Where I Watched It: HBo MAX
English Audio Description Provided By: Deluxe
Narrated By: Jedidiah Barton
I’m a big fan of Christopher Nolan, and Tenant was on my must watch list. but I knew better than to even attempt this without audio description. And while I’m willing to do that with 99% of the films I watch, Chris Nolan is someone I don’t mess around with. Some of my favorite films, we’re talking top 100, are directed by him. Certainly The Dark knight, which stands on top of everything for me, but I have a feeling inception and Memento would make an appearance as well. Expanding to the top 250 would put The Prestige into play, likely along with the rest of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. I definitely consider him to be a huge influence on my taste, and how I watch film. I’ve seen everything he’s put out theatrically, and that includes Following.
Now, that being said, aside from Following, which was interesting but really was more of a show of proof that Nolan had potential, Tenant is the worst. I’m not saying that because I jump on trains with everyone else. I waited years to make sure this had audio description when I watched it, and when I saw it floating again on HBo MAX, this time around it had audio description. The first time, it did not.
Now, Christopher nolan on a bad day is like considering Brett Ratner for an Oscar. There are some directors who have never even come close to what Nolan’s “worst’ is, because Nolan is truly one of the greats. his high level of consistency is what has brought him a loyal fan following, and why so many people assume Oppenheimer will get a Best Picture nomination, even though Nolan has only had two films ever nominated.
But, Tenant is a go for broke concept, the kind of big budget extravaganza some directors get to touch when they are at their peak. it’s so self indulgent, so complex, so on the fringe of film I’m surprised it was received well at all. This feels like when Darren Aronofsky tried to make The Fountain, or most recently when Damien Chazelle was given far too much leash on Babylon. Promising directors taking on high concepts with big budgets.
I don’t have a problem with the acting here. The leads, John David Washington and Robert Pattinson are fine. The film is just so much. I honestly am still confused as to what I saw, and feel like I need to watch it again, even though I didn’t really enjoy the first time around. but there are so many time shifts, and being blind, trying to follow this film with audio description honestly just wasn’t enough.
Part of this lies in the desire to not use character names until they are spoken. Nolan makes this worse by calling our lead The Protagonist, because that’s super cool. But, from the opening scene, I was grasping at something, trying to figure out how this moment would be relevant moving forward, and I got a lot of descriptions of what people look like. This is already a confusing film, let’s streamline this and make it easier to follow.
Sighted people have immediate facial recognition. They really don’t need names. They don’t even need recognizable actors. They really can just follow a bearded man, a blonde white girl, and a middle aged businessman through a film. Sometimes, character descriptions just aren’t enough, especially in a science fiction time hopping action wonder piece.
Believe me, I fucking love jedidiah Barton, so for me to say his audio description wasn’t enough is hard for me. Truthfully, without having the sighted comparison that I have with films I watched pre-blindness, I don’t even really know what it is that I missed, or how much I’m missing. I just know, i had a hell of a time trying to follow this thing.
Thank God that john David sounds so much like his father. it was much easier to track his voice, because I was just looking for the guy who sounded like Denzel. But other times, i felt so lost. Even when the description had something cool happening, like one person travelling backward through time while others moved forward. I can see that nolan had some crazy ideas in his head, but for the first time, i wasn’t able to follow him on this journey. And, this is also the first Nolan film I’ve watched without having visually seen this. I was lucky enough to squeeze in Dunkirk while i was still able to see, but on the downhill trend so to speak.
Grading Tenant therefore is a bitch. it’s a bitch because I don’t know how to fix it. i don’t know if extra audio description would solve all the problems. I don’t know even what I need from the audio description. Without that sighted comparison in my head, the only way I know, is that I left the film somewhat confused as to what just happened, with a lot of questions, and the feeling that I didn’t have the best experience.
Deluxe produces some of the best audio description, and Barton is one of my favorites, so perhaps the problem does lie simply in Nolan’s over indulgences with the story. But, I loved Inception, and this felt all kind of Inception weird to me. I think I would have enjoyed this if I could still see, at least more than I did.
Final Grade: B-