Aah, the two genders: Barbie and Oppenheimer. Also, the first and last question being asked by most people over the last 24 hours. “Which one did you see on the weekend? What did you think?
Short of the second coming, has there been more intense anticipation bordering on religious fervour than the lead up to the double barrel cinema event that was the opening weekend of Greta Gerwig’s surreal tale on the world’s most famous doll and Christopher Nolan’s dive into one of the darkest moments in human history? Aka “Barbenheimmer”.
He was a punk She did ballet pic.twitter.com/WWwHBm6oH7
— Adam (@adamgreattweet) June 4, 2023
These two diametrically opposed pieces of work have created an onslaught of memes and contrasting jokes while at the same time existing perfect harmony. To the point that plenty of folks scheduled an entire day aside to see both films in one hit. Either side of a cocktail lunch, of course.
But are they worth the hype? And in Barbie’s case, the marketing budget…?
From a numbers perspective, the Margot Robbie-led Barbie is already a win, so far taking double the earnings of Oppenheimer and also the best previews earnings this year. And according to Pop Crave, it’s also been the biggest opening for a female director ever; biggest opening for a film based on a toy and the biggest opening ever for both Robbie and co-star Ryan Gosling.
Worldwide, Barbie amassed $501 Million in ticket sales while Oppenheimer raked in $260 Million.
As far as the films themselves go, what has most critics and fans excited isn’t the fact that they are perfect films but they have both taken enormous risks with their story telling.
“A deeply odd film. Margot was really good but Ryan was great,” said one friend and self-confessed Barbie-rella who attended the opening night. The praise for both Robbie and Gosling has been universal but it’s been Gosling’s demented turn as Ken that has both surprised and wowed audiences.
“Barbie is the perfect saccharine amuse bouche before Oppenheimer – this viewing order is essential,” says GRAZIA writer Ava Gilchrist. “Like taking a shot of grenadine cordial before literally setting yourself on fire…I think Oppenheimer was perfection and Barbie attempted so much in a neat 90 minute package so some bits didn’t feel cohesive but it was imaginative and bold.”
my favorite line reading in barbie is actually margot robbie’s “you are so beautiful” to the woman she sees at the bus stop. the gentle admiration and wonder in her voice as she sees the beauty in aging bc she’s never been taught to fear or despise it was simply perfect.
— dajour is kenough (@selahspades) July 23, 2023
Film critic Scott Mantz agrees that the correct order is to go from Barbie to Oppenheimer. “Now that I’ve seen Barbenheimmer, I highly recommend watching Barbie first, then Oppenheimer! Barbie is really fun, but Oppenheimer stays with you — you don’t wanna be thinking about Oppenheimer while watching Barbie! (Or maybe you do?).”
Now that I’ve seen #BARBENHEIMER, I highly recommend watching #BARBIE first, then #OPPENHEIMER! “Barbie” is really fun, but “Oppenheimer” stays with you — you don’t wanna be thinking about “Oppenheimer” while watching “Barbie!” (Or maybe you do?) pic.twitter.com/NkOnilPzme
— Scott Mantz 🖖 (@MovieMantz) July 18, 2023
Academic and film critic Clem Bastow shared a poignant and insightful take on social media about the way both movies are an anomaly in current cinema. “Neither are wholly successful but both represent something increasingly rare in this current, risk-averse studio system: auteurs being given free (or, in Gerwig’s case given Mattel’s involvement, free-ish) rein to try something creatively wild on a grand scale.”
— ReedReads (@ReedReads4) July 21, 2023
Ultimately, the success of both films isn’t solely around hype and aesthetics. Both are a return to the kind of auteur-driven cinema that creates more questions than it wants to answer. Movies are meant to be magical, not bigger equals better equations. They take you outside yourself.
Oppenheimer, despite being a historical drama, delivers a psychoanalytical take on the horror created as a result of the physicists own ambitions. And Barbie offers an insight into how an existential crisis can be an awakening to the beauty of humanity.
Nolan, for all his infamous grittiness, still knows how to create poetically. Even his Batman films are perhaps the least superhero-like of the genre. Gerwig, on the other hand, has cemented herself as one of the greatest directors working today with a distinct and relevant point of view that isn’t too far a cry from her mumblecore days. If you haven’t seen Frances Ha, do so immediately.