A Double-Feature Review: Barbenheimer 

A Double-Feature Review: Barbenheimer. Graphic made by Carly Busfield.

Warning: There are spoilers within this double-feature review.

July 21st, 2023 has become a much anticipated day as fans await the release of a double feature phenomenon, The Barbie and Oppenheimer films. 

The film I was most excited for is the feature documentary, Oppenheimer. This film is lucky to have the Irish Peaky Blinders star, Cillian Murphy. He portrays J. Robert Oppenheimer who is the “father of the atomic bomb” who changed the future of war forever. 

The Barbie movie is another long awaited film released that day, making it a double feature movie day for many fans. People are in awe because the film features two beautiful actors, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, who portray main characters Barbie and Ken. The film features other notable actors playing other fictional characters the Barbie universe such as Michael Cera, Will Ferrell, and more. 

What is “Barbenheimer” Day?

“Barbenheimer” may just be the movie event of the year. Social media algorithms and data revolving around the release of these two films has completed skyrocketed due to the hype of these two films.

The term combines the names of the two films giving it a catchy and humorous spin. Some have even called this phenomenon “Oppenbarbie” and other various names.

The gimmick is that these two films have created so much commotion across the internet due to the same release day, but also because their genres range so far from each other. In no way does J. Robert Oppenheimer and a bunch of dolls have any relation, yet the public is going nuts over it.

Oppenheimer Review

Many suggest the best way to view Christopher Nolan’s film is in an IMAX theater, sharing that the experience will be unlike any other. Naturally, I had to see it in 4D. Guess what is even better, this was my first IMAX film.

According to NYT, Nolan even shared that the experience and film has most benefitted from this IMAX 70-milimeter format. 

I am absolutely speechless after seeing Oppenheimer. Hands down, this was the best film I have ever seen and I am not overhyping the movie. Christopher Nolan could retire after this film because nothing could ever top it. You can quote me on that. 

Viewing this film in an IMAX theater made an even greater impact upon me. The creativity and artistry put into this film is unlike any other, especially within the explosion scenes. You truly feel empathy for Oppenheimer within the entire process of creating the atomic bomb and the aftermath of Hiroshima. 

Kyle Pizzichillo, senior Film and Digital Media student at Baylor University, accompanied me in viewing this masterpiece. Pizzichillo was equally as emotionally impacted by this film as I was. “It was very humid, with lots of heat and tension in the air. There were real, harsh consequences and impacts to Oppenheimer. The film was done so well in ways I have never seen before. Emily Blunt ATE portraying his wife and upon her impact upon in the kangaroo court.” 

Robert Downey Jr. portrayed the antagonist of the film remarkably. He could not have portrayed Strauss any better. From beginning to end, the transition of his tomfoolery and sabotage to the entire situation is psychologically impactful. 

The film would not have been what it was without the fantastic role of main actor, Cillian Murphy. His tremendous dedication to the movie impacted the entirety of the film.

The “father of the atomic bomb” is not some war criminal or deranged person, but rather a human being who was passionate about his theories and recognized the consequences.

Oppenheimer emotionally felt the impact of the dropping of the bomb over Hiroshima, but was not the decision maker. Rather, he produced a controlled weapon for the government to decide how to use.

Barbie Review

The Barbie movie was not what I had expected and modernized to fit todays society, which is something I had admired.  Greta Gerwig did an amazing job with this adaptation of the children’s toy. 

The film tackled the issues that women have had against Barbies setting negative beauty standards. It also tackled the idealism that the Ken dolls matter too, or that men deserve some recognition in a women’s world [and vice versa with women being represented in a man’s world]. 

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were the perfect Barbie and Ken. No one could’ve fit the roles better to tell the story. 

Many of the other side characters and dolls made by Mattel featured played key factors to the story. Click here to see a list of the cast and who they play in the film. A personal favorite of mine had to be Allan, portrayed by Michael Cera.

