Tenet ★★★

It appears that Christopher Nolan has finally succumbed to the idea that “researching the movie for 2 hours afterward just to understand it” is the same thing as having real thematic depth and substance. Yes, if I watch this again, I will understand the plot more clearly. But will I gain anything beyond that? This is the first high-concept Nolan film where I don’t even really care to figure out the puzzle.

I don’t know, man. It was a cool experience, with plenty of fun moments and some solid payoffs; though really, it often feels like a mish-mash of many things Nolan has achieved better (and more focused) in his previous films, from the ouroboros “time loop” framing device to the parallel timelines and doppelgängers. This is such a simple story, littered with sci-fi hallmarks and cliches, masquerading as something entirely new and subversive simply because it’s steeped in information and content. Often, it’s not even the crazy time-twisting that is hard to follow, it’s the basic scene-to-scene transitions and context for why we’re watching what we’re watching in the first place. Even the exposition is just dull; and Nolan at least usually manages to make wordy explanations fun to watch. 

I just don’t feel edified or fulfilled or changed or even challenged at all by this. It’s like a multi-million-dollar cinematic party trick made solely to impress, gaining points only by overwhelming the audience with an onslaught of convoluted jargon and then saying “aye, if you don’t get this, you probably weren’t paying close enough attention to the mumbled and incomprehensible expository dialogue.”

I’m glad it exists. I’m glad Nolan is making the things he wants to make. Some of the stuff close to the end was pretty exhilarating in its sheer technical wizardry. And ya know, I guess it’s okay that we have different types of movies that fulfill different purposes. Some movies are just kinda nifty and dope and trying to have some fun with an idea, and that’s totally cool. I’m totally understanding of why lots of people will probably dig it! But I’d much rather watch the last 10 minutes of the new Bill & Ted and cry my eyes out again.

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