I went to see Tenet. I don't feel great about it.
Even though I recently mused on this very site how the theatrical release of Christopher Nolan's action spectacle could potentially lead to an influx of "corpses," I decided to check out the movie that may, at least according to literally every internet headline in the past six months, have the power to "save" cinema.
While it doesn't hit U.S. theaters until later this week, it opened last Thursday in Canada. In my defense, the infection rates where I live are fairly low right now. Even so, I had already vowed not to return to movie theatres so soon, and not to support a movie that is actively seeking to draw people back to indoor theatres at a time when that may not be safe -- regardless of what Tom Cruise might want me to do.
But then I saw that one nearby time slot had, not unlike the one-person production of Shrek: The Musical I put on in my nightmares, sold zero seats. My resolve buckled. I miss going to the movies, and it's part of my job. Arriving at the cinema, I was first greeted by a giant, half-embarrassed smirk belonging to Robert Downey Jr. on a billboard for Dolittle that clearly hadn't been changed since January. I cannot stress enough the number of post-apocalyptic vibes I got from this cursed sight.
I breezed inside, never stopped by the sparse, masked staff who barely acknowledged, let alone scanned, my e-ticket. The theater, as I'd hoped, was as empty as a non-pandemic screening of Cats.
I wiped down my seat like Niles Crane and enjoyed what was basically a private screening. It was just me, the screen, and two-and-a-half hours of floor-rattling "BWAAH!" sounds. Safety-wise, it couldn't have been more ideal. But here's the thing: it was still super-creepy. Even after I calmed the initial anxiety that someone would waltz in 20 minutes late, sit directly beside me, and start coughing like a chain-smoker on a treadmill, I couldn't fully relax. The theater wasn't empty by happenstance; it was empty because the world is grappling with a global emergency, and few people feel safe to go to the movies right now. I felt like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man, taking in a flick between zombie-vampire attacks.
Seeing a movie in a crowded theater is potentially dangerous right now. But to see one in the safest manner possible is still unnerving. The thing we like about going to the movies isn't only the movies themselves, but the entire experience. The way we typically like to go see movies, carefree in communal space, is just gone for the time being.
Also, no one should be risking their health to see Tenet unless they'd also be willing to risk it for a bloated, confusing remake of Timecop with more interest in fancy suits than human beings.
Top Image: Warner Bros.