Right now the director Christopher Nolan has Hollywood by the cojones. The Dark Knight Rises, despite the atrocity in Aurora, is getting critical plaudits as well as dominating the box office and breaking records for a movie without the 3D ticket price bump. It's capping of one of the most critically and commercially successful trilogies in movie history.
If that's not enough, his recent non-Batman movies The Prestige, and Inception, were both considered brainy and challenging, but also box-office hits.
That tells me something about Nolan's career.
It tells me that the audience is following his career, most likely unconsciously, and that the audience trusts him.
Now I should probably explain that.
The average moviegoer probably doesn't pay attention to the name of the director. It's rare for a filmmaker to achieve a level of fame that's equivalent to the actors who work in front of the camera. The exceptions being natural showmen like Alfred Hitchcock in the 1960s, and one man blockbuster factories like Stephen Spielberg in the 1980s.
However, the brain makes connections, it remembers things subconsciously. If the same name keeps popping up when you see a movie you enjoy, you're going to start associating that name with movies you enjoy.
So when a preview has "from director Christopher Nolan" it's flicking the switch on that subconscious association. With Nolan it's telling you that this film will be entertaining, challenging, and will be neither preachy, or insulting.
That creates an unspoken level of trust between Nolan and the audience, and this trust will continue until he does something to break it.
Which brings me to the next issue of this post.
What should Nolan do next?
Nolan has expressed interest in doing a Bond movie. I'd love to see him do one, and I don't see MGM/EON saying no to him. In fact, I can't imagine anyone in Hollywood saying no to him for anything.
That's a wonderful, but a dangerous position to be in.
Read about the generation of directors who exploded in the late 60s and early 70s and you will see a dozen repeats of the same story. There's huge success at the beginning, they're given carte-blanche, they then engage in an orgy of self-indulgence, and suddenly they're doing commercials and music videos and are pretty much forgotten by the public.
Nolan is standing on a career cliff right now. There's a bridge on that cliff that crosses the chasm of cinematic oblivion to the golden gardens of a long and healthy career. That bridge is literally made of the trust that audience has for Nolan. If he breaks that trust, he breaks that bridge, and it's a long and painful plunge.
So let's hope he continues the good judgement he's been showing lately.