Culture Crash 20-38: The Theatre Release of “Tenet”


Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

After months of delay and speculation, Warner Brothers has finally released Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Tenet, and yes, they released it in theaters. No matter what, Tenet will go down in the history books as the one leading the charge to re-open theaters, and its actual box office numbers don’t mean much besides the fact that someone is trying.

I ventured out to see it, driving 85 minutes each way to a drive-in theater to continue avoiding indoors spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Paramount to the experience was the feeling of finally seeing something new on a big screen. Yes, it was outdoors and yes, I was listening to it not through state-of-the-art speakers, but my own car’s speakers, but I still felt an electric jolt when the Warner Brothers logo hit the screen and my brain clicked on.

First things first, this is a complicated movie. Early on in the film, a scientist tells the protagonist to “feel it” instead of trying to understand it and halfway through the film, I turned to my wife and told her I was really looking forward to seeing Tenet again for the first time. So yeah, your mileage may vary. If you think Inception was too much, this is probably not for you, but if you enjoyed obsessing over every detail of Inception like me, then Tenet is an experience worth having.

For those willing to follow Nolan down the rabbit hole, Tenet is full of filmmaking magic. Christopher Nolan has been making blockbusters for years now, and he’s one of the only directors who can secure a $200 million budget on name alone. Something that I love is that all of his movies besides the Dark Knight trilogy are one-offs. He isn’t launching cinematic universes or teasing the future, he’s writing a complete sentence. What he does in his sandbox can be divisive, but it is never boring.

In an age of over-saturated IP properties like the MCU and Star Wars, Christopher Nolan gets to make what he wants without shoehorning in some brand extension of Transformers. His name alone gets the budgets, the cinematographers, the composers, the actors and the stunt professionals to make them every bit as glossy and impressive as anything else in theaters, and that’s a small miracle I’ll forever be grateful for.

Tenet is a stunning experience that will have your head spinning. The 85 minute trip to stay safe by seeing it at a drive-in was well worth it, and that’s more than I could have asked for in this particular year of filmgoing.

I’m Evan Rook.

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