Butting Heads: Barbie vs Oppenheimer

Ryan Estus

I’m sure I probably won’t be the first person to say this, and I certainly won’t be the last – Barbie was a fantastic movie. I saw the blockbuster film twice, after deciding that another visit to ‘Barbieland’ was the only way to do this movie justice. This film has everything; dead-on casting in Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as the titular Barbie and Ken, respectively, with equally well-known names Will Ferrell, Michael Cera and Kate McKinnon rounding out the cast. The plot takes a look at themes centering around sexuality, gender roles in society and beauty standards and wraps them up in an entertaining package that still manages to leave a large impact on its audience. And of course, I have to mention the soundtrack- producer Mark Ronson features some truly amazing songs as background tracks in the film, crowned only by Gosling’s original power-ballad “I’m Just Ken” and his moving rendition of Matchbox Twenty’s “Push,” played via guitar ‘at’ Robbie’s Barbie during the climax of the film. When deciding between both movies, I think the winner is pretty clear – one movie has an A-list cast and left viewers in a new state of mental enlightenment with its explosive take on its topic matter, and the other film was Oppenheimer. Put differently, “Barbie” has the “Kenergy” – and Oppenheimer just simply wasn’t “Kenough.” 

Jake Fahey

While the name Robert J. Oppenheimer might not be one that immediately clicks with you like Barbie does, that will all change after you watch “Oppenheimer.” This three-hour-long epic will take you through the life of this complex figure beginning from his years in college, his creating of the world’s first atomic bomb and the fallout afterwards that affects him: and to a greater extent, the entire world. To start things off, I feel that it’s important to note this film is directed by Christopher Nolan, who is most known for his “Dark Knight Trilogy,” which helped rekindle public interest in Batman and superhero films in general back in the 2000’s. I feel he has done the same for historical biopics with “Oppenheimer.” While not as accessible compared to celebrity biopics, ones of more historical variety have the added advantage of showing events that have changed the world into what it is today, something which “Oppenheimer” does swimmingly and it packs a punch to boot. The film jumps around to different periods in Oppenheimer’s life in an attempt to paint a portrait of what he was like, however the final image it creates is not a clear one, with various twists and turns found throughout. It instead invites the audience to engage with the film and form their own opinion about the “Father of the Atomic Bomb.” The direction Nolan takes with the film is also something important to take note of as well, as while the film sits at three hours long it doesn’t feel that way. The film makes ample use of quick cuts and its active camerawork is more than enough to keep even the most casual viewer engaged in even the most trivial moments. The soundtrack, composed by Ludwig Göransson, is also stellar, as it can be constantly heard which leads to almost every scene carrying a sense of urgency or dread to it which compliments the film perfectly. It also makes moments where the music is absent more impactful and meaningful, either to the characters in the story or the audience. Don’t get me started on the sound design either, I’ll just say this: when you watch this film, make sure you go to a 4D sound theater, you will not regret it. The final and arguably most important aspect that brings this whole experience together is the actors. Cillian Murphy was incredible as Oppenheimer, as his acting perfectly compliments the foggy narrative and characterization which I had brought up earlier. His actions and mannerisms bring a lot of nuance in a way that’s difficult to describe, as you don’t know what exactly he’s thinking through the majority of the movie until that soul-crushing ending where everything comes crashing down upon both Oppenheimer and the audience. Alongside Murphy is Robert Downey Jr., who also does a stupendous job playing a similar character with questionable morals, and it’s this that also leads to another major surprise within the story. The rest of the supporting cast delivers as well, which serves as the rope tying the whole film together. Therefore, with the reasons that I just gave, I firmly believe that “Oppenheimer” will go down in history as the defining blockbuster of summer ‘23.