Barbenheimer: Ken Edgemont Decide?
On April 15, 2022, it was announced that Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer were to be theatrically released on the same day: July 21, 2023. Outside of being released on the same day, these two films couldn’t be more different; Barbie is a fantastical comedy about the iconic female playdoll, while Oppenheimer is an epic biopic thriller about the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “Father of the Atomic Bomb.” It was the irony in the linking of these two polar opposites that attracted audiences worldwide, inspired memes across social media and led to the cultural phenomenon known as “Barbenheimer.”
Leading up to the simultaneous release of the films, many debated which movie would be better overall and which would have the better box office performance. While Barbie outperformed Oppenheimer financially – earning over $1.4 billion dollars, making it the highest grossing film of the year and the 14th-highest grossing film of all time – Oppenheimer impressed the critics more, receiving scores of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.6 on IMDb as compared to Barbie’s 88% and 7.1. Regardless, both films were incredibly successful and are, deservingly, critically and publicly acclaimed.
But what did Edgemont think? Matthew Howard (‘25) told Campus that “Barbie was a very good movie with the director really leaning into the animated world of Barbie.” Since Barbie is already such a recognizable icon in pop culture, many viewers were impressed with Gerwig’s ability to make the Barbie world unique while still staying true to its roots. On the other hand, Howard said that Oppenheimer was “a very intriguing movie about a confusing man who is confused about his own ideas…it makes you question the morality of his actions.” Even though these movies couldn’t be more different, Edgemont students are clearly still able to enjoy and find theatrical value in both.
That doesn’t go for everyone, though, as some, unlike Howard, seemed to think that Barbie was a letdown in Oppenheimer’s shadow. “Oppenheimer set such a high standard that Barbie simply wasn’t as good in comparison,” said Abhinav Ganesh (25’). This opinion was also reflected in many students’ adjectives used to describe the two films. Oppenheimer was “unparalleled,” “sensational,” “a cinematic masterpiece,” “immersive,” “gripping,” “thrilling,” “intriguing,” and “goated”; however, Barbie was described with terms such as “good,” “fine,” “fun,” “not memorable,” and “funnier than expected.”
Students didn’t seem to be nearly as excited or descriptive of Barbie as they were of Oppenheimer. Their impressions of Barbie were bland – not super memorable nor something they wanted to talk about. Oppenheimer, on the other hand, got Edgemont students going, using words commonly reserved for English class alone. In fact, it was difficult to find someone who had watched both movies and enjoyed Barbie more than Oppenheimer. That was until I came across Mr. Lograsso, the band teacher, who said that “Barbie was a lot of fun” and a “much more enjoyable experience than Oppenheimer.”
Out of all the people I asked about “Barbenheimer,” only 5 students had seen both films – most had seen one, but many hadn’t seen either film. Of the students who watched both, 80% (4 of the 5) liked Oppenheimer more. It appears to have resonated with the pupils of Edgemont Jr./Sr High School in a way that Barbie couldn’t. From my research, it was Oppenheimer’s more mature and intense subject matter that students enjoyed and appreciated more than Barbie’s fun and goofy vibe. Also, it doesn’t hurt that one of the movies has a 10-minute scene of an insane explosion while the other doesn’t.
As for me, I was at sleepaway camp when “Barbenheimer” took the movie scene by storm, but even there – in a society with zero social contact – people were excited, anticipating their viewings and sharing passionate opinions. I watched Oppenheimer in theaters and absolutely loved it. I was captivated by the visuals and loved the grand cinematic experience of it all. I didn’t get around to watching Barbie until much later and unfortunately wasn’t able to watch it in theaters, which may have skewed my opinion.
I thought Barbie was a fun, creative movie with great visual work and perfect casting. Although it was over the top at times, I enjoyed much of the comedy throughout. Regardless of what people think, “Barbenheimer” was undeniably great for the film industry. It got people back to watching movies, talking about movies, and, most of all, going to the theater in masses – something that hadn’t happened since pre-Covid times. On the plus side, they’re both great, original movies not Marvel or another huge franchise. So whether or not you like bombs or Barbies, Barbenheimer is Kenough for Edgemont.