The Duality of Cinema: Oppenheimer and Barbie set to release on July 21

By Ava Cassidy / Columnist and News Editor 

There are T-83  days until July 21, when the world will implode as two highly anticipated films release on the same day that could not be more different. Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” and Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” are already dividing the Internet as fans await their releases. 

“Oppenheimer” will be Nolan’s 12th and longest film with a staggering three-hour runtime. As the title suggests, the film follows the career of J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy), the American physicist most known for his involvement in the Manhattan Project and the subsequent invention of the atomic bomb. 

The release of the film comes at a time when films on streaming services are beginning to win out over traditional theatrically released movies, but Nolan is a staunch advocate of the traditional movie theater experience and Universal agreed to his condition that the film receive a traditional theatrical release window.

The film also stands out for its planned release in IMAX theaters, which checks out for a movie based around explosions. However, black and white footage, which “Oppenheimer” uses, has never been shot on IMAX film.

“Oppenheimer” also made waves when Christopher Nolan confirmed that the Trinity Test scenes, which depict the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, were done without the use of CGI. No one seems to know how Nolan and his team actually went about accomplishing this.

At first glance, “Barbie” seems like it could not be more different. Margot Robbie plays the main character (Barbie, obviously), and the star-studded cast includes Will Ferrell, Ryan Gosling, Simu Liu, Dua Lipa, Emma Mackey, Hellen Mirren, John Cena and Michael Cera.

The trailer dropped on April 4 and immediately created a buzz on social media. Featuring rollerblading, beach scenes, and a lot of hot pink, the trailer made waves on the Internet as movie lovers realized just how different the two movies set to release on July 21 will be. 

Even as people joke about the large number of breakups likely to occur at the box office on July 21, the contrast between the films does seem to illuminate something about our world. The 2020s have been a tumultuous decade for the film and TV industry as the pandemic changed the way we consume media and the way that media is produced. Additionally, film technology has never been more advanced, and the studio system has never been so unpopular.

As the entertainment industry continues to adapt and shift in a year seemingly dominated by political turmoil, violence, and hate, it only makes sense that the two most anticipated movies of the summer will focus on both utter destruction and total escapism. As far back as the early 20th century, movies have been providing the American people with exactly what they needed— even if we didn’t know it at the time.

Just as the screwball comedies of the Depression era allowed for a respite from daily struggles and the blockbusters of the 1970s helped Americans process the chaos of the 1960s, the opposing movies released in the summer of 2023 may well be remembered for their own effects on the American psyche.

So whether you’re counting down the days until “Barbie” or “Oppenheimer,” rest assured that there is something for everyone at the movie theater this summer, no matter what happens between then and now.

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