The reviews are in for the box office head-to-head showdown of the summer.
On Tuesday, the critic embargo lifted for Barbie. On Wednesday, reviews were posted for Oppenheimer.
Below is a round-up of some what’s being said by top critics about both films opening this week.
But first: Which has scored higher, on average?
Both Barbie and Oppenheimer are getting overwhelmingly positive reviews. According to Rotten Tomatoes, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie starring Margot Robbie as the doll icon has a very fashionable 89 percent positive score. While Christopher Nolan’s historical drama Oppenheimer starring Cillian Murphy is just slightly more explosive at 93 percent. (Reviews are still being posted for Oppenheimerso its score could shift and this story will be updated if/when it does).
In terms of box office, their contest is not expected to be nearly as tight. Barbie is estimated to bring in $90 to $110 million across its opening weekend, while Oppenheimer (partially hindered by its three-hour running time) is expected to tally about $40 to $49 million.
Here’s some of the review highlights for Barbie:
The News84Media: “Gerwig delights in the richness and weirdness of her material in this clever send-up of Barbie dolls and their fraught legacy. It’s impressive how much the director, known for her shrewd and narratively precise dramas, has fit into a corporate movie. Barbie is driven by jokes — sometimes laugh-out-loud, always chuckle-worthy — that poke light fun at Mattel, prod the ridiculousness of the doll’s lore and gesture at the contradictions of our sexist society … However smartly done Gerwig’s Barbie is, an ominousness haunts the entire exercise…. The muddied politics and flat emotional landing of Barbie are signs that the picture ultimately serves a brand.”
BBC: “It’s not just a genuinely funny and warm-hearted live-action comedy – and there aren’t many of those around these days – but an art-house passion project so bold, inventive and politically charged that it is sure to be nominated for all sorts of awards. Barbie as a best picture nominee at the 2024 Oscars? I wouldn’t bet against it.”
NPR: “Barbie isn’t just a movie that could never fully escape from under the weight of its artistic compromises. It’s a hoot, a feast for the eyes and ears. Sarah Greenwood’s production design is sensorially astounding … It’s a movie that sits at an interesting inflection point in moviemaking and movie consumption, when almost every idea seems born from a pre-existing product … Something like Barbie lays that tension bare and exposed in its unabashed commercialism and heightened sensibilities, so that you can’t not think about how its aims may be at odds with its execution. But that’s also part of what makes it such an interesting oddity to witness. It’s a Barbie world you’ll be more than happy to have visited, even as it confounds.”
LA Times: “Greta Gerwig’s Barbiean exuberant, sometimes exhaustingly clever piece of Mattelian neorealism… Whatever you think of Barbie, the mere existence of this smart, funny, conceptually playful, sartorially dazzling comic fantasy speaks to the irreverent wit and meta-critical sensibility of its director…. Gerwig has conceived Barbie as a bubble-gum emulsion of silliness and sophistication, a picture that both promotes and deconstructs its own brand. It doesn’t just mean to renew the endless “Barbie: good or bad?” debate It wants to enact that debate, to vigorously argue both positions for the better part of two fast-moving, furiously multitasking hours.”
Vulture: “It has worthwhile aspects, like Robbie, who in addition to looking the part, is as capable of heartbreaking earnestness as humor, and who sometimes effortlessly achieves both at once … Gosling comes close to stealing the movie as a Ken who lacks any sense of purpose outside of his mandated devotion to Barbie; he’s a floppy himbo whose every posture is an act of physical comedy … There’s a streak of defensiveness to Barbieas though it’s trying to anticipate and acknowledge any critiques lodged against it before they’re made, which renders it emotionally inert despite the efforts at wackiness … But the trouble with trying to sneak subversive ideas into a project so inherently compromised is that, rather than get away with something, you might just create a new way for a brand to sell itself.”
And here are some of the major reviews for Oppenheimer:
The News84Media: “Both a probing character study and a sweeping account of history, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is a brainy, brawny thriller about the man who led the Manhattan Project to build the bomb that ended World War II. To dispense with the inevitable weapon of mass destruction metaphors, it’s more slow-burn than explosive. But perhaps the most surprising element of this audacious epic is that the scramble for atomic armament ends up secondary to the scathing depiction of political gamesmanship, as one of the most brilliant scientific minds of the 20th century is vilified for voicing learned opinions that go against America’s arms-race thinking.”
AV Club: “Oppenheimer deserves the title of masterpiece. It’s Christopher Nolan’s best film so far, a step up to a new level for one of our finest filmmakers and a movie that burns itself into your brain … It’s a remarkable exercise in narrative balance, and it’s made all the more impressive by the sheer mythic quality of the story of a man who took command of primal, incomprehensibly destructive forces, then spent the rest of his life collapsing under the weight of what he’d unleashed.”
Mashable: For Nolan devotees, there’s plenty in Oppenheimer to marvel over, from its incredible ensemble’s crackling chemistry to Ludwig Göransson’s immersive and disturbing score, to a corner of modern history that challenges audiences with complex moral questions and unapologetic dread. But after a year’s worth of anticipation — and a rivalry with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie — can Oppenheimer Live up to the hype as Nolan’s best film yet? From where I stand, no… my patience wore thin as the director gave into one of his favorite indulgences: a bleeding soundscape. The music, which screams with strings, horns and even Geiger counter noise, is sensational in its swelling but also is used without remorse throughout. Oppenheimer.”
The New York Times: “It’s a dense, event-filled story that Nolan — who’s long embraced the plasticity of the film medium — has given a complex structure, which he parcels into revealing sections … The film’s virtuosity is evident in every frame, but this is virtuosity without self-aggrandizement. Big subjects can turn even well-intentioned filmmakers into show-offs, to the point that they upstage the history they seek to do justice to. Nolan avoids that trap by insistently putting Oppenheimer into a larger context, notably with the black-and-white portions.”
The Daily Beast: “Oppenheimer—a film of endless contrasts and contradictions—is the fullest expression of the writer/director’s artistry to date. Propelled by the inexorable march of progress and imagination and electrified by the terrible thrill of theories, dreams and miracles realized in all their devastating glory, it’s a divided epic of awe and horror, fission and fusion. It’s simultaneously a unified portrait of a conflicted man and a singular achievement for Hollywood’s reigning blockbuster auteur….There’s an embarrassment of riches to digest, savor and mull over in this saga, which touches upon the exhilaration of scientific discovery, the fear of inventing something over which the inventor has no control and the alarming consequences of paving a historic path, especially when it leads directly to Pandora’s Box.”
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