Tenet’s Release Date Forgets the Lessons of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar

It seems fairly certain now that Tenet will be released in theaters at the end of the summer. Warner Bros. confirmed as much Monday when the studio announced Christopher Nolan’s latest epic is set to open in 70 countries, including the UK, on Aug. 26. It will then make the jump stateside to vaguely determined “select U.S. cities” on Sept. 2, just in time for Labor Day weekend. While plans can change—they have before—there is almost a weary resignation about this announcement. We’re opening this in theaters in 2020, come hell or high water.

Yet one of the many bitter ironies about this choice is that it ignores a central theme of another Christopher Nolan odyssey, the star-gazing Interstellar. Every bit as ambitious and grandiose as Nolan’s other IMAX spectacles post-The Dark Knight, Interstellar grappled with cerebral concepts, including Einstein’s theory of relativity, intergalactic wormhole space travel, and the existential threat of depleted resources on Earth. The movie also, much more bluntly, dramatized the danger of anti-intellectualism and a willful rejection of scientific facts, especially  the danger of beleaguered resignation.

The scene that most crystallizes this occurs during the climactic moments of the movie’s second act. Literally worlds away from where the movie’s hero Joseph “Coop” Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) struggles with the pitiful Dr. Mann (Matt Damon), Coop’s children back on Earth also face a reckoning. Now both adults who took radically different lessons from their father’s NASA legacy, Murph (Jessica Chastain) is a scientist who followed Dad into the space program, and Tom (Casey Affleck) is the estranged brother who’s happy to keep his eyes squarely focused on the ground. There is nothing wrong with farming, of course, but for Tom it’s as much a form of self-denial as it is a profession.

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When the confrontation comes, Murph and friend Getty (Topher Grace) have come to the farmhouse where Murph and Tom grew up with their grandfather, and where Tom now lives with his own wife and son. In actuality Tom had two children, but one of them, Jesse, died of a lung disease caused by “blight;” a new type of dust and ecological menace that’s spread around the globe and is now coating every crop Tom owns. On this fateful day, Tom’s living wife and son are also showing symptoms of disease, and Murph wants Tom to make the tough choice: Face the reality of the situation and leave his family home.


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