Avi Joshi ‘26 is a prospective English and Education major. He is a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and Wind Ensemble. Contact him at email@example.com.
The views expressed in the article are the authors’ own.
It’s been a long time since any movie has been able to grip audiences in the way that both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” have. The COVID-19 pandemic made it feel as if the movie theater industry was dying. People could not go to the movies during the lockdown and after, the enthusiasm for theaters was incredibly low. Then, finally, along comes the announcement for “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer”, set to be released on the same day. The dual opening feature dubbed ‘Barbenheimer’ exploded in popularity and finally got people to go to the movies. While I did not see both on the same day, both movies piqued my interest in different ways, and I’m going to do my best to explain why.
Much of “Oppenheimer”’s success is owed to the film’s director Christopher Nolan, who infused his signature stylistic choices throughout the film’s structure. The first half of the movie’s fast-paced editing commanded my attention even though at times I felt like I was watching a really long trailer. Though this editing style may have been harder to follow, it successfully engaged viewers, and the timing of certain scenes in conjunction with others was impeccable. However, this style does not continue through the entire experience. I only saw the movie once, so there might have been something I missed, but it really felt like at around halfway through the film, scenes became much longer, making the movie feel a bit longer than it actually was. I have conflicting opinions about this because on one hand, it irks the flow of the movie, but on the other hand, I didn’t feel myself losing interest in the film despite its length.
Besides the structure, the scenes in this movie were incredible. It never felt like there was one major plot twist; rather, the movie consisted of many plot curves. The decision to have some scenes in color and some in black and white also helped to emphasize the tone of certain scenes. For example, any scenes featuring Florence Pugh were filled with an overflowing tone of insanity mixed with horror, exemplifying the benefits of changing color palettes.
However, some production choices were not so great, which diminished the power of certain scenes. This is where some of the obvious complaints about the movie come about. My biggest issue — like many other people — was a lot of the time not being able to hear what characters were saying. It felt as if the actors were talking into mics plugged into toothbrushes that were tossed down the street, yet other times, the dialogue was clear. It just made an already complex plot that much harder to follow. And the soundtrack, while incredible and impactful, seriously needs to chill out. It never stopped, and I think some scenes could have benefitted from no music at all.
I also found myself distracted by some of the casting decisions, though the lineup of actors and actresses in the movie were overall stellar. In particular, I think Josh Peck was a little weird for me just because of how much “Drake and Josh” I watched as a kid. In my head, the image of the nerdy and bombastic character from the Nickelodeon show being the guy who pushes the button for the test bomb just made me chuckle. The cast was still impressive, and it was clear that no matter how small a role people had, there was a lot of passion put into the making of the film.
Now let’s turn to Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” which has been the most interesting in-theater experience I’ve had in a long time. Before the movie even began, it was hard not to be entranced by the atmosphere the movie created. Mothers and daughters arrived wearing matching pink dresses, and even frat bros showed up in suits. In all honesty, it was fun to be part of the excitement of a movie again; it almost felt like a midnight premiere. I remained enchanted not only by the movie, but also the emotions running high in the entire audience — especially during America Ferrara’s impressive monologue towards the end of the movie, which deserved the applause it got in my theater.
From the perspective of a guy, I thought the film was able to be charming, funny and entertaining all while impressively presenting its themes and messages in layers. I think it used feminism as a foundation for empowerment, and at no point did I feel lectured at. And yes, the movie is a comedy, but it’s a comedy that is able to not only entertain but also not invalidate its own platform. As Margot Robbie said in an interview with ABC, “It’s a comedy, but if you just call it a funny film you almost make it sound like it doesn’t have a lot going on.”
On top of being a good comedy, “Barbie” is genuinely a good movie. Scenes are filled with beautifully contrasted colors, and the soundtrack was perfect. It was clear how much the movie meant to both Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, who shared great chemistry and passionate acting skills. I was never bored and remained charmed through the whole evening. If I was to name one of the few problems I have with the movie, it would be Will Ferrell’s character as Mattel’s CEO Ynon Kreiz. I’m not criticizing what his character represented, being one of the film’s many symbols of patriarchy, but at some point, he seemed to disappear from the movie. Gerwig could have done more with his character to make him a bigger part of the narrative.
Overall, Barbenheimer was a fantastic experience, and both movies have revealed something about the American public: its incredible lack of media literacy. I’m not trying to call people dumb, but the disappointing reality is that many people not only didn’t understand what either movie was trying to say, but also refused to look even a little bit deeper and use some of the skills we were taught in school to get something more real out of both movies. It really isn’t surprising the amount of people — and whether you like it or not, mostly men — who refused to see “Barbie” because they felt as if they were above it or that it was just women pontificating about their struggle. And when they did see “Barbie,” the point flew over their heads and straight into space. Ben Shapiro’s embarrassing condemnation of the whole film, which was filled with argumentative mistakes and literal false information, best exemplifies some of these toxic male perspectives. There were also countless people who didn’t like “Oppenheimer” because they cared more about the big thing that goes boom than the psychology of the maniac who made it possible. Ultimately, I’m interested in seeing the evolution of these movies in the public eye over the next few years. I can only hope more people will stop trying to only get pleasure out of the movies they see and start looking a little deeper.