Author: Tessa Weyer
Over a month ago, the release of two major movies on the same day took the world by storm. Both Barbie and Oppenheimer were set to release on July 21st, and with their vastly different aesthetics as well as their competition to be box office hits, the internet dubbed the day “Barbenheimer”. Although the movies received wide scale attention both before and after their releases, did they actually end up being worth all the hype?
Growing up as a girl, especially one with two older sisters, I amassed a collection of tens if not hundreds of Barbies throughout my childhood. Because of this, naturally I was really excited when I learned that a movie about Barbie was in the works, especially one being directed by Greta Gerwig. What I assumed was just going to be a silly, fun-spirited movie about a doll going to the real world ended up being a heartfelt, somewhat depressing depiction of womanhood and the struggles we face on a daily basis. Who would’ve thought the movie about a literal plastic toy would make me sob in the theater?
Don’t get me wrong, the movie was definitely still incredibly funny. It was filled with so many jokes and surprising cameos (looking at you Rob Brydon as Sugar Daddy Ken) that I was grinning ear to ear for nearly 2 hours straight. I mean who isn’t going to laugh at Ryan Gosling acting like a himbo for the entire movie?
Aside from the humor though, the movie genuinely concludes with an amazing message about self worth, empowerment, and being able to be happy on your own. As you may have heard, the movie faced criticism for making men seem inferior to women, but if you watch the movie you will quickly learn that the Kens in Barbieland were actually just being treated how women are often treated in the real world. Although the movie does focus a lot on women throughout it, the overall lesson is truly important for people of any gender to hear.
Another aspect of the movie that makes it worth the watch is the fashion. The many looks showcased by Margot Robbie and the other Barbies in the movie are exceptional and make my little fashion student heart happy (I will absolutely be dressed as cowboy Barbie for Halloween). It’s not even just the looks shown in the movie that were great, but also the different actual Barbie inspired outfits Margot Robbie wore during the promotional events for the movie. It shows just how much effort went into every little detail to make that movie as perfect as possible.
The casting of the movie is another aspect where it was completely spot on. Ryan Gosling as Ken may have been the most perfect casting for any movie in existence. I can’t think of a single better person to deliver the “girlfriend boyfriend” line than that man. Besides Gosling, other characters that were perfectly cast include Allan who was played by Michael Cera along with Weird Barbie who was played by Kate McKinnon. And, of course, we can’t forget Margot Robbie as the leading Barbie herself. She managed to turn the idea of a well-known, stereotypical Barbie into something really unique and filled with so much personality.
Overall, I may be a little biased seeing as I love Barbies, the color pink, Greta Gerwig, and nearly every member of the cast, but I would highly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone (and I already have been for the last month). The build up and hype surrounding this movie before and after it came out were definitely justified, so if you haven’t already, go see Barbie!
Now onto the second half of the Barbenheimer double feature, Oppenheimer. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t as excited to see Oppenheimer as I was to see Barbie simply because history and science have never been my strong subjects and that’s essentially what the movie is centered around. However, it is a Christopher Nolan film and he’s created amazing movies like Interstellar and Inception, so I knew it was going to be good.
As I just mentioned, it is strongly centered around history, obviously, because it’s about the man who created the atomic bombs that the United States used on Japan. So, if you’re a history buff or if you just enjoy biopics, this is definitely the movie for you. This is also the movie for you if you know anything about physics, which isn’t me so I’m not going to go into detail on that aspect.
Something I really enjoy about this movie is that, although it takes place during a wartime, it doesn’t show anything about the actual fighting going on. I like a good war movie as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s nice to see what was going on on the sidelines rather than only seeing the soldiers fighting in battle, and this movie exclusively takes place on the sidelines. Throughout the film, you go back and forth between events in Oppenheimer’s life that span across 40 years. It can be a little difficult at times to understand the chronology of the events, but you can generally tell by the changes in Cillian Murphy’s hair color and styling as well as the wrinkles on his face being more or less defined.
For the most part, the movie flips between the later timeline of Oppenheimer’s security clearance hearing in the mid 1950s and the build up to the creation of the atomic bomb as well as the events that took place following the dropping of them. The movie also flips between the black and white events of Lewis Strauss’ timeline and the color events of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s timeline. This formatting of events makes for a really visually interesting telling of the history of not only the atomic bombs but also the events succeeding them in Oppenheimer’s life that many people might not have known about previously.
Just like Barbie, the acting in Oppenheimer was fantastic. Both movies had star studded casts, but also made sure to pick actors who were perfectly suited for their respective roles. Robert Downey Jr. is especially noteworthy for his performance as Lewis Strauss in this movie and he absolutely deserves the Best Supporting Actor award that he is projected to be nominated for at the Oscars this coming award season. Another phenomenal performance that came out of this movie was Rami Malek as David L. Hill. While he doesn’t show up until much later on, he genuinely stole the last half hour of the movie with his acting. I can’t go much into detail about his role for the sake of not spoiling the movie, but I will say you can definitely understand why he has previously won an Oscar for Best Actor. Florence Pugh should be noted for her acting in this movie as well. While a lot of her screen time is taken up by interesting intimate scenes (which, by the way, you probably shouldn’t watch this with your family), she does an exceptional job of playing the noncommittal lover of Oppenheimer who took up space in his heart until her eventual death.
While I was admittedly confused during about a quarter of this movie (which is fully on me for not knowing anything about physics), it was still a worthwhile use of 3 hours. The cinematography, the acting performances, and the overall directing of this movie were incredible and unless you have a really short attention span, I would highly recommend anyone to watch it.
Now to the final consensus: which movie won Barbenheimer? Objectively, Barbie won in terms of money made at the Box Office as it has surpassed $1 billion worldwide while Oppenheimer has just passed $788 million as of writing this. However, in terms of ratings, Oppenheimer won. On Rotten Tomatoes, Oppenheimer is currently sitting with a critic score of 93% and an audience score of 91% while Barbie has a critic score of 88% and an audience score of 83%. While neither of those statistics is the objectively correct way to determine a movie’s quality, they give you a good idea of how well other people enjoyed them. In my personal opinion, I enjoyed Barbie more than Oppenheimer and I would be more likely to rewatch it, but I am only one person and I have my biases. In general, both movies were incredibly made and I would highly recommend both to anybody who hasn’t yet seen them.