A silhouette in an auditorium of someone choosing to watch either Barbie or Oppenheimer. (Chris Myers / Golden Gate Xpress) (Chris Myers )
A silhouette in an auditorium of someone choosing to watch either Barbie or Oppenheimer. (Chris Myers / Golden Gate Xpress)

Chris Myers

Barbie vs. Oppenheimer

Two summer blockbusters compete for audiences on July 21, here’s what to know.

May 22, 2023

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “Asteroid City” and many more major blockbusters will hit cinemas this summer, giving a nice change of pace considering how empty the pandemic has left theaters across the country.

On July 21, the world of cinema faces not one but two major blockbusters competing for the public’s approval. Christopher Noland’s “Oppenheimer,” starring Cillian Murphy alongside Emily Blunt, and Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” with Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, premier on the same day.

Both films utilize stunning visuals and cinematography to tell their stories, accompanied by scores and soundtracks that can overwhelm one with emotion as the characters either triumph or fall. Ludwig Göransson composed the music for Oppenhiemer making this his second production with Noland since Tenent. Barbie is scored by Alexandre Desplat, known for his work on “Argo”, “The Queen” and “The Kings Speech.” The films may be precursors to get you to see the greater ethical issues at hand, forever microplastics and the looming threat of nuclear war. 

“Barbie” is told from the perspective of Barbie and Ken, played by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling,  not in a meta sense like Pixar Studio’s “Toy Story,” but more like “Lightyear,” which is told from Buzz’s perspective in his lore story. Barbie takes us to an appropriately vibrant pink setting with lush, green grass.

“Oppenheimer” will follow Dr. J. Robert Oppenhiemher, portrayed by Cillian Murphy, and accompanied by Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr. and Florence Pugh and Emily Blunt. The story follows the development and repercussions of building the world’s first atomic weapon.

Modern philosopher, J. Baird Callicott introduces us to three ethical theories to approach life. The key difference is in prioritization. Animal welfare ethics prioritizes all animal life, including humans, and ecological welfare ethics puts planet Earth and its flora first. The last is anthropocentric welfare ethics, which places human life above all else.

These two films take these competing ethical beliefs and bring them front and center.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was formed in 1947 when the United States and the Soviet Union were headed towards a nuclear arms race, to assess the threat of nuclear warfare and depict their assessment in a graphic called the Doomsday Clock. 

In 1947, the bulletin announced that it was seven minutes to midnight, with midnight signifying the point of no return for humanity. This year’s announcement set precedence as it is historically the closest the clock has been to midnight– 90 seconds to midnight with the development of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Barbie, or Barbra Milicint Roberts, officially debuted to the world in 1959 as the first Barbie doll of many to be released. As the years would march on, toy manufacturer Mattel released more accessories and outfits for Barbie and eventually released more models. A notable release was the 1965 Astronaut Barbie, meant to promote and celebrate the new space program, and many subsequent editions celebrated women in primarily male-dominated fields.

Noland attempts to pull in his audiences through thought-provoking situations with larger-than-life stakes, all the while utilizing practical effects through the artistic authenticity of a genuine 70mm film. Gerwig will fully embrace the Barbie aesthetic and immerses her audience in the rose-tinted world of Barbie and Ken. 

Because there are not enough hours in the day, movie-goers will only be able to see one of these films on opening night. You’ll catch me in the rows watching Noland’s latest. It is my second time getting to see one of his movies premiere in the theater, but make no mistake, as I will be there the next night for “Barbie”.

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About the Contributors
Photo of D’Angelo Hernandez-Fulks
D’Angelo Hernandez-Fulks, A&E Editor
D’Angelo Hernandez is the Arts & Entertainment editor, he is a Journalism major with a Philosophy minor. A Bay Area native he got his start writing for the Spectator at Chabot College. If he isn’t found at his desk streaming Escape from Tarkov, you can find him at the movies. His genre being character studies such as There Will be Blood, The Batman and No Country for Old Men.
Photo of Chris Myers
Chris Myers, Staff Photographer
Chris Myers (he/him) is a photographer for Golden Gate Xpress. He is a photojournalism major with a minor in buisness administration. Currently based out of San Francisco and his current hobbies consists of snowboarding, golf and softball. He is really appreciative of the hundreds of inches of snow that the Sierra Nevada has recieved this Winter.

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