Ok, so I want to come back to this Tenet thing. I want to find more people I can enjoy this with. 😅
I first saw Tenet about 2 months ago, and I went through these phases of hating it, enjoying the action and going for the ride, but by the end, I’d fallen in love and have watched it several more times, again and again - more than I’ve rewatched any other film by far. I can’t get enough of it.
And this guy has perfectly articulated why (SPOILERS):
It’s because it’s supposed to be a giant puzzle, and I love puzzles. It’s supposed to leave you confused the first 10 times you watch it. But slowly, as you do, and in between each viewing, as you ponder the Tenet universe as you stand in the shower escaping from your own locked-down universe where everything is like a Black Mirror episode (S01E02), you start it piece it together.
And as you start to make sense of that, you recall those Wikipedia pages you’ve read about the Sator Square and all of the philosophical and mythical symbolism reflected in the film, which also ties into all of the pseudoscientific theory around the one-electron universe once pondered by Feynman himself.
You start to realise that this depiction of time travel, as a departure from all other films about time travel (with the exception of one scene in Marvel’s Doctor Strange which I’m sure provided Nolan with the inspiration for Tenet), actually makes a lot of sense. As we, the audience and the protagonist, grapple with the concept of free will and a deterministic universe, the time-loops and paradoxes have been reduced to simple feedback loops which are… still a tricky concept… but much more digestible - especially if you’ve ever worked with recursive functions in computer science or control systems in engineering.
Tenet is one of the purest sci-fi films there is. That seems to be why most people don’t like it. Because there’s so little focus on character development and not so much emotion - we don’t even find our the protagonist’s name - because all resources are allocated to entertaining you with a two-way series of nested puzzles, which with enough contemplation - can be untangled and made sense of. If you’re willing to put in the hours and mental effort.
It’s pure sci-fi, and it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. If you don’t like puzzles, and you want to just sit back and watch an easy to digest space opera (Star Wars is great, but it’s not sci-fi it’s fantasy in space), this one isn’t for you. But if you want to be challenged, then watch this one through a few times and try to identify the recurring themes, the mythical symbolism, the feedback loops and the implications of the physics. It’s a wild ride.
Finally - Spoilers Ahead!
If you’ve watched it at least once, feel free to check these great videos out which are very much spoilers, but help unpack what’s going on.