Is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ a Sequel to ‘Inception’? Not Likely

Is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ a Sequel to ‘Inception’? Not Likely

That's very disappointing, but it should still be a good movie.


Last week, Christopher Nolan’s spy-thriller “Tenet” changed its August 12 premiere amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It was surely disappointing news for fans of the highly acclaimed director, but the film’s release recently got new dates to work with—opening internationally first on August 26, with a U.S. release in select cities to follow over Labor Day weekend.


Even with a month or so before the premiere, there have been plenty of interest in figuring out what exactly “Tenet” is about.

Featuring a loaded A-team cast that includes Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki and Michael Caine, what the trailers have shown are agent-like characters running around in suits, waking up in unexpected places and vehicles crashing and un-crashing.

From what they saw, movie fans were quick to see the similarities in Nolan’s 2010 film “Inception.”

So, that begs the million-dollar question: Is “Tenet” a sequel? The short answer is not likely.

When previews of “Inception” and “Interstellar” first came out, those films’ plotlines were also quite difficult to pin down. And those action sequences in “Tenet” aren’t really any different from what most of Nolan’s films possess—countless cerebral twists and the examination of the relative nature of time.

Does Nolan really need to reach back into a previous film like “Inception” to continue his story? Probably not, as he is known to be a filmmaker who loves to tackle mind-bending challenges from scratch.

Before speculating too much, let’s look at the film’s official synopsis:

“John David Washington is the new Protagonist in Christopher Nolan’s original sci-fi action spectacle ‘Tenet.’ Armed with only one word—Tenet—and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. Not time travel. Inversion.”

As seen in the trailers so far, this seems to be a pretty good summary. The two male characters are likely agents who are able to tap into some form of time manipulation to prevent a global terrorist threat. Throw in some ultra-cool visual effects, and bam—another Nolan masterpiece that will be discussed and enjoyed for years to come.

“Tenet,” which has been delayed multiple times because of the coronavirus, will open in seventy countries starting on August 26. Some of the major markets include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Last week, movie theaters reopened in China, the world’s second-largest market, although “Tenet” doesn’t yet have a release date there.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters