Perhaps more than any other filmmaker in recent years, Christopher Nolan has a following. These so called "Nolanites" love to tout the brilliance of his films, and one of the most popular statements has been to call Nolan a modern Kubrick. Despite being a big fan of Nolan i've never quite understood this statement, especially considering Nolan's visual style does not have much in common with Kubrick's. But I think it goes beyond that, and after seeing Interstellar it finally clicked for me what the biggest difference is: Nolan's films lack subtext.
It really is that simple. For whatever reason, Nolan wants his characters to say exactly what they are thinking at any given time. If a character is mad at another character, they will state it plainly. The same goes for every single emotion. There is no misdirection, lying, innuendo, or nuance. It's as if Nolan wants to make sure we understand what the character is feeling and doesn't trust us to infer it by context.
This doesn't just relate to character feelings, but also to plot and theme. Look at the ending of Interstellar. When he gets to the weird Library near the end, we get it. We're literally seeing it happen. We don't necessarily understand how it's happening, but we do understand what is happening. Despite this, Nolan decided to have McConaughey and Chastain both state out loud to themselves what is going on, multiple times. Why? We already see what's happening, why exactly do we need the characters to awkwardly reinforce it by talking to themselves?
This is especially interesting when you compare this scene to the ending of 2001, a film that Nolanites have been trying to compare to Interstellar since the film was first announced. In that famous ending to 2001, Kubrick doesn't explain anything. He just presents it, and leaves the meaning up to your own interpretation. This forces you to think about the film and what was happening, and is key to why the film is so iconic all these years later.
This is night and day different from Nolan's approach to a similarly bizarre event. Nolan chooses to explain it numerous times, just incase we were sleeping I guess, and the ultimate result of this is that we get it. There's nothing to solve, and we leave the theater not questioning "oh what did that mean?" but instead saying "huh, that was interesting" and then proceeding to realize all the plot holes in the film.
I admit I was in the crowd of people that was really hoping Nolan would finally "grow up" and make a picture that treats the audience with respect, but after seeing Interstellar i've realized he's just not that kind of filmmaker. Which leads to me the "why that's ok" part. You know what? I really enjoyed Interstellar. It was a blast and one of the most enjoyable theater experiences i've had this year. Despite being 2h49m, which is actually longer than 2001, I never felt bored for a single moment. This is the great skill of Nolan...he makes the most enjoyable blockbusters out there. And I accept that. I no longer wish for him to "grow up", because I actually really enjoy seeing his films. Sure, I don't think about them much afterwards and I will never put them on the same level of the great filmmakers, but for pure entertainment nobody does it better right now than Christopher Nolan, and for that I will always be a fan.