Tenet Reviews/Reactions [Possible SPOILERS]

An original action espionage film releasing in IMAX on August 12, 2020
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HorrorBiz wrote:
August 26th, 2020, 10:25 pm
MaxContract wrote:
August 26th, 2020, 5:18 pm
Rotten incoming:

2/4

https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertai ... story.html
Ouch. Michael Phillips has been generally positive about Nolan's work, so that's sort of telling that he only gave it 2 stars.
I suppose so? Then again, he gave 2 and a half stars to The Prestige, The Dark Knight Rises, and Interstellar, and just 3 stars for Dunkirk (which makes him somewhat of an outlier for that film). 2 stars for Tenet is indeed mildly worse, but then again, Nolan's more of a known quantity now - harder for him to impress, easier for others to write-off (with reason, or not).

Seems to be a lot of anxiety in here in general for a film scoring in the mid-80s on Rotten Tomatoes with 100 reviews. When all is said and done, I expect the film to finish up in the low-80s or the mid-70s, where it will be in good company alongside Batman Begins, Interstellar and The Prestige. Nothing really to write home about there. I do think it's a more subtly complex, less accessible film for audiences - more along the lines of Dunkirk. So I wouldn't be surprised to see it skew slightly lower on user-metrics like IMDB.

Having seen the film, I have some additional (non-spoiler) thoughts about its reception, but in order to avoid cluttering the page with what is essentially a ramble, I've hidden the text below.

Digging beyond the scores, I'm seeing conflicting criticism - often within a single review. On the one hand, it's the most Nolan of all of Nolan's films: Familiar. A step sideways. More of the same, etc.

On the other hand, it's confounding and in need of multiple viewings, compounded by a few slightly more objective flaws (sound mixing) muddying the waters. It's an interesting contradiction (my own immediate reaction to the film was very similar), and it makes me wonder if the film's legacy will more closely resemble The Prestige.

Recall that The Prestige similar confounded critics, with many dismissing it as complex nonsense, while others wrote it off as a fairly straightforward thriller. That film is among Nolan's lowest scoring, but its legacy has appreciated considerably since its release. Upon reevaluation, it's often regarded as Nolan's finest work and the key to his entire filmography.

Will Tenet age similarly? Perhaps, perhaps not. But keep in mind that these reviews are just the beginning. Also keep in mind that confounding factors like the ongoing pandemic may place an unfair downward pressure on scores - particularly in the US (though I don't expect this to make a huge difference).

Likewise, there seems to be an encroaching bias against Nolan as a pretentious, self-satisfied filmmaker. And while Nolan does have a tendency to overreach, he also desperately wants audiences to understand and follow him along on the journey. I think it's an unfair and surprisingly anti-intellectual point of view. But I suppose we all have our own biases.

On a mildly unrelated note:

If I were to quibble with reviews on one point, it would be regarding criticisms over the lack of any real emotional connection to the film's central character. As I see it, cinema is full of great films with unnamed, seemingly underdeveloped leads with mysterious pasts. Films like Le Samourai, Blade Runner, Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy, etc. Even Bond to some extent, though the quality there varies greatly. Either way, as in all things, it's really the execution that matters.

Personally, I did not have a problem with this cooler emotional palette - nor do I think that the lack of a romantic subplot or unrealistically intimate stakes reduces the film to that of a mindless actioner. Give me a mysterious drifter over a cookie-cutter origin story (complete with a generic love interest) any day. Nolan's noir influence shining right through, there. Not to mention a more graceful fit for the espionage genre.

In a way, JDW is a surrogate. That is to say, his lack of a clearly-defined past serves as an anchor for the audience to project their own subjectivity (a similar approach that worked well for Dunkirk). We learn about this twilight world as the protagonist learns.

Contrast this approach with Inception, where Cobb himself is, to some extent, the mystery. A man with secrets. Someone who already has all of the answers and isn't sharing. There, the audience requires some other reason to empathize with his character. Whereas in Tenet, I didn't feel the need for an additional sentimental subplot, ala Mal (which I personally found to be well-intentioned though somewhat clumsy and artificial in its execution, in spite of Cotillard's performance).

Frankly, I don't believe "emotion", in the more traditional sense of the word (see Spielberg), is something that Nolan is particularly gifted at anyway*. And what Tenet goes for instead (particularly with the JDW/Debecki dynamic) is something a bit more understated, which works better for this particular story. In short, I would disagree that this feature alone makes Tenet an inherently shallow film. To me, that's a very surface level criticism that time will likely prove wrong.

*I did enjoy the dynamic between Coop and Murph (at least in Interstellar's first hour), but that was a different film, with different narrative ambitions than Tenet.
Last edited by AgentOfChaos on August 27th, 2020, 3:46 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Well a lot of rottens added today, 81% at 100 reviews.

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almost there guys!




-Vader

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It will go back up. Probably will settle at 81-83% RT when it’s all said and done.

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69% on Metacritic with 33 reviews.

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rbej wrote:
August 27th, 2020, 4:00 pm
69% on Metacritic with 33 reviews.
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Gotta say this film had lots of humor for a Nolan film. “Humorless” (What ever they meant with that) my ass.

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once more for the people in the back, "humorless" does not mean "without humor"

it means, like, too self-serious. self-serious things can still have jokes.


-Vader

KEM
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I personally prefer very cold, dark, entertainment. I can enjoy more lighthearted stuff as well but I find it to be superficial and there’s no real substance, that’s one of the reason I love Nolan’s work so much.

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KEM wrote:
August 27th, 2020, 4:22 pm
I personally prefer very cold, dark, entertainment. I can enjoy more lighthearted stuff as well but I find it to be superficial and there’s no real substance, that’s one of the reason I love Nolan’s work so much.
you must be fun at parties


-Vader

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