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Jonathan Nolan: The Story of the Thinking Fanboy

20/11/2014 11:27 GMT | Updated 19/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Those of you who have not wiki-ed Christopher Nolan's classic film Memento, might not be aware that the premise was based on a short story Nolan's younger brother, Jonathan had written. Titled Memento Mori, it had not yet been published when the movie released, which perhaps explains why not many actually read it. But that's a thing of the past now. From a relatively unknown writer in the 90's, Jonathan Nolan has established himself as a popular name, thanks to co-writing credits he has received for The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and more recently, Interstellar (2014).

What makes Jonathan "Jonah" Nolan's rise really interesting is how it's actually a story of what happens when everything falls into place for a fanboy; not a silly one, but an intelligent and thinking fan, who doesn't necessarily thump his chest at every single thing written about his favourite character or subject, but instead studies it well enough to make it better. Yes, the main point of reference here is obviously the Batman franchise the younger Nolan brother contributed to. It is easy to understand the importance of Nolan's writing which actually brought the franchise alive if we see the change in tone from Batman Begins to The Dark Knight (TDK).

Batman Begins is a great film in its own right and yet, most would agree, it pales in comparison to TDK. The whole getting trained by assassins in Tibet thing works in the Batman universe and is a great backstory for both Batman and Ra's Al Ghul but you can't help notice, that it is all a little to superhero-ish. But... Batman is a superhero? Yes, he is but in TDK as well as the Frank Miller miniseries, he is more of a gritty crime fighter which is what makes both renditions stand out from the rest. Jonathan Nolan, revived the real aspect of a fictional series and made the entire plot very relatable. It is hence, no surprise that Person of Interest, a TV show he created, is one of the most poignant shows of our times that's on air right now.

In this era of communication and information, of Snowdens and Assanges, of NSAs and Patriots Acts, Person of Interest is one show that asks the right questions and seems to address real concerns through a fictional plot. Last year, he hosted an 'Ask Me Anything' (AMA) on Reddit, where he made his stance on the whole technology and surveillance debate public while narrating how he pitched the idea for Person of Interest to the studio. "I painted this dark, dystopian picture of a world under total surveillance and then explained that it was real. Everyone's favorite part of the pitch was when I pointed to someone's cell phone and said that the NSA could be listening to the pitch regardless of whether or not they were on a phone call." That, to me, defines Jonathan Nolan. A clever writer who knows that content, irrespective of genre, that the current viewing audience can relate to, will work.

Surveillance is a huge issue in the world today, but when Nolan was growing up in UK in the 70's, the Panopticon-like habit was already established in the cities there, thanks to the IRA fear. As he moved to the US, while still a kid, it was hard for him to comprehend that there could be vast stretches of public places without CCTVs in every corner. However, post 9/11 America is a whole other story and the questions that bogged Nolan as a kid, could finally be presented to the American audience.

Again, let us revisit the earlier argument that Nolan is a fanboy. Now, we can point out that it is the real world and what goes on outside the four panels of the comic book, that he is a fan of. The things he writes about, whether it is about anarchy through TDK, fascism and aritocracy, through The Dark Knight Rises or human behaviour through a much lesser known piece called Poker Face which appeared on The New Yorker last year, ask questions to which we're all looking for answers. His writing just makes the debate a little easier to understand, and that at the end of the day, is what defines a great writer.