The New 'Tenet' Trailer Already Has Christopher Nolan Fans Trying to Solve the Director's Next Movie

A new trailer for Christopher Nolan's upcoming film Tenet just dropped, and fans are already speculating about the plot and mechanics of the sci-fi action film, which stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki.

The latest preview sheds a bit of light on the movie's story and concept; it follows a group of spies, including Washington's character, who are trying to prevent World War III. Typical action-movie stuff, right? Well, this being a Nolan film, there's an extra wrinkle—the characters in Tenet are able to mess with the flow of time thanks to a concept called "Time Inversion." And if you're like Pattinson's character, you're probably thinking that we're talking about time travel, but no, apparently they're not the same thing.

With this fresh bit of insight on the film, fans are trying to piece together how Tenet works and how it'll be in dialogue with Nolan's other films. Below, we've rounded up a few of the different questions fans are trying to answer and the theories that some of them have.

Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan speaks onstage during the Fourth Annual Kodak Film Awards at ASC Clubhouse on January 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Rachel Murray//Getty

What Is "Tenet?"

"All I have for you is a word: 'Tenet,'" one character (played by Martin Donovan) says to Washington's protagonist in the new trailer. One Twitter user believes that rather than being an organization as the first trailer suggested, "tenet" might be the manipulation of time that the characters in the film carry out. Seems plausible to us.

Just a thought... The first trailer kind of points to ‘Tenet’ being an organisation name of some sorts, but then the prologue and tv spot kind of lead it down to ‘Tenet’ being the name of the action itself (which makes much more sense)

— Ash (@ashonfilme) May 21, 2020

I’m really leaning into my theories but Tenet being the name of this action makes much more sense. Don’t try to understand how it’s possible, just feel the action and carry it out...

Yes yes yes!

— Ash (@ashonfilme) May 21, 2020

Complicated Time Mechanics

Back when the first proper trailer for Tenet was released in late 2019, one Redditor speculated about the way the film's time manipulation works. They posited that Washington's character and his associates aren't manipulating time, but rather it's the other people around them who are doing it, and that's what Washington and his crew are fighting against.

It's a line of thinking we find confusing, but the user pointed to the car wreck scene in both trailers as evidence supporting their theory. "[T]he car isn't being made to go back in time, or reverse in any way. The car is moving 'forwards', but JDW is moving 'backwards' through time, whilst still processing information in a linear, 'forwards' manner. To him, it would all look like it's going in reverse, even though he's the one travelling [sic] backwards whilst still processing the information in the usual way," they wrote. "I think we will experience scenes like this from both temporal directions: forwards, thinking linearly, and backwards, also thinking linearly."

A film review account on Twitter appears to be in support of this theory, pointing out that whiteboard illustrations seen in the new trailer look like they're mapping out a similar concept.

The notes on the whiteboard in the trailer look very similar to the theories that have been posted months prior. Two sides, the colors and everything. #TENET

— Reviewed (@thervwd) May 21, 2020

Inception Sequel

One of the most prevailing theories is that Tenet is a sequel to—or at least connected to—another of Nolan's high-minded blockbusters, 2010's Inception. A Reddit user cited an early teaser that reportedly featured the tagline, "Time has come for a new protagonist," which could imply that there was a previous protagonist in the film's universe. Might Washington be taking over for Leonardo DiCaprio's Dom Cobb? One Twitter user noted that they'd be on the look out for a connection to Inception.

Me in the screening of TENET forming my twitter theory about its link to Inception.

— Dev (@dudenameddev) May 22, 2020

A few other people on Twitter have speculated that Tenet could be linked to Nolan's time-bending 2014 space epic, Interstellar.

I've seen several fan theories that Tenet connects Inception and Interstellar into a shared universe.

— Adron Buske (@AdronBuske) May 22, 2020

Robert Pattinson Is Christopher Nolan

Another, more light-hearted theory is that Robert Pattinson's character is a stand-in for Nolan himself, due to their physical resemblance. One fan speculated that Washington's character—who's literally called "The Protagonist," which, yeesh—is named that because Pattinson is really Nolan dreaming about a movie called Tenet, and he's relaying the story. Not sure about that one, but can't rule it out, either.

No lies there...

(also call me crazy, but new theory on why Washington is called "the Protagonist": Pattinson is actually playing Nolan dreaming about a movie called 'Tenet' and retelling the story...)

— Jon Bridges 🍿 (@jonnbridges) May 22, 2020

Tenet is supposedly slated to hit theaters on July 17, but this may change due to the coronavirus pandemic.