Allan was released in 1964, as “Ken’s Buddy” who fit in all of Ken’s clothes. Many suspect him to be the gay doll of the collection, yet there were no more added to the Allan collection due to the lack of popularity compared to Ken. As a result, he was discontinued in 1966. Allan did not really fit in with all the Kens and their masculinity, but more so chose to associate with the rest of the Barbies instead. 

If it hadn’t been for the strong ending of the movie featuring the original creator of the Barbie Dolls, Ruth Handler, the movie would not be as strong. I had been told that many fans cried upon finishing the movie and I couldn’t grasp why before seeing it. 

Yet, Handler sprinkled a little magic, along with “What was I made for?” by Billie Eilish playing in the background, and shared her inspiration of the dolls to start with her own daughter, Barbara. This proceeded with a montage of mothers and daughters loving bond and Margot Robbie’s “stereotypical Barbie” was faced with a tough decision, facing self-identity. 

Remarkable Scenery and Display

Both films had stellar screenplay, affects, and overall scenery. Although the two are vastly different from each other, they both excelled in their own ways. 

Oppenheimer told the story over a course of 3 hours switching between in color and black-and-white.

Although some fans may be confused at first, this color contrast denotes between the past and present due to the long timeline covered. The films color contrast also points out the point-of-views between J. Robert Oppenheimer, the protagonist, and Lewis Strauss, the antagonist Atomic Energy Commission chairman. 

According to Insider, “The artistic styling is used to highlight the juxtaposition between the film’s protagonist, Oppenheimer, and his eventual nemesis, Strauss.” This strategy set the connotation early in such a clever way, whether fans realized it or not. A good portion of the film was filmed at UC Berkeley where Oppenheimer spent a large portion of his career.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Nolan’s Oppenheimer is that the Trinity Atomic Bomb Test scene was not filmed using CGI (computer-generated imagery). This is a great feat, especially replicating the first ever detonated nuclear weapon in 1945. 

The creative team recreated this scene by using a tactic called forced perspective, where they filmed a smaller version of the scene up close manipulating the audience’s POV. 

The team did in fact build their own bomb, according to Insider. Writer, Maya Foicht noted, “But even though it was smaller, the team did build an actual bomb. This one was just fueled by petroleum instead of atomic energy.” 

As for Gerwig’s Barbie film, the set design was a stunning world of plastic that was innovative and playful. The replication of the plastic from Barbie’s dreamhouse to the entirety of “Barbie Land” was beautifully done, and could not have been done any better. It complimented the actions of Margot Robbie as she drank, ate, showered, and did everything in an imaginative way just like the play set. Click here to read more from Vogue on how the pretty pink set was made.

According to Vogue, “There is no fire or water in BarbieLand – Barbie showers under a faucet with nothing coming out of it and goes to a beach where solid waves crash onto blush-coloured sand. Her wardrobe has plastic wrap over it, just like a toy box. Children touch toys, and thus, everything should look tactile. Barbie’s food comes as both 3D models and flat decals; drawings of milk cartons stuck to the fridge. Proportions for the set echoed an actual Barbie Dreamhouse, where Barbie is a little too big for her furniture and car.” 

Furthermore, the aesthetic of the BarbieLand is taken from a mid century California design with no windows or doors to replicate how children play with the dolls. This design style also affects the direct storyline. Vogue continued on to share, “But the lack of exterior walls also directly affects the plot; the Barbies see, and the Barbies are seen. They all wave at each other a lot, directly from their bedrooms.” 

An Outstanding, Profitable Weekend 

Barbeinheimer Weekend has set records and made a tremendous impact on its audiences. Fans dressed in pink filled the theaters, along with many Christopher Nolan fans. 

The pink filled Barbie movie came out on top due to its wider audience and strong commercialism to all fans reminiscing on their childhoods & those who still enjoy the dolls. However, the WWII period piece was a strong winner in my book and perhaps the best film I have ever seen. 

Barbie ended up raking in around $155 million while Oppenheimer pulled in $80.5 million. Read more about the box office results on CBS.

Overall, these two films, despite their vast differences, are definitely worth all the hype. These two are a must-see in my eyes, especially Oppenheimer.