It’s known for being the polar opposite of Barbie, but viewing it in 70mm IMAX begs the question – where to go from here?
It’s the projector-breaking phenomenon only slightly overshadowed by Greta Gerwig’s nation-sweeping Mattel fantasy.
Christopher Nolan’s latest is, of course, Oppenheimer, about the late “father of the atomic bomb.” The three-hour epic is being talked about, though, for not just its story – but its sheer challenge to the medium of film as well. Nolan has bragged about laying IMAX cameras worth hundreds of thousands to waste. There is zero CGI – well, apart from this. The film reel of the 70mm variant is the talk of the town, eleven miles long and weighing hundreds of pounds. IMAX specialists are being brought out of retirement to help with the showings. It’s special, and Nolan and the film lords are bringing this all-encompassing spectacle to just 2.5 dozen theaters worldwide.
Is losing this very niche film-watching virginity worth it? Over a Barbie night with the gals?
More to the point, did the immense effort Nolan go to in crafting the ultimate in cinematic experiences pay off in a world where attention spans are being brought further and further to that of the goldfish?
I, for one, lucked out and witnessed the full 70mm print reeled out on larger-than-life IMAX. No projector cracked. No “Sorry folks, we’ll try to get this going again.” No glitches – it was the Übermensch of the bigger-than-big screen the way Nolan dreamed of. With this baggage in mind, it’s tough to watch Oppenheimer as a movie, and easier to see it as proof of concept. As a whole, the film did drag at points – I say this as a Gen-Z well aware that everything needs to be under a minute. Thus, little moments, like the climactic bomb test, left the theater pin-drop silent and pulled me into cinematic magic the way audiences in 1927 felt with the sound of The Jazz Singer. The dynamic range of the bomb’s roar and sonic void preceding it were made all the more impactful by the visuals, lush and warm to a degree that may not seem significant but gives Barbie’s day-glo a run for its money. That’s film for ya!
I saw Barbie right after, and it’s just as brilliant in a different way. Greta Gerwig is a fitting flipside to the Nolan coin – she’s a genius and knew how to execute her vision to the fullest. Oppenheimer, by comparison, might seem a bit bloated, masturbatory, and unnecessary. Yet, having witnessed the white whale of film’s apex, I humbly suggest fitting it in before Barbie (personal preference) should you be within driving distance of one of the theaters presenting it in 70mm IMAX. Somewhere far away, Mr. Nolan will be throwing a half-million-dollar camera down the Grand Canyon in the name of the old school, and thanking you.