"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Tenet: A Re-View

Well, I -- at last -- just saw Christopher Nolan's Tenet (on HBO).  It was an excellent, sometimes seminal, time travel movie -- in particular, time reversal -- but not without its flaws.

Let's start with a few of those:

1. Although the movie starts off with a good action scene, there's no clear time reversal I until about 50 minutes in,* when the Protagonist has a battle with at least one guy moving in reverse time. We later learn that the Protagonist was actually fighting with two guys, one traveling in normal, forward time, the other in reverse time. This is a "time-pincer" mode of combat, which is one of the hallmarks of the narrative.  All of that is very good stuff, but it took too long (50 mins) to first happen.  We also learn that Protagonist's two combatants are later versions of himself.  Also a nice touch.  And we see the same scene from the other side at about 1 hour and 50 minutes into the movie -- also fun to see.  But my first point, that this excellent sequence took too long to commence, still holds.

*There was some time reversal in the opening scene, but it happened so quickly that at the time it wasn't clear that that was what was happening.

2. The grandfather paradox is explained too curtly, as, if you travel to the past and kill your grandfather, how did you exist to travel into the past in the first place?  This leaves out the essential element of: you had to kill your grandfather before he impregnated your grandmother (who then would give birth to one of your parents), otherwise there would be no paradox.  Yeah, I'm a stickler for getting it right in discussing paradoxes, they're mind bending enough when properly stated.

3. It's mentioned that you can't run into your future or past self when you're time traveling because that could annihilate yourself or even the world.  That injunction has become a staple of the genre, and was a central principle in the 12 Monkeys TV series. But just to be clear: there's no reason that running into yourself would result in your, let alone the world's, annihilation. It might unhinge your mind, sure, with a cascade of impossible, self-referential memories, but that's not the same as annihilation.

But there were lots of thoroughly excellent parts of the movie.  I really like that the people in the future don't worry too much about accidentally annihilating themselves by messing around in the past.  After all, they exist, so they couldn't have done too much damage to their future.  This could have been a little more clear in the movie, but kudos to Tenet for at least expressing that inherently optimistic sentiment.

The backwards in time action and cinematography were outstanding, especially the cadre-level pincer movements, one going forward, the other going backward, in time, which reminded me in its own brief way of a battle scene out of Lord of the Rings.  From about 1 hour and 24 minutes into the movie and onwards, it's pure cinematic gold, with twists and turns and quickly delivered metaphysical puzzlers at every turn.

Ok, I'm going to conclude this now, and record a podcast, which should be up in an hour or less.  Look for it below.  I may or may not say something more than what I wrote above.

some talk of cleaning up "loose ends" in Tenet

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