Yesterday, I watched Oppenheimer in theaters. And not just in any old theater. I watched it at Harkins in Arizona Mills, one of about 30 theaters in the entire world to have the equipment to project 70mm IMAX, which Oppenheimer was presented in. And I gotta say, it was quite an experience.
My little memento from the theater :)
First, I went to the mall.
Arizona Mills is kind of a neat mall, it’s great for walking around in and certainly has some interesting stores. I was particularly interested in the stores with figures and stuff, but I also saw some other neat places and things, and even ate the GOAT of mall food, Auntie Anne’s. Here’s some pictures:
A neat sign I saw at Ross
The famous Rainforest Cafe from Eddy Burback and Ted Nivison's videos
The best mall food ever
After walking around the mall for an hour and a half, I made my way to the theater.
The movie itself
The movie was quite interesting. To be honest, I haven’t really watched much of director Christopher Nolan’s films. I’ve only seen the Dark Knight Trilogy and Interstellar, so I’m not terribly familiar with his films. However, from what I’ve gathered from my friends, some of his films can be confusing and hard to follow, and I felt that in this movie.
I’m not sure if it’s the exact same issue in his other films, but in Oppenheimer, the story is split into three timelines: one with the story of Oppenheimer and the build up to the atomic bomb (and its eventual dropping on Japan), another from 1954 where he is in a hearing relating to his security clearance, and another in 1959 relating to another character in the movie, Lewis Strauss, and his confirmation as Secretary of Commerce. I had to look that up on Wikipedia to get the details, but yeah. The issue with this is that there’s so much to take into account, and the movie doesn’t make it entirely obvious at times when it takes place.
The movie’s pacing is also pretty FAST, which is impressive, considering its whopping 3 HOUR RUNTIME. Dialogue goes fast, and for me, most of it went from one ear and out the other. It was really hard for me to comprehend what was going on, especially in the second half of the movie. Speaking of the second half…
The second half
I’ve heard that some people don’t like this movie due to how much of the movie isn’t actually focused on the bomb, which is still a lot of the focus, but a decent chunk isn’t, and that’s because this movie isn’t about the bomb or it being dropped (they don’t even show it being dropped in Japan), this is a movie about Oppenheimer. His life. His troubles. All that is the focus, not the bomb. It plays a huge part, but isn’t the main focus, and that might turn some people off.
The bomb is dropped about half way through, I believe, and the rest of the movie is the aftermath of the bomb and not only Oppenheimer’s image being destroyed, but also the drama of other characters, mainly Lewis Strauss, who engineered Oppenheimer’s downfall as revenge for Oppenheimer humiliating him and supposedly turning people against him. The drama is interesting, but again, it kinda went from one ear out the other. It was hard for me to comprehend what was going on a lot, and I think that’s mainly what this film’s primary issue is for me, so I won’t go repeating myself. I think honestly that’s really the only major issue for me, if at all. So I want to talk about the good things about this movie, which is a lot.
The part where I gush about how great this movie is
The biggest part of this movie for me was the cinematography and the experience of watching it in 70mm IMAX, but I’ll save that for last since I have a lot to talk about there, so I’ll start off with another great point: the acting.
Cillian Murphy does an AMAZING job playing Oppenheimer. It’s crazy how similar he looks to the real Oppenheimer and also how great his acting is in general. I can’t really pinpoint one single high point of it, it’s just all around great for me, and I hope he gets awards for it and all that because this was an award-winning performance for me. And while Cillian Murphy did an amazing job, I was also so surprised to see a bunch of other actors in this movie that I didn’t expect. I went into this movie blind, so I didn’t know what to expect, so when I saw Lewis Strauss, I asked myself “…Wait, is that Robert Downey Jr.?”, to which I got an answer to in the credits when I saw his name. WHAT!!! It’s weird seeing him in a role that’s not Iron Man, and he kills it. Even Devon Bostick, RODRICK FROM DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, is in this movie, which caught me really off guard, even if he is just a minor character. They brought a lot of great people in here, and everyone does an exceptional job, and it really ties the whole movie together.
Another part is the visuals of the movie itself. Supposedly, this movie uses NO COMPUTER GENERATED EFFECTS. Even for the bomb explosions, which is crazy to me. It really grounds this movie in reality and pulls you into the world of Oppenheimer in a way that CG wouldn’t be able to do.
The way the movie dramatizes things and makes you feel is crazy. When they were prepping to detonate the bomb for Trinity, I was literally gripping my seat in suspense, my heart was beating, because I KNEW WHAT WAS COMING, I just didn’t know how. This movie has a lot of scenes that really feel intense, like the scene where Kitty is in the interrogation room and answering the questions, and the scene where Oppenheimer is in the auditorium with the people cheering at him, and him imagining the skin melting off the people and the charred corpses, the blinding light, the deafening noise of the bomb, it’s seriously crazy awesome.
The soundtrack in this movie is surreal. It’s crazy how amazing the soundtrack is, it makes you feel like your soul is leaving your body. When these tracks play on top of scenes, they really add into the illusion of just sucking you into the movie.
Here’s a couple of tracks that I really liked:
And now, I want to talk about what excited me the most about this movie.
My first time watching a movie on film
This movie was made entirely on film, primarily on standard 65mm film, but many scenes are also filmed on 65mm IMAX film reels. And it REALLY shows. This movie looks CRISP on 70mm. When the IMAX shots pop up on screen, they REALLY POP. They look super sharp and vivid. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a movie on film, so I’m happy it was with this movie because I feel like the way the movie was made, with its cinematography, its new breakthroughs in IMAX technology (the first movie to use black-and-white IMAX film, which was made specifically for this movie), and the person behind the movie caring so much about the film format, allowed the movie to really show the best aspects of not only IMAX, but film as a whole.
Film as a format is dying. Not many theaters