Gerwig’s Barbie vs. Nolan’s Oppenhiemer: rise of the pink explosion 


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As a society, we are often enthralled when opposites are forced to co-exist.  

The relentlessly hardworking Kobe Bryant learning to share the floor with the effortlessly dominant Shaq, the stern Wolverine forced to fight alongside the jocular Deadpool and Dr. Jekyll coping with Mr. Hyde.  

Seeing how these forces interact is endlessly interesting.  

Therefore, it should be no surprise that the so-called ‘Barbenhimer’ craze became so widely discussed.  

You would be hard-pressed to find two more tonally, artistically and thematically different films.  

This makes it fun to compare the two features visually, making the subject ripe for internet virality and meme-making.  

With all of this being said, which film is truly superior?  

Well, going off the financial figures, Barbie is the clear front-runner.  

Both films opened on July 21; as of August 13, Barbie grossed $1.18 billion worldwide while Oppenheimer trails only amassing a measly $649 million. Dollar amounts don’t always indicate quality, so further investigation must happen.   

Despite their differences, both films have very similar strengths.  

Both films have ensemble casts who deliver fantastic performances.  

For Barbie, Margot Robbie, Michael Cera and Will Ferrell play their roles well.  

Ryan Gosling shines the brightest, in my opinion.  

He knocked this one out of the park for someone not mainly known for comedic roles.   

Oppenheimer sports memorable performances in its own right from Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh and Robert Downey Jr.  

Not enough people are talking about how good Emily Blunt was as Kitty Oppenheimer.  

I bought into the role and felt her acting seriously elevated her character.  

One striking aspect of both films is the colour.  

It’s what makes both films so distinct from one another, and it is something both films use to create meaning.  

In Barbie, the grotesque amount of pink and other bright colours in the Barbie world perfectly matches the inhabitants.  

It also serves as a perfect visual contrast to the real world, which Barbie and Ken eventually visit.  

For Oppenheimer, the muted tones are apt for the period and the often depressing subject matter.  

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Of course, more vibrant colors are also apparent throughout the film, but they become more impactful due to the muted surroundings. While both films thoroughly entertained me, they both had their own respective flaws.  

The way the political messaging is presented in Barbie isn’t subtle.  

It hits you over the head with ideology, which doesn’t lead to effective communication with the audience.  

The film also takes this message very seriously, which clashes with the otherwise laid-back tone of Barbie.  

Oppenheimer’s greatest issue is the pacing, specifically during the film’s first half. Characters talk too quickly, their dynamics become confused, and it feels like no scene lasts longer than a minute.  

Scenes need time to breathe to enjoy and understand them fully.  

The film’s better second half largely mitigates this issue, but the pacing is an issue that significantly drags down the beginning of Oppenheimer.  

So, which film is better?  

Oppenheimer beats out Barbie by a slim margin if you ask me, but that may be due to my preference for the subject matter. All I know for sure is that box office numbers and flaws be damned, this summer had two blockbusters that genuinely delivered. 

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