Tenet (2020)

One of the joys of watching a movie is to have empathetic experience and be emotionally involved in characters’ journey deeply. For the entirety of this movie, I felt alienated and left out, which is far from those joys.

Mainly, this is because of the complexity of the plot. As a scientist and an engineer myself, I understand the importance of good explanation. Honestly, they could have spent a few minutes in the beginning and let the lab scientist draw a diagram with two arrows in opposite directions to explain the gist of the time travel in the movie. However, providing good explanation didn’t seem to be its main interest and instead most dialogues were abstract, broken, and hard to understand without turning the subtitles on. And even when I kind of understood the idea later in the movie, it was still hard to understand certain scenes and plot points because the movie didn’t provide basic explanation and it was too fast-paced. Based on many reviews from film critiques, apparently it wasn’t just me. Because I was putting so much effort to understand and to judge whether certain scenes make sense, it pulled me out of the movie often.

Another thing that I really disliked about the movie was how it portrayed its only female character, Kat. In contrast to the futuristic sci-fi plot points, her storyline was very heteronormative and conventional. She was basically a damsel in distress whom the main protagonist felt sympathy towards. This made him make a suboptimal decision because he needed to save her instead of save the world. Later in the movie, she also made an irrational decision, which jeopardized a team mission, which probably may have made some audience hate her character. This whole story is just such a cliché and demeaning. The scenes where Kat’s husband intimated and commited physical violence against her were even more problematic because they didn’t have much value in the plot and were just another example of movies showing men committing physical abuse towards women.

With this problematic and weak plot, the expensive battle scenes and extravagant resort scenes made me feel more negative about the movie because it was too busy showing off its budget without any substance. To be fair, there were many interesting plot points in the movie such as the idea of “bitemporal” travel, the motivation of the main villain, and the “tenet” of the people in the future, and so on. Unfortunately, I think these were not flushed out much, and the movie felt like an empty shell.

Yesterday, I watched a panel discussion from American Film Institute with actors from 2020 indie films. At one point, they were talking about the budget of their movies. They more or less agreed that indie film budget is on average 5 million dollars or less. I looked up the budget of this movie. It was 200 million. I wonder why now I start thinking about all the problems we hear about venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.

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