. Spielberg is a member of the old guard and still churns out impressionable flicks while Nolan is the relatively new kid on the stage spitting out one blockbuster after another. For the older generation Spielberg is not just a director, he is the epitome of great cinema, the man who defined a Hollywood blockbuster. I distinctly remember my father going to the theater solely to catch Munich (2006) because it was a Spielberg film.
Nolan is the god like figure who just cannot go wrong for us millennials. Spielberg is the master of sci-fi and genre defining adventure films while Nolan, though less experienced is hot on his heels and a few media outlets have even termed him as the ‘next Spielberg’. So, let’s have a shootout between the two directors and hopefully arrive at a conclusion.
The comparison will be based on five rough parameters. These parameters I believe define a filmmaker’s work and career as a whole.
1. Writing and Originality
Steven Spielberg is a director who has been in the industry for more than four decades now. He made a mark in Hollywood with Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of The Third Kind (1977). Both these films are iconic in their stature and are directorial masterpieces and introduced a drastically different kind of filmmaking which critics then termed as escapist. When his mechanically operational design of a shark failed miserably, he used the camera as the POV for a shark and it worked wonders on the screen coupled with tense music. That was directorial masterclass.
When it comes to writing, it is very clear from Spielberg’s obscenely big filmography, that he is not a writer. Every major hit film that he has directed has been written by someone else or is an adaptation of a biography or a novel. E.T : The Extra Terrestrial (1982), Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler’s List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), The Terminal (2004), Munich (2005), Bridge of Spies (2015) the list goes on. Each of the above films have been written by someone else, people who are terribly good at conjuring scripts (eg. George Lucas, Coen Brothers). The only major writing credit he has is for Close Encounters of The Third Kind (1977) and even there the entire script and screenplay was written by a bunch of script writers. Taking nothing away from his directorial feats, it can be safe to say that Spielberg is no writer and lacks in conjuring up his own original ideas.
Christopher Nolan burst onto the scene at the turn of the century with his critical and commercial hit Memento (2000) and he has never looked back since with not a single movie flopping at the box office. In fact all of his films after that have been received with universal acclaim. While Spielberg is no writer, Nolan on the other hand has written or co-written each of his films with his brother Jonathan Nolan. Apart from the exception of Insomnia (2002), every script after that has been credited to him. The entire Dark Knight Trilogy rests solely on its writing. The Batman we saw on screen was nothing like we have seen before. The plots for all the three movies were so well crafted that audiences remembered the antagonists as much as the caped superhero. This was the magic of Nolan’s writing.