Nolan presents mind-boggling 'Tenet' to Chinese audiences

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 5, 2020
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Director Christopher Nolan and the "Tenet" crew appear on big screen to interact with Chinese audiences at the cloud premiere held in Beijing, Sept.4, 2020. [Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.]

Christopher Nolan and his crew appeared via a midnight video link on Thursday at the premiere of his latest and long-awaited spy sci-fi blockbuster "Tenet" to help resolve the time-bending puzzle he created on the big screen.

"I've always been interested in concepts of time and different ways of looking at time," the director said. "I think because it's something that's so defining in our existence, but it's so difficult to talk about or understand."

Nolan took more than five years to write the screenplay, having deliberated over the central ideas of "Tenet" for over a decade. Unlike other sci-fi movies, this film focuses on the concept of "time inversion", creating the most complicated cerebral epic and spectacle among the director's mind-blowing career.

Nolan told the audience who attended the China premiere in Beijing, "The movie camera gives a very unique power in terms of addressing time compared with any other medium. So, I think it provides very thoughtful ground to try and explore ideas of time in movies."

A film still shows an explosion during the opening scene of "Tenet." [Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.]

Principal photography, involving a crew of 250 people, began in May 2019 and took place in seven countries – Denmark, Estonia, India, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom, and United States. Director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema used a combination of 70 mm film and IMAX. Nolan is a firm supporter of shooting movies on film, with more practical shooting and less CGI as possible.

The director said the climatic big battle scenes were really challenging, "We had a very large number of people. There were very, very complicated set actions that would be performing with hundreds of extras, helicopters and all kinds of physical elements that had to be integrated into it."

Producer and also his wife Emma Thomas, said that, in many ways shooting on film helped them because that's a technology one can use for a film that needs to move forward but also turn backward due to the concept of time inversion. Thomas praised actors in the film for their performances that also required a great deal of rehearsal.

"For example, John David Washington, he's just incredible. What he did in terms of doing action, is literally doing action backwards," she said.

There is a scene in the film much talked about among movie fans involving blowing up a real Boeing aircraft. But Thomas said that, although the budget was always challenging, they tried to put as much on the screen as they could and make the most of whatever resources available. However, it's amazing that in regard to the plane crash sequence in particular, they found purchasing a real Boeing 747 proved cheaper and more cost effective, instead of using miniatures and visual effects.

A Chinese poster of "Tenet" [Image courtesy of Warner Bros.]

The film stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh. The plot follows a secret agent who must manipulate the flow of time in order to prevent World War III.

John David Washington and Elizabeth Debicki also appeared at China's cloud premiere of the film to answer questions about their roles. However, Robert Pattinson, one of Chinese audiences' beloved heartthrob, was absent. The Chinese audience woke up on Friday morning to news from Vanity Fair that Pattinson reportedly had tested positive for COVID-19, which had halted production of his new film "The Batman".

Nolan has great fanbase in China, which ensures his works, old or new, will achieve good box office revenue and receive rave reviews. His older classic "Interstellar" (2014) was re-released by Warner Bros. in China on Aug. 2 and has made 876 million yuan in total adding its 2014 to its gross. Another re-release of "Inception" (2010) on Aug. 28 to celebrate its 10th anniversary has also did well, bringing its total revenue up to nearly 500 million yuan in China.

"Tenet" hit Chinese theaters on Friday. The film debuted in 41 countries last weekend earning to $53 million. It opened in select cities in the United States on Sept. 3, gradually expanding in the ensuing weeks. "Tenet" became the first Hollywood tentpole movie to launch in theaters following their prolonged shutdown worldwide, as Nolan always wishes to show his works on the big screens rather than streaming platforms.

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