Is Christopher Nolan Secretly Preparing us for a Sequel of TENET?

While Christopher Nolan is currently busy winning every single award with his great success Oppenheimer, he has recently started shifting his attention back towards his previous movie Tenet. Starting this Friday, February 23rd 2024, Tenet will be back in selected IMAX theaters for the duration of one week.

Tenet and Oppenheimer are closely related. As I already reported in an early announcement, it was while filming Tenet that Nolan came in touch with the original book which he later based Oppenheimer’s screenplay on. Robert Pattinson, who in Tenet plays the character of Neil, gifted Nolan a copy of Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Price winning biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. But Pattinson’s motivation was not random; it was inspired by the Tenet‘s screenplay itself.

In a key dialogue between the Protagonist (John David Washington) and Priya (Dimple Kapadia), the latter reveals that the time-inversion technology used in Tenet was invented by a scientist who later regretted inventing it, comparing her (the scientist) to the historical J. Robert Oppenheimer. In Tenet we never encounter this scientist, nor do we learn any details about her. This leaves an obvious blank in the story. But the link between both movies is just as obvious as the absence of a missing piece.

Yet, this is not the only missing piece in Tenet. As I elaborated in a second essay about Tenet, there are many more questions left open. We never learn how or why the Protagonist created the movie’s eponymous organisation. We don’t know how exactly the Protagonist manages to get himself involved in the whole operation from the future into the past. But the biggest plothole is certainly that we, in truth, have no understanding whatsoever about what actually happens at the opera siege. I have tried to explain this as a deliberate deception, following the scheme of how The Prestige describes the three stages of a magic trick.

Also, from all the words within the Sator square, from which Tenet is heavily influenced (Sator/ Arepo/ Tenet/ Opera/ Rotas), we have encountered 4 words in the film, while the meaning of “Arepo” is rather opaque. It is merely hinted that Thomas Arepo is supposed to be a spanish artist who forged the Goya, through which Andrej Sator (Kenneth Branagh) blackmails his wife Katherine (Elizabeth Debicki). At the same time we do not have a proper name for the Protagonist. It feels rather incomplete to have a story in which the protagonist has no real identity, while merely being addressed as being the Protagonist without further information.

In short, there are too many questions left open in Tenet, to make it a finished movie. It is too incomplete. Even the final scene between the Protagonist and Neil, in which Neil reveals that the whole operation is a temporal pincer and that the Protagonist is “only half-way there”, reinforces the notion that there are more events to be narrated. Tenet still requires a sequel to “tie up the loose ends”, as Priya programmatically says in the very last scene of the film.

Both Tenet’s incomplete plot as well as the obvious hints in the two last scenes carry a strong hint that a sequel must follow. And this made me raise the question whether Oppenheimer might be a character study of sorts for Nolan, to better understand the figure of the scientist for the (admittedly speculative) sequel.

As of yet, Nolan has not spoken about his next movie project. Even though snippets of interviews with him hinting at the subject of his next movie are available, the topic is mere clickbait and the videos contain not a single digit of information about what Nolan is going to do next.

At the same time, Nolan relaunched Tenet for selected IMAX theaters. This re-release is obviously aimed at bringing Tenet back into the public’s attention. When it was first played in theaters, Tenet was not well received, partly due to the lockdown restrictions at that point in time. Adding to it that its complexity makes it a movie hard to digest, this is no wonder.

It might be possible that re-releasing Tenet has no real purpose beyond showing the movie in IMAX. But as I write these words, their meaning sounds very doubtful to my own ears. It does not appear that Nolan is doing it for the money. In that case he would have chosen a more popular movie like Inception or Interstellar, which would attract far more visitors. But he chose Tenet. The only way his decision would make sense is because he deliberately wanted Tenet to become more present in the public’s eye, and for practical reasons.

Although we cannot know for sure, the intrinsic necessity of a sequel and the buildup of this new campaign for Tenet appear to be a clue that a sequel might be at hand. We could be wrong. But we hope we’re not.

What do you think? Do you agree with our hypothesis or do you see valid points against it? Thank you for reading, and please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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