I Actually Did ‘Barbenheimer’ — Here’s How It Went
— Updated on 27 November 2023

I Actually Did ‘Barbenheimer’ — Here’s How It Went

— Updated on 27 November 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

There’s no denying it. Barbenheimer is the cinematic event of 2023. Potentially the entire decade.

Born out of a meme, this past weekend, the proposed double feature involving Christopher Nolan’s R-rated biopic Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie sent moviegoers to their local theatres in droves.

Already, they’ve generated over $174 million and $337 million in global box office revenue, respectively.

But was it worth all the ironic/non-ironic hype that eventually reached the rarefied spheres of each summer blockbuster’s directors; Hollywood’s saviour-cum-last movie star Tom Cruise (yes really); as well as noted auteur Quentin Tarantino himself?

I set out — jetlagged, mildly buzzed, and clad in various shades of pink — to personally investigate.

My Barbenheimer Schedule

12 PM — Arise from Sunday morning slumber, breakfast martini.

12:20 PM Second breakfast martini.

1:30 PM — Scroll on Instagram, suppress end-of-weekend dread.

2 PM — Change into Barbenheimer outfit: white singlet, salmon linen shirt, tan linen trousers, Adidas Superstars with neon pink laces, and neon pink ankle socks for Barbie; a pack of Benson & Hedges Classic Red and thousand-yard stare for Oppenheimer.

3:30 PM — As I’d opted for Sydney’s The Ritz which offers no designated seats, rock up half an hour early with Barbenheimer crew to claim ideal viewing positions; pre-screening martini.

4 PM — Oppenheimer begins.

I Actually Did Barbenheimer — Here's How It Went
I ain’t fkn around.

7 PM — Exit theatre, chain smoke; dinner (plus requisite beers) at Mammas & Papas Ristorante and Pizzeria.

8:45 PM — Barbie begins.

9:27 PM Question whether this was all worth it for the goddamn joke; wonder if this is why my parents don’t like me.

9:51 PM Decide it was indeed all worth it for the goddamn joke; there are definitely other reasons why my parents don’t like me.

10:55 PM Exit theatre, chainsmoke.

11:21 PM Arrive home, cold shower, stare into nothingness.

7 AM (following morning) Nirvana achieved.

Oppenheimer Review (Spoiler-Free)

As the first reactions had indicated, Oppenheimer is — in my personal opinion — Christopher Nolan’s most impressive film to date. Just not for the fantastical high-concept reasons you were expecting from the man whose name is practically synonymous with “summer blockbuster”; despite how impressive the practical nuclear bomb explosions were.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, this is a masterfully existential examination of the titular physicist portrayed by Cillian Murphy in a career-best performance.

Across three hours, Nolan’s Oppenheimer perfectly encapsulates the anxious race against the clock to produce a viable nuclear weapon before the Nazis; as well as the inherent paranoia of the era, which eventually gave rise to McCarthyism in the US, while raising questions of morality about a destructive world-ending power.

You can’t help but feel humanity has long been doomed by the Manhattan Project’s game-changing innovation; and by consistently broken mechanisms of politics.

I anticipate a good deal of Nolan diehards may take issue with the dialogue-heavy, oftentimes laborious nature of what we’re dealing with.

There’s also the near-comical littering of famous names; and key history book cameos can at times make this feel like an Avengers movie for World War II buffs: the likes of Albert Einstein (Tom Conti) and a certain unseen “young senator trying to make a name for himself” are hilariously comparable to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Chris Evans’ Captain America dropping in out of nowhere for an 11th-hour assist.

But hopefully, the pros will adequately shift the balance of the scales for the everyday punter. There’s the intriguing non-linear story structure (as per Christopher Nolan’s signature); a rousing score by Tenet composer Ludwig Goransson; and as always, breathtaking cinematography by serial Nolan collaborator Hoyte van Hoytema.

If for nothing else, the powerhouse performances from the cast are worth the price of admission. Outside of Cillian Murphy, who I’m already predicting has soundly earned himself an Oscar nomination for next year, every supporting player from Emily Blunt and Matt Damon to Robert Downey Jr and Jason Clarke absolutely kills it.

Barbie Review (Spoiler-Free)

As you’d expect, I have far less to say about Barbie.

Not just for the simple reason that it’s obviously far more light-hearted. While it offers its own messages about gender politics and what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, the subversive Greta Gerwig-helmed fantasy-comedy is more easy-consumption entertainment; as opposed to agonising about the status quo and so-called “attacks on masculinity” (which certain embarrassingly agitated pundits will have you believe).

It is a visual feast that is diametrically opposed to Oppenheimer in both aesthetic and ethos — yet no less existential. Following the journey of Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie), the naïve heroine is forced to venture beyond her plastic Plato’s cave (or “Barbieland”) when she’s afflicted by a higher form of sentience.

With himbo Ken (Ryan Gosling) in tow, it’s here in the “Real World” that she discovers being female isn’t the all-encompassing advantage it is in Barbieland. It’s also there that the overlooked and under-appreciated Ken discovers the perks of the patriarchy, and seeks to alter the feminist paradise back home for his own personal benefit.

Yes, some of the ideas presented may feel… heavy-handed. But bear in mind: this is meant to be a kid’s flick. Us internet weirdos are the ones who co-opted it for Barbenheimer. The whole thing is very much “take it or leave it.”

Gosling and Robbie were both born to play these roles, providing onscreen chemistry in spades — to the extent that I’ve never been keener to see what becomes of the Ocean’s 11 remake they’re both reportedly fronting. Michael Cera’s Allen was another standout.

The Barbenheimer Experience: All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

I Actually Did Barbenheimer — Here's How It Went

Although the entire Barbenheimer concept had evolved from an absurd internet joke that’s hilariously reminiscent of picking either the boy’s toy or the girl’s toy for your Happy Meal, I can’t help but feel one film almost necessitates the other.

Definitely start with Oppenheimer and finish with the low-calorie dessert that is Barbie; something of a psychic palate cleanser, if you will — one spells out mankind’s demise in painful detail, the other reminds us that life is worth living despite all its imperfections (that there’s nobility in the struggle).

To approach it any other way would be insanity and the neck-breaking tonal shift would likely send your vital systems into shock.

As for the question of whether doing the double’s worth the fuss, in my view: yes. A thousand times yes with the right crew of mates and sufficient grog in the system.

At the end of the day, however, there will invariably be a decent chunk of the moviegoing population who simply elect to view one over the other; perhaps one now and the other when it finally streams. Because make no mistake… this ain’t for the faint of heart.

It’s one thing to binge-watch over five hours of content from the comfort of your home. It’s another matter entirely to accomplish the same duration in a far grander format.

Whatever the case, cinema is back, baby!

There’s more where that came from: we watched and ranked every single Christopher Nolan movie. Check it out now.

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]