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Tiny ‘Tenet’: Fan crams Christopher Nolan’s thriller onto a Game Boy Advance

By Benjamin Bullard
Nintendo Game Boy

If you already have a tough time keeping track of all the tech-y, time-tripping breadcrumbs in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, then this is definitely not the article that’ll help you makes sense of it all. In fact, it’s probably just the opposite. Thanks to the kind of fans who still hang on to their old-school Nintendo know-how, following along with Tenet’s labyrinthine plot just got harder than ever…if, that is, you even have the patience to watch it on the Game Boy Advance SP’s teensy 2.9-inch screen.

In a cheeky dig at Nolan’s plea last year for audiences to catch the movie on theaters’ big screens if they could, the brains behind YouTube channel Wulff Den decided to take things as far in the other direction as they possibly could. That meant getting the entire film’s 150-minute runtime onto the GBA…which, in turn, meant splitting it up into 5 chunks of 30 minutes apiece. After all, that’s the longest span that the GBA’s retro video cartridges can hold — even with some serious technological trickery.

Scroll to the 4-minute mark to behold Tenet the way Nolan (and Nintendo, for that matter) probably never envisioned it:

If needing a magnifying glass to catch the spectacle of an exploding giant airplane isn’t enough, it gets better: The GBA displays the movie at a super un-sizzly 6 frames per second, making the whole experience feel like some marriage of modern-day live action and 1960s-era claymation. Compressed like crazy to 192 x 128  resolution and viewed on the Advance’s native 240 x 160 display, it’s almost like we’re watching a whole new movie…the kind of artsy, smudgy, avant-garde frankenfilm we thought only still existed in cinema history class.

The clip comes with a whole lot more tech talk about compression rates, cartridge capacities, and file conversions, but the takeaway is pretty simple: If you ever wondered if old-school tech could hang with today’s latest blockbusters, the answer is a solid, resounding “well…sorta.” But even if you can’t make it through the full 150 minutes of stop-motion dizziness, it’s hard not to admire the detail that went into each of the five customized cartridge labels, which wouldn’t look out of place right beside your wayback stack of GBA faves like Pokémon Ruby Version and Metroid Fusion.

Tenet came out on Blu-ray on Dec. 15 of last year, and to decipher a movie plot puzzle that rivals even Nolan’s own Inception, we’ll definitely keep on taking our Tenet as big as we can get it. But thanks to the inquisitive minds that dared to marry low-fi gaming tech with modern-day sci-fi spectacle, we’ll always have a place to hit the reset button if Tenet starts making too much sense.