How Christopher Nolan’s Movies Lead to Oppenheimer


Since The black Knight, Christopher NolanThe films of have become an event. His next project, Oppenheimer, is still a year away, but its explosive new teaser already shows just how central physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer will be to the story surrounding the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb. Although Nolan has already made a World War II biographical film in Dunkirk, Oppenheimer will follow the development of the American weapon which finally ended the war with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Oppenheimer isn’t the first scientist in Christopher Nolan’s films whose contributions to advances in science and technology have led to weapons of mass destruction. Nolan’s filmography is full of brilliant minds with the resources and knowledge to save the world, but due to forces outside of ulterior motives, their accomplishments are inadvertently used as weapons. From his take on Batman to his more convoluted sci-fi storylines, Nolan has dabbled in those stories parallel to the actual creation of the atomic bomb.


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by Nolan The black Knight trilogy explores these themes in the guise of a superhero film adapted from a comic book. Specifically, the films explore how a billion-dollar science and technology company can be easily manipulated by corruption and crime. In batman begins, Wayne Enterprises develops a powerful machine designed for warfare that can evaporate an enemy’s water supply. The prototype of the machine disappears, stolen by Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) and the terrorist organization The League of Shadows. Their plan is to use the “microwave emitter” to disperse a fear toxin throughout Gotham by polluting the city’s sewage system with the poison and releasing it into the air. Though Ra’s almost successfully shrouds the city in toxin – with Arkham Asylum’s worst patients wreaking havoc on the streets as ordinary citizens witness frightening hallucinations as a symptom – the Batman (Christian Bale) defeats Ra’s, destroying the machine by crashing the train that housed it into the ground. And with the help of Wayne’s trusted employee and scientist, Lucius Fox (Morgan FREEMAN), the billion-dollar company is able to provide vaccines to people affected by the fear toxin.

It is also in batman begins this Cillian Murphy first collaborated with Christopher Nolan. He plays Dr. Jonathan Crane, a psychiatrist who works at Arkham Asylum. But rather than using his talents, knowledge, and expertise to help treat his patients, he uses them as test subjects for his own fear toxin, which ultimately earns him the title of Scarecrow. Although Batman ultimately defeated Scarecrow with a “taste of [his] own medicine,” Crane would appear in the next two films as a minor antagonist still causing chaos in Gotham City. Cillian Murphy will go from one “mad scientist” to another, playing the titular nuclear physicist who was considered the “father of the atomic bomb” in 2023 Oppenheimer.

In The dark knight risesthe League of Shadows returns to destroy Gotham, this time led by Bane (Tom Hardy) and Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, Talia (Marion Cotillard). Talia spent years working her way through Wayne Enterprises, using the alias Miranda Tate. Since Bruce Wayne’s absence from the company, she and other investors with ulterior motives, such as John Dagget (Ben Mendelsohn), planned to use Wayne Enterprises money and resources, including for mass destruction. One project specifically caught the interest of Talia, Bane, and the League of Shadows – a nuclear reactor designed by Dr. Pavel as a sustainable power source.

Bruce, believing Talia to be Miranda Tate, entrusts her with the weapon, fearing that if the machine comes to public attention, “someone will find a way to turn this power source into a nuclear weapon”. In fact, Bruce has this same fear with all of his company’s technological advancements. When his butler, Alfred (Michael Cain), asks him why he doesn’t give the police the same gadgets and weapons he uses as Batman, Bruce says, “one man’s tool is another man’s weapon”. Ironically, Bruce’s fears come true. Bane infiltrates Wayne Enterprises, uses his weapons and technology to take over Gotham, and turns the power reactor into a nuclear bomb. But as with batman beginsBatman is able to defeat Bane and the League of Shadows and save Gotham City, but not without disappearing in the bomb’s nuclear explosion over the ocean.

At a time batman begins and The dark knight rises, scientific and technological advances produced by the minds of Wayne Enterprises are turned into weapons of mass destruction. While the intent is to use these devices to keep ordinary citizens safe, they ultimately become tools for the “bad guys” so they can carry out their nefarious plans. But Bruce Wayne isn’t alone in worrying that these machines are being used for the wrong reasons.

At Nolan’s Prestigethe fictionalized Nikola Tesla (david bowie) creates a machine that can copy anything placed on it. The ambitious magician Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) ordered the machine to rival rival Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and his “Transported Man” act. But as Borden uses his twin brother for the deed, Angier engages in using the machine by creating copies of himself, which are essentially clones. After each show, the newly copied Angier survives while the previous Angier is drowned in a box. After such an act, Angier uses the machine to pin his murder on his rival magician, leading to Borden’s death sentence. However, this twisted plot ultimately leads to Angier’s tragic death – all of Angiers’ deaths – as Alfred Borden’s twin brother orchestrates the end of the long and tense rivalry, burning the machine and the corpses of Alger with her. As Tesla had previously warned Algiers, “Such a thing will only bring you misery. I add only one suggestion on the use of the machine. Destroy it.”

And in Principle, a scientist’s discovery of time inversion leads to all-out war in a battle between the past and the future. Rather than simple time travel, time inversion allows someone or something to go in the opposite direction and back in time. But with the creation of a new machine, the “Algorithm”, capable of reversing time itself, the whole world is at stake. As an arms dealer explains, the scientist is “the Oppenheimer of her generation – she conceives a method to turn the world upside down, but becomes convinced that by destroying us, they destroy themselves”. In order to prevent the Algorithm from falling into the wrong hands, the anonymous future scientist dismantles it into several parts and scatters them in the past. The actual mechanics behind how time reversal works are a bit muddy, but it’s clear that if someone were to find every part of this machine, everything and everyone would be destroyed. This is precisely the goal of Russian villain Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh). In order to defeat him, the anonymous protagonist (John David Washington) and his new partner Neil (Robert Pattinson) learn to use time inversion to their advantage. The Protagonist and Neil eventually find the parts of the Algorithm and decide to split them and go their separate ways.

All of these movies involve some new scientific achievement that is ultimately used for all the wrong reasons. From the microwave transmitter in batman beginsthe nuclear reactor The dark knight risesthe cloning machine in Prestigeand the time reversal algorithm in Principle, the technological advancements in Christopher Nolan’s filmography have been a cautionary tale. Even though the best minds in the world may have the best intentions, there are always others – whether villains or supervillains – who want to use technology for selfish and destructive reasons. But while those stories have remained in the realm of superheroes and science fiction, Nolan’s next adventure will explore the original cautionary tale of one scientist’s contributions to weapons of war.

Oppenheimer hits theaters July 21, 2023.


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