Blockbuster proves a major ‘Tenet’ of success is an audience

Why Nolan thought releasing a movie in theaters was a good idea is anybody’s guess


Benjamin Haylett, arts & leisure editor

With all that has been going on in the world, it has slipped past many people that many movie theaters across the country have reopened and are showing a handful of new releases.
Referring to the amount of movies in theaters now as a “handful” may be upselling it just a bit though.
The only film in theaters now that seemed worth its salt seemed to be “Tenet,” the latest maze of a film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. To be clear, this was a good movie, maybe even a great movie, but it just wasn’t the movie to bring people back to the theaters.
“Tenet” follows an unnamed protagonist played by John David Washington through a mind-bending time travel mission to save the world from a madman played by Kenneth Branagh.
Any longtime fan of Nolan will tell you that even if that plot seemed straightforward on paper, it is essentially impossible for him to tell a story in a linear fashion.
Nolan expertly bounces the audience around from the future, to the past, to the present, and without telling the audience which is which. The movie demands the audience’s full attention at all times, and keeps that attention with edge-of-your-seat action sequences that give some of Nolan’s scenes from “The Dark Knight” a run for their money.
The convoluted nature of the narrative would be best compared to Nolan’s previous work “Inception,” which left audiences in 2008 as baffled as audiences in 2020 are with “Tenet.” Unlike “Inception,” however, “Tenet” offers a satisfying finality to the story in its closing minutes. The way the world of “Tenet” works isn’t given freely to the viewer; quite the contrary is true. As the story of the film unfolds, the lore and mechanics of its universe unfold as well, meaning this film would benefit greatly from multiple viewings.
There is not a hack actor in the bunch with this movie. Whether Branagh is playing a hero or a villain, he is always able to bring a depth and complexity to his characters, and he does not disappoint here.
The true standout performance comes from Washington, who not only took a step outside his father Denzel Washington’s shadow, but fully leapt out of it in a performance that has cemented him as a leading man for years to come.
It is sad that not nearly as many people will be seeing this because of COVID. It’s more than sad, it’s a shame.
While Nolan has been commended on his purism when it comes to shooting movies, meaning that he prefers to shoot on film and chooses practical effects over computer-generated ones, it is clear that his faith in the moviegoing public has been more than a little misguided.
The film has only brought in around $30 million domestically, enough to make it a career-killing flop if it were not made by one of the most acclaimed directors of the past 20 years.
It has failed miserably at the box office not because it is a bad movie. It has failed because there was no one who cared enough to go out and see it.
There simply is no money to be made in empty movie theaters.
The folks at Netflix and Disney have figured out how to essentially print $100 bills with their streaming add-ons and consistent releases, and why anyone would think it would be profitable to release a movie in theaters at this time is anyone’s guess.