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The Trailer for Tenet Is Here. Is It Enough to Get Us to Risk Lives Seeing It in Theaters?

Following an exciting debut in, uh, Fortnite, the full trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet hit the web and pushed us to ask some very important questions. No, not “what the heck is this movie about?” but instead, “is this the movie that’s going to bring back the theatrical experience?” Or perhaps, more to the point: “Will we be willing to risk our lives for another confounding Christopher Nolan film?”

This trailer doesn’t provide good answers for any of those queries. As to the plot, from what I gather there is some sort of conspiracy at work where someone has figured out how to selectively reverse time? There’s crime? And guns? And Robert Pattinson? It looks strikingly cool—and we’re especially excited about John David Washington in the lead role—but it’s not clear who anyone is, who they’re working for, and what they’re trying to do beyond preventing World War 3. Though that is a valid concern!

But, whatever, it’s a Christopher Nolan movie, it will be timey-wimey enough so that a certain sector of folks will “figure it out” and we’ll probably be debating it for months. This would usually be done at parties, but the coronavirus pandemic has canceled those, which brings up to the bigger question about Tenet: is it really coming, as it boldly claims, to theaters in July, and will people show up if it does?

Interestingly, there is no actual release date included in this trailer, because we still honestly arent’s sure if enough theaters will be reopened for the film to make the slated July 17th date. As we’ve reported, Warner Brothers is rumored to need or want 80% of theaters in the world open and operating to put Tenet out there for audiences. That might not happen by July, in which case the release might be pushed to August (further delaying Wonder Woman 1984).

No matter the date, it seems like Tenet has been selected at THE movie to reopen theaters. The entirety of Hollywood has seemed to place all their expectations on this single film, which has steadfastly has not moved from that July date. This, they think, will be the thing that saves everyone. And it sort of makes sense that Christopher Nolan is the one that wants to save the theatrical experience but since he’s so committed to things like IMAX and big spectacles. But I’ve got to ask … is that justified?

Nothing in this trailer makes me unquestionably look at it and think “Yes, this is the movie I must see on a big screen.” Sure there’s a big thing with a big plane, but it actually just looks so bland and colorless. The backward effects are rendered with the visual zest of a stale Triscuit; no pop, no brightness, just blah. The story and conceit do seem cool, but I don’t think I want to risk perpetuating a pandemic to see what looks, visually, like Cloudy Day: The Movie.

I’m not sure if it’s an effect of age or his growing obsession with IMAX, but the slow leaching of color from Nolan’s films is not something I love. His visual language has become duller and duller, despite great action, and I don’t find it compelling at this point. I am glad that he’s finally adding people of color to his casts, something long overdue. But for now I remain unconvinced about the movie as a whole; I want to see and know more.

So, will Tenet save movies? Will it come out in July? Or will it make the pandemic move backward in time? We’ll know eventually … I just hope we don’t have to log onto Fortnite to find out.

Will you see Tenet in theaters if it emerges this summer?

(image: Warner Brothers)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.