I like Christopher Nolan's films mainly because I can see them over and over again and discover new elements to piece together his cinematic puzzles little by little. Unfortunately, I can't resist this desire to discover.
First of all, I appreciate Christopher Nolan's way of making movies. When a new Nolan movie comes out, there's no way around a movie - I don't even need to watch a trailer.
Few filmmakers enjoy this status, but the British man has earned it honestly over the past 20 years. And "Tenet" is not only a big cinema but also the perfect film as a real original to remind us, especially in these times, how much we need the cinema after all. However, my expected enthusiasm for "Tenet" did not materialize.
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A good friend of mine used to say, "Nolan is well received because he makes viewers feel smart." This may be cynical and a little bit shaved off a comb, but the longer I think about it, the sooner I come to the conclusion that there is also a little truth in it.
In any case, I have to admit to myself in secret that this certainly helps me to gain a lot from Nolan's works. Because it also involves explaining complex facts in such a way that all this also arrives in the minds of those who are not stupid for a long time, but who are simply not as deeply involved in the matter as the director himself.
That's the great strength of Nolan, who always runs through his movies – except in "Tenet." Saying "Tenet" makes me feel stupid, but it would be too easy. Because it's different feelings that the film triggers in me. Feelings that diminish my film pleasure.
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THE EXPLAINER BEAR DOESN'T EVEN HELP ANYMORE
Confusion, frustration, anger – with "Tenet" Christopher Nolan has triggered a lot of things that I would have preferred to have dispensed with. Fascination and enthusiasm, on the other hand, I only meet isolated moments.
Confusion, because despite the strongly staged entry sequence I don't really know what's going on here just why. And that's not too bad for the time being – the answers are yet to come.
But when the ambiguities accumulate so much that I can't even think about one question while the next one is flying around my ears, the guesswork will not only become too stupid for me at some point but also quite a matter of what comes out of it.
What is the goal of our protagonist and his partner? Why do they carry out the mission the way they carry it out? And what about the nasty opponent Sator?
In principle, I have a weakness for nested films that do not adhere to the usual conventions of narrative cinema – for example, by David Lynch or Luis Bunuel.
But this is only exciting if the film offers one storyline, characters, or something that makes you curious and at the same time throws enough breadcrumbs at the viewer to want to stay on the ball – regardless of whether he has really recognized and understood all the details. While this usually works for surrealist films, the "Tenet" appealing to logic does not work.
Soulless characters without too much depth, an enigmatic mission, and a nested, not always comprehensible way to the goal can make stories more exciting and interesting in themselves, but in combination, they are too many unknown variables in an equation, the result of which I am less and less interested with increasing duration.
And if you lose the connection in "Tenet", it is practically impossible to find your way back in. You get the feeling that you have missed something – a feeling that gets stronger and stronger as the unprocessed information becomes the basis for further developments.
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EVERYTHING BETTER WITH SECOND SIGHTING?
In her article on "Tenet", Ms. Esther Stroh of Moviepilot noted that a second visit to the cinema worked wonders for her. Much would come about simply by knowing exactly what is to come – or at least more or less.
And I actually like to watch movies several times, like brain nodes like Lost Highway, The Twentieth Century, Holy Motors or even Inception, which can roll over you at the first moment, that one only understands station and in search of logic almost despairs.
But in these films you have the choice whether you want to interpret all the characters, actions, quotes, or camera settings in a variety of ways or simply let what is shown pass over you – and in both cases, you have an exciting film experience. First of all, the analytical one from which one hopes for insights and once felt the one in which one does not question, but simply experiences.
In "Tenet" I have little desire for a second time. I love watching movies several times to discover new things, but only if I had fun the first time – and I only had it here in isolated moments.
If I have to watch a film several times in order to enjoy it, something completely essential does not fit for me – at least if an explanatory bear-like Christopher Nolan also tells me at the end that his film is all about being able to understand what is shown.
No matter how "ingenious" the revelations may be, the two hours before that will not be more entertaining or revealing (at least not the first time).
Even if in the end it explains quite Nolan-typical, explains, explains and I can see how much work must have gone into the script, it is just frustrating if this is not reflected in the viewing experience.
But it gets really annoying when the Hollywood, which is of course spectacular and original, is almost over and the last moments of the spectacle – I save myself spoilers at this point – feel like a mash-up from the most choppy film clichés. As creative as "Tenet" is in some moments, unfortunately, it is uncreative in others.
And yet: As a real, big-thought original, "Tenet" is nevertheless the perfect film to revive the cinema in times like these – just because no film has invited so much to watch several times for a long time.