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Christopher Nolan's Tenet drops new, timey-wimey trailer on Fortnite (sans release date)

By Josh Weiss

The second, time-turning trailer for Christopher Nolan's Tenet has arrived online, but that's not even the big news. What's really important here is that the 2-minute, 50-second batch of footage does not give us a firm release date, merely stating that Tenet is "coming to theaters." This vague pronouncement casts some serious doubt over whether the film will open on Friday, July 17 and kickstart the theatrical industry after it went dormant when the coronavirus pandemic hit the globe.

Interestingly, the trailer premiered on a virtual screen in Fortnite's party royale, a non-combative area of the game where players can congregate for live events (like a Travis Scott concert). Per Geoff Keighley, a producer of The Game Awards, Fortnite will host a free, full-length screening of an "iconic" Nolan movie later this summer.

Nolan's likely next iconic film, Tenet, stars John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) as a globe-trotting secret agent who is given a super-ultra-covert mission of preventing a global catastrophe after proving that he's willing to die for his espionage-based profession. In true Nolan fashion, however, there's a major sci-fi twist on the classic spy formula.

Check out the latest trailer below and revel in all its Inception-esque glory:

OK, so more plot details are finally starting to trickle out.

The genre element to the cinematic proceedings is time "inversion," which is some kind of way to "communicate with the future." It's a curious skill mastered by the movie's villain (played by Kenneth Branagh with a Russian lilt), but Washington's character must also learn the temporal ropes, catching bullets and consulting with Robert Pattinson, in order stave of World War III. We still don't really know what "Tenet" means, though. Is it a code word for the mission? A moniker for the inversion process? None of the above? We have no clue! Then there's the whole time flowing backwards thing and our hero talking about paradoxes and... oy vey, our heads hurt.

Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), Michael Caine (Nolan's good luck charm), Himesh Patel (Yesterday), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Avengers: Age of Ultron), Clémence Poésy (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Denzil Smith, Dimple Kapadia, and Martin Donovan (Ant-Man) co-star.

Leaving a release date off the trailer is seemingly a calculated and clever move. Warner Bros. is probably hoping that things are normal enough by mid July to allow the movie to open. If so, great. But if not, the studio can at least delay the project's debut while claiming that no definite commitments were made in the first bit of marketing material since the pandemic began.

If Tenet can breathe new financial life back into theater chains across the world, then there's hope for Disney's Mulan remake (set to drop a week later on July 24), The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (Aug. 7), and WB's second summer blowout: Wonder Woman 1984 (Aug. 14). 

Since the health crisis began, Nolan has been campaigning to keep theaters alive. He even went so far as to pen an impassioned op-ed about it for The Washington Post back in March. 


According to a quote from IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond made earlier this month (via Variety): "Chris really would like to be coming out with the film that opens theaters." Nolan is a big fan of large format cameras and uses IMAX as much as he can in his movies. In a report published late last week, Deadline wrote that 80 percent of the world's theaters need to be open —  those in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco — in order for Tenet to keep its mid-July release.

Even as restrictions begin to lift, theaters are going to need to be extra careful by adopting stricter sanitization protocols and seating arrangements that adhere to social distancing practices. It's by no means impossible, but it'll be a difficult transition period, one most likely marked by lower attendance as people slowly begin to trust public settings again. A more hopeful piece run by The Hollywood Reporter plainly stated that Tenet and Mulan can still turn a profit without a giant wave of customers.

Written by Nolan, Tenet features cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar) and music by Ludwig Göransson (The Mandalorian).