‘Tenet’ puts a spin on classic time travel

New film fails to reestablish theaters during pandemic


Fair use from Disney and Warner Bros. Pictures.

Sam Listiak

After six long months of quarantine, Hollywood has released the movie “Tenet,” a blockbuster that they hope will draw people out of their homes and back into theaters.

“Tenet” is a gripping action movie following an unnamed man known as ‘The Protagonist’, who travels through time to stop World War 3. Unlike traditional time travel-based movies, he travels back in time from the future toward the present, rather than living in the future. In this time, everything is inverted down to science itself. Deadly weapons are being manufactured in the future and are being used in the present.

“Tenet” has received praise for its riveting action that keeps viewers entertained. The Protagonist (John David Washington, who does an exceptional job during this movie), along with other characters like his sidekick Neil (Robert Pattinson) and the antagonist Andrei Sator (Kenneth Bragh), showed great character development throughout the movie. It wasn’t just following The Protagonist’s perspective; each character had moments in the spotlight and it made it easier to understand how they think and who they are.

However, the movie does have a few loose ends. The constant switch between the movement of time is confusing, especially with how the physics works in inverted time. It can be overwhelming and leave the viewer lost. Hardcore fans who love other Christopher Nolan films like ‘Inception’ may feel right at home, but for a casual movie-goer like myself, it became a lot to keep track of and it took away from the movie. “Tenet” is also a long film, with a two-and-a-half-hour runtime, which is uncomfortably long. After about two hours of watching, I began to feel uncomfortable sitting, and I just wanted the movie to end.

Another pitfall of “Tenet” is the sound quality. During the action scenes, things are happening everywhere like explosions and shattering. This is normal in action movies, but watching “Tenet”, I found the sounds were so loud I could not hear the character’s dialogue during these scenes. I would have preferred to have subtitles in these instances, which is not something you want out of a Hollywood blockbuster.

This is very disappointing for a film with a $205 million dollar budget, and it is especially disappointing when you consider that Hollywood’s future in the pandemic was riding on the success of “Tenet”. As of writing this story, “Tenet” has only made $250.1 million according to movieweb.com, with a staggeringly low $36.1 million in the U.S. Unfortunately, the Hindusan Times report that “Tenet” will have to gross $800 million to break even, due to splitting costs with theaters.

The main factor of these appalling numbers has to do with movie theaters during the pandemic. Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. delayed the film because they were insistent on a theater only release, which has hurt their profits. I went to the Showplace Icon theater downtown and I was one of the four people in the theater, despite having half of the rows available. It felt very quiet compared to pre-pandemic movie watching. But otherwise, it wasn’t too different other than ordering snacks contactless. People’s hesitation to go watch a movie in-person rather than stream it on a device took a major cut out of Tenet’s potential for profit.

All in all, I think “Tenet” is a great action movie with a complex plot and lots of storylines. Unfortunately, it’s staggeringly low numbers at the box office leave a bad foreshadowing on future blockbusters during the pandemic. Still, Tenet is a great movie, and if you are a fan of action movies, I highly recommend you give it a watch.

“Tenet”: ★★★★☆