Christopher Nolan’s new film (Memento – 92%, Interstellar – 71%, The Origin – 86%) has not only conquered the public and critics, but also filmmakers of the stature of Paul Thomas Anderson and Denis Villeneuve, and the latter has even rated Oppenheimer – 95% as a masterpiece, which I did not expect to become a huge box office success.
Currently the film has grossed US$912 million worldwide, an impressive figure for a production of its type, and that is what has surprised Villeneuve, who said that from the first time he saw the film he knew that it was about something great, but the three-hour duration and the fact that the plot revolves around the life of a physicist made him doubt that it could succeed among the public. In interview with Associated PressVilleneuve declared (via IndieWire):
Where it is now has blown my projection to pieces. It’s a three-hour movie about people talking about nuclear physics.
Emma Thomasproducer of Oppenheimer and wife of Nolan, declared to the same medium that the box office success has also far exceeded her expectations:
When you make a film, you hope to connect with the audience in one way or another. But, particularly with a three-hour film that has serious subject matter and is challenging in many ways, this kind of success is beyond our wildest dreams.
In IMAX screenings alone, Oppenheimer has grossed US$179 million, and Villeneuve believes that in the future we will see more attention in this type of format:
The future of cinema is IMAX and large formats. The public wants to see something that they can’t have at home, that they can’t have on streaming. They want to experience an event. There is this idea that, in some people’s minds, movies became ‘content’ rather than an art form. I hate that word, ‘content’. That films like Oppenheimer are released on the big screen and become an event highlights the idea that it is a tremendous art form that should be experienced in theaters.
Paul Thomas Anderson also spoke with AP and highlights the positive impact the film has had on the revitalization of 70mm film formats. According to him, the box office figures are proof of this. Anderson emphasizes that when a director of Chris Nolan’s stature guides you, it’s best to pay attention, and audiences have benefited from doing so.
Furthermore, he thinks that seeing Oppenheimer on a big screen is incomparably better than any other medium and that people no longer have to wonder why they should go to the cinema instead of staying at home watching television, suggesting that these types of cinema experiences could be a way to “heal” our relationship with big screen entertainment.
Throughout the film, the protagonist faces ethical and moral dilemmas, especially after the atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He is shown in conflict with other characters, such as General Leslie Groves and Lewis Strauss of the Atomic Energy Commission, as he navigates the political complexities of the postwar and Cold War. Finally, his stance against nuclear weapons puts him at odds with the United States administration and destroys his public career.
The film addresses profound questions about the responsibility and ethical consequences of scientific power, culminating in a conversation between Oppenheimer and Einstein about the apocalyptic potential of nuclear weapons. Awarded years later with the Enrico Fermi Prize, Oppenheimer questions whether his work has started a “chain reaction” that could lead to the destruction of humanity.
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