Just like Barbie, a teaser for next summer’s Oppenheimer played in front of IMAX screenings for Avatar: The Way of Water over the weekend, and just like Barbie, Oppenheimer’s teaser is now online for all of us to see.
Like Barbie, Oppenheimer looks good. Completely different, of course, but these two movies are currently joined at the hip because they’re both currently slated to open on July 21, 2023. I would normally say one would move, as no one wins when two big movies open on the same day, but the 2023 slate is absolutely jam packed, as we are finally almost back at full production capacity, so next year will be a movie bonanza. There’s really nowhere to move to, and the folks behind Oppenheimer probably think it can stand up well in a market against a comedy like Barbie. Maybe! I don’t think anyone knows anything about what the real post-pandemic box office is going to be, but let’s find out!
Oppenheimer, of course, stars half of all white men in Hollywood, and is directed by Christopher Nolan. This teaser is not selling me summer movie vibes, but Nolan is one of the few filmmakers left who is a draw unto himself, and Dunkirk, also a historical drama, opened in July of 2017 and went on to make over $500 million worldwide. They probably think Oppenheimer can operate on a similar track, though it is worth pointing out that Dunkirk is basically a hundred-minute action movie, and Oppenheimer is a biopic, but again, let’s find out.
Last week, Nolan came under fire for recreating a nuclear-sized explosion for Oppenheimer without using CGI. Some people took this to mean that Christopher Nolan dropped a nuclear bomb, which he did not. He recreated an explosion the SIZE of an atomic bomb, there was nothing nuclear about it. Specifically, they recreated the “Trinity Test”, the first nuclear detonation. While OF COURSE he didn’t use an actual nuclear bomb for this—seriously, can people not read anymore?—there IS a question to be asked about the environmental damage of a large-scale explosion and whether or not you should just use the damn CGI and spare the environment the, you know, fire and concussion damage. People are not going to be able to tell the difference between a real and fake mushroom cloud, and one of these options has a significantly lower environmental impact (just the electricity used by the computers). But whatever, the bomb movies goes boom!
And the boom is the whole point, as the teaser emphasizes. J. Robert Oppenheimer is the “father of the atomic bomb”, and shows Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer, looking very conflicted about his work. Which is kind of interesting, because at least at the Los Alamos/Trinity stage, Oppenheimer wasn’t conflicted. He understood the weight of what they were doing, but he was proud of his work, and on the record expressed regret they didn’t have the atomic bomb ready in time to use against Nazi Germany.
He did, however, disagree with the bombing of Nagasaki, as he thought one atomic bomb was enough to make a point. He changed his tune pretty quickly, though, as the human toll of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki became clear, and he did want nuclear weapons banned, ultimately. So, he was a complicated guy, but I’ll be interested to see if Nolan includes the bit where he was totally fine bombing Hiroshima, at least in the beginning.