Tenet: Why So Serious?

A friend of mine suggested an interesting notion for Christopher Nolan to consider: What about just writing the screenplay and leaving the artistic decisions to a different director?

Would the never-ending 150 minutes go by faster? Would the main characters possess a heart and earn viewer empathy? Finally, would Nolan’s astounding time warp perplexities include a dash of much needed humor?

Don’t get me wrong, Nolan deserves accolades for his mark on cinema, especially for his state of the art manipulation of timescapes, his relationship with the most popular film composer on the planet (you should already know who this is), and his bravery for preferring celluloid over digital filmmaking.  

Because he added a believable and endearing father/daughter relationship to his spherical wormhole plot, Interstellar (2014) is one of the best movies I have ever seen. Because he defied the campy superhero trope most MCU cash grabs are born for, The Dark Knight (2008) is another favorite of mine.

Christopher Nolan directing John David Washington, one of the stronger components to this movie.

I would say Tenet lines up with the Inception problem: It’s cold, overindulged in its own exposition, and goes on forever. And, like the Dunkirk problem, Nolan moves his characters around like pawns on his celluloid chessboard and positions any fleshed-out humanity into checkmate.

(It’s also a twist of the knife that Hans Zimmer chose to score Denis Villeneuve’s Dune instead.)

There isn’t a point in trying to explain the plot because the plot is about trying to explain its time-defying self over trying to find a character to root for. And, if a dash of humor could make the process a little more entertaining, you won’t find it here. Who knew toying with time could be such a drag!

Another friend of mine said, “Maybe it’s better after seeing it a second time.” My reply: We shouldn’t have to see a movie a second time; we should want to see a movie a second time.

Despite my harsh criticism of Tenet’s overall being, it isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not an enjoyable one, especially after being excited to see it since the pre-pandemic days and its multiple postponements.

My favorite Christopher Nolan film?

It’s gotta be Memento (2000): Short-term memory loss to a reverse chronological design with a main character you care and root for is my cup of tea. It still holds up, and it doesn’t take itself so seriously.

I think Mr. Nolan needs to listen to one of his own creations…

Tenet (2020) **1/2 out of *****

18 thoughts on “Tenet: Why So Serious?

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  1. Ah, I had hopes for Tenet; but you’re not alone in saying it needs to be watched more than once because it’s simply too convoluted for its own good.
    Though, on the other hand, I loved Inception; and as for Interstellar, I really loved the first half; but the “love as science” and the black hole patches on plot holes were just total killjoys for me 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally understandable, and I appreciate your share because I finding out more and more how personal, polarizing, and vast Christopher Nolan opinion have been since I first reviewed Interstellar. And, there’s so much more to discuss! Like, Dunkirk was such a powerful “experience” of warfare for me, and isn’t that what movies are about: propelling experiences? Yet, I don’t remember a single character and walked out caring less about the characters. I remember the tension and my seat vibrating to the bombshells. I just can’t say all of his films encompass film’s entirety, and the main component missing is human empathy. Not that movies need this ingredient, but it certainly helps if you care and root for characters!


  2. So cool to see you pick Memento as your potential favorite (or definite favorite?) That movie is absolutely stunning, and it’s low-budget to boot! Guy Pearce is one of the more underrated actors, despite his seeming poor choice in roles lately, but for me that movie will always be about Carrie Ann Moss. Man, she’s great in that movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Huge Amen! After Following, to me, Memento is Nolan’s first and most brilliant hit, and like you said, it’s in a lower budget scale, which is even more remarkable. Guy and Carrie Ann were amazing, and I seriously come out of each viewing with a different take on what happened every time. Apparently, there’s a re-edited chronological showing of this film somewhere. I don’t want to see it. Nolan’s backwards process is invaluable!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I could watch Interstellar over & over again, even though it is long as hell.

    I don’t like Christian Bale so, I had a lot of trouble with his Batman movies. The rest of the cast was great…stacked with stars. I am a huge Gary Oldman fan but, Bale just ruins everything.

    I’ll catch Tenet when it is released to either Prism or Netflix. At least Bale won’t be in it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, too bad Bale has the rep as a prick off camera. Interstellar actually has characters to care for, a sense of spirituality for more depth, and two tearjerker scenes that still ring true several views over…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d agree with most of what you say, this isn’t Nolan’s best. And yet it’s very sleek and enjoyable, even if involvement is low. I had problems with it at the time, and yet still keen to see it again; that’s the magic of a blockbuster, after you’ve seen it, for all the faults, you still want to see the movie that you hoped for, so re-watches are a certainty…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fair enough, tensecondsfromnow! I was simply disappointed, and I’m amazed no one ever sits Nolan down and says, “Do you ever want to cut this down a bit? Can we have a little humor or fun with your time travel scheme?” I’ve still got my Memento and Interstellar, at least 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get that, although I didn’t find the film without humour. There’s a disconnect with the bombast and the silly premise, but I guess that’s in tune with blockbuster making. But yes, I’d love to see him make something like Memento again, or to step away from such epic canvasses…

        Liked by 1 person

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