Should you see ‘Barbie’ or ‘Oppenheimer’ this weekend? Critics weigh

Here's what critics are saying about Oppenheimer and Barbie.  (Photos: Everett Collection)

Here’s what the critics are saying Oppenheimer And Barbie. (Photos: Everett Collection)

Hope you’ve banked your Ken-ergy, because “Barbenheimer” is finally upon us. After weeks of hype before the release, the strange duo of Barbie And Oppenheimer are now playing in multiplexes nationwide. Movie chains like AMC are already touting big pre-sales for double bills from Greta Gerwig’s toy-based fantasy and Christopher Nolan’s factual biopic as a sign that moviegoers are more invested in these original summer films than sequels like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate and the seventh Impossible mission movie – both of which debuted below opening weekend expectations.

For audiences who are not seeing both films, the popular choice seems clear. All projections indicate that Barbie is going to be one hell of a box office bash, easily surpassing $100 million in its opening weekend and possibly reaching as high as $140 million, which would be a new high for a movie directed by a female filmmaker. In the meantime, Oppenheimer hope to win half of Barbiethe first weekend raw, but will hang around in theaters for the rest of the summer hoping the elusive audience for adult-targeted fare will show up.

But what movie should You visit ? Here is a sample of how Barbie And Oppenheimer play with the critics, and what the directors themselves think of “Barbenheimer”.

What’s the hot take on Barbie?

Margot Robbie in Greta Gerwig's Barbie.  (Photo: courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Margot Robbie in Greta Gerwig Barbie. (Photo: courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Barbie is not your typical toy movie

A thoughtful, thunderous film whose marketing has been so strong and relentless that skeptics who have been put off by all the hype might be surprised to find a moving film beneath all the lingering fuchsia served to them out of context. One with heart and ambition as well as abundant beauty, inside and out. — Tomris Laffly, The Envelope

Margot Robbie East Barbie

Robbie takes a long-dismissed archetype as a bold caricature and, moment by moment deeply felt, teases and fleshes it out. With her beaming smiles and goofy, graceful physique, she inhabits Barbie’s glamor and uprightness as easily as she inhabits her bright pink bell bottoms. But she also gradually punches through those upbeat vibes with quivering notes of vulnerability and forebodings of doom, just as her Barbie notices a patch of cellulite and starts having incongruous thoughts of death. — Justin Chang, The Los Angeles Times

Ryan Gosling is just Ken-tastic

Let the Best Supporting Actor campaign begin now for Gosling’s work as Ken… Few actors have ever seemed to have this level of communion with a role, and Gosling brings out all the flavors that come with Gerwig’s approach to the character and his importance to the story. There are times when Gosling looks downright ridiculous in this film, in a way that feels a lot braver than riding a motorcycle off a mountain, and is therefore a lot more powerful (and hilarious). — Liz Shannon Miller, Consequence

But the film is not what the trailers promise

Gerwig spends way too much screen time analyzing what he means to make a Barbie movie in 2023, and far too little time to tell that story. The result is a cinematic collection of philosophical conversations about Barbie’s historic relationship with the feminist movement, interrupted by comic relief from Gosling, Kate McKinnon and Simu Liu, and tied together by the story of how Barbie and her real-world owner use their philosophical conversations to destroy the growing patriarchy in Barbie society. — Joshua Medintz, Cincinnati Investigator

And politics gets in the way of history

However, Gerwig is smartly made Barbie that is to say that an anxiety haunts the whole exercise. The director managed to etch her signature and extract deeper themes from a rigid frame, but the sacrifices to the story are clear. The muddled politics and flat emotional landing of Barbie are signs that the image ultimately serves a brand. It wouldn’t be so concerning if the movies’ future weren’t marred by Mattel’s franchise ambitions. After all, we can’t learn all of our humanistic lessons from corporate toymakers. — Lovia Gyarkye, the Hollywood journalist

What’s the hot take on Oppenheimer?

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer by Christopher Nolan.  (Photo: Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Cillian Murphy in Christopher Nolan Oppenheimer. (Photo: Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection)

It’s full of fiery drama

A feverish three-hour immersion into the life of Manhattan Project mastermind J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) is balanced between shock and retort of the terrible revelation, as one character calls it, of divine power. There are moments in Nolan’s latest installment where flames fill the frame and visions of subatomic particles flicker across the screen – montages of Oppenheimer’s own visions. But despite all the immensity of Oppenheimer, it’s Nolan’s most human-scale film – and one of his greatest accomplishments. — Jake Coyle, Associated Press

At the center of this maelstrom is Oppenheimer, whom Nolan brags to the point of having him don his trademark hat and coat as if he were Bruce Wayne donning his Batsuit. Murphy imbues the scientist with so many traits, impulses and bellicose instincts – he is unrivaled in insight and blind to his own flaws; ambitious and uncomfortable in the spotlight; master of himself and ultimately uncertain of his choices – that his face resounds like a topographical map of his increasingly tormented soul. It is a magnificent marquee tour of the Peaky Blinders star (and frequent collaborator with Nolan), providing micro and macro concept of the physicist’s internal and external battles. — Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

But it omits crucial historical context

Once the bomb is detonated, however, Nolan struggles to convey the immensity of the cross Oppenheimer must have carried. Oppenheimer becomes frustratingly vague just when it seems ready to reckon with the unique burden of its namesake’s brilliance. We don’t see Hiroshima and Nagasaki because Oppenheimer doesn’t see Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but by this logic we should at least be aware of Oppenheimer’s thoughts – as conflicting as they must be – because Oppenheimer is tormented by them non-stop. — David Ehrlich, Indiewire

And the film’s excessive style is getting boring

Where the style is far less effective, it forces the audience into submission with little substance behind it. Ludwig Göransson wrote a good score, but the constant use of it is exhausting… Oppenheimer just goes through historical events with an oppressive score. Nolan doesn’t need to play music while Oppenheimer just engages in dialogue in a classroom. Just let a few scenes breathe. — Fred Topel, UPI

What did Gerwig and Nolan say about each other’s movies?

SANTA BARBARA, CA – FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) Greta Gerwig, Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan appear on stage before receiving the Outstanding Directors Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on February 6, 2018 in Santa Barbara, California.  (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Dom Perignon)

Greta Gerwig, Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan appear on stage before receiving the Outstanding Directors Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on February 6, 2018 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Dom Pérignon)

“It’s all about love – double up, double up twice. I think you have to see what the experience is, Barbie SO Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer SO Barbie. I think you have to do all the trips.” — Greta Gerwig speaking to The Hollywood Reporter

“Summer in a healthy market is always crowded, and we’ve been doing that for a long time. I think for those of us who care about movies, we’ve been really waiting to have a crowded market again, and now it’s here and it’s great.” — Christopher Nolan speaking to IGN

Barbie And Oppenheimer are playing in theaters now; visit Fandango for schedule and ticket information.

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