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Review: The Barbie-Oppenheimer double feature

Two vastly different movies premiered this past weekend, generating laughter, tears and a critical view of the United States’ past.
Image by Graphic by Ava Weinreis
The double-feature movie marathon brought about different views of the United States’ history.

The premieres of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” July 21 have brought audiences back to the movie theater in record numbers, with many seeing both films on the same day. 

In what is being called “Barbenheimer,” the double-feature of these two films spans genre and theme, yet both films critique the United States’ past and turn an eye toward the future. 


Directed by Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer” tells the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist hired by the United States government to lead the creation of the atomic bomb during World War II. 

The movie, based on the book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” covers Oppenheimer’s schooling, all of his time constructing the atomic bomb and a hearing with the U.S. government which later stripped him of his job title. 

Appointed by Lt. Leslie Groves to run the Manhattan Project, Oppenheimer and Groves selected the best scientists they could find to move to Los Alamos, New Mexico for the construction of the bomb. 

It is three hours long and a marathon of a film. However, it never dragged on. Flashing back and forth, the movie carefully revealed more details from different phases of his life. 

Cillian Murphy gave an incredible performance, perfectly portraying the complicated decisions of a haunted man. He rides the line between womanizer, communist sympathizer and curious scientist extremely well. 

One stand-out element of this movie is the editing. Throughout the film, chilling images and sounds were spliced alongside the excitement of the American people at the use of the first atomic bomb, portraying the significance of the act. 

At one point in the film, after the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, Oppenheimer gives a speech to the families at Los Alamos, the site of the bomb’s construction. 

All at once during his speech, no sound emanated from the screen. The wide-mouth smiles of the flag-waving crowd, the clapping and the cheering went silent. Oppenheimer, haunted by his actions, is seen stepping inside the disintegrating corpse of a victim of the bomb. Another woman’s face in the audience appeared to flake off as she cheered. 

Due to his past communist affiliations, after World War II ended and the Cold War began, Oppenheimer lost his security clearance and therefore his job with the U.S. government. 

The movie ended with a grim look toward the future. A notion that although the bomb did not immediately ignite the atmosphere and end life as we know it –– as some feared it would –– the bomb and its creators may still have brought the end of civilization. 


Directed by Greta Gerwig, “Barbie” follows the story of a stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) and her Ken (Ryan Gosling) as they venture into the real world and discover it is not as perfect as they thought. 

Based on the brand Mattel’s Barbie, the story plays out like a little girl playing with dolls. The Barbies float down to the street from their houses as if imaginary hands were in control. The shower in the Barbie mansion rains imaginary water and, every morning, Barbie drinks imaginary coffee. 

This movie is a love letter to little girls and the inner-child women often abandon as they grow up. Whether it’s the government, the doctor’s office or the beach volleyball courts, in Barbieland, women run things. 

As Barbie and Ken venture into the real world, one they believe to have been made completely similar to Barbieland, they meet a rude awakening. While Barbie experiences sexual assault and a pointed confrontation about her negative impact on women’s body image from a teenage girl, Ken enjoys the newfound respect he didn’t have in Barbieland. 

The movie addresses both men’s and women’s fights for power and how new information can snap someone out of their preconceived notions. 

With a PG-13 rating for suggestive references and brief language, the movie is kid-friendly. At many moments, the story is told how a child playing with dolls would tell a story, glossing over the business-like serious words and inserting a massive dance number. 

The most important thing to know about “Barbie” is that it is hilarious. The jokes just kept on coming. If you ever played with Barbies as a child or if you never got the chance, this movie is 114 minutes of child-like joy. 

Ending in a feel-good dance number and a reunion of the Barbies and the Kens, the future of Barbieland remains unknown. However, it appears the Kens will work towards gaining all of the rights women have in the real world. 


Both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” deserve the attention they have received in theaters. This weekend, two drastically different movies achieved cinematic excellence in their own ways. 

Barbenheimer weekend brought people to theaters, becoming the fourth biggest domestic box office weekend in the United States by grossing $311 million, according to The New York Times. 

Cillian Murphy said it best in an interview with IGN Entertainment when describing the Barbenheimer premier: 

“I think it’s just great for the industry and for audiences that we have two amazing films by amazing filmmakers coming out on the same day. You can spend the whole day in the cinema, what’s better than that?” Murphy said. 

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