trailer screenshot of john david washington in tenet. Warner Brothers.

Things We Saw Today: Tenet Honest Trailer Makes Us Never, Ever Want to Watch Tenet

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Honest Trailers always lives up to its name, but they’re pulling zero punches when it comes to Christopher Nolan’s long-anticipated Tenet. Quite frankly, this rundown is about all that I want to see of Tenet going forward.

Nolan’s Tenet made waves with its trippy things-are-moving-backwards trailers, then was seen often in the news as Warner Bros. debated what to do with a massive movie whose release was delayed and then delayed some more by the pandemic.

When Tenet did finally hit theaters in September, it was with more of a confused whimper than a roar. Most reviews were decidedly unenthusiastic, and many reactions that I’ve seen as of late, after the movie hit streaming, have been of the head-scratching, I’m-bored kind. I’m not sure how a huge film with a talented cast and a $205 million+ budget managed to make time travel shenanigans and cool as hell special effects into an “almost unbearably draining” slog, but this seems to be the general takeaway.

Honest Trailers summarizes Tenet’s various cinematic crimes, and seems to lay a lot of blame where it rightfully belongs—that is at director Christopher Nolan’s feet. “Experience what happens when a filmmaker goes so far up his own butt that everything gets inverted,” the trailer starts, “that would take twice the number of Memento plot dongs to properly explain.” Then they flash to interviews of the cast seeming as baffled by the script/plot as the audience-goers.

“Critics have taken Nolan to task for his overbaked plots, underdeveloped characters, and all-white heroes,” Honest Trailers continues, and, yes to all of this. “Well, he’s addressed one of those things.”

Unfortunately, it seems as though John David Washington deserved to headline in a much better movie than this one, where he “stars as the Protagonist, a mysterious … secret, um, protagonist, who, um, look he’s the protagonist, that’s all you’re going to get.”

As for Kenneth Branagh’s wildly stereotypical Russian arms dealer … wow. Just wow. This feels like a Cold War-era Bond villain but without any winking fun whatsoever.

“Push through this extremely dense and intricate way of telling an unsatisfying hollow spy story that feels like the movie adaptation of a crossword puzzle,” Honest Trailers says, nailing a final nail into this Tenet-shaped coffin: “… and when you strip away the mind-bending sci-fi concept, and parse through the hard-to-hear dialogue, and manage to stay awake through all of the meetings, it’s just a backdrop for rich people doing time crimes to each other. Like a Rube Goldberg machine that ends with you getting kicked in the nuts.”

Oof. Well, at least I’ve been cured of any desire to watch Tenet. Now could we please consider giving lesser-known directors more space and money to bring their unique visions to life, and begin the practice of reining in overrated hitmakers at least a little? Please?

(via Honest Trailers, image: Warner Bros.)

It’s Christmas! There’s no other news anywhere except making fun of Tenet. What did you see today?

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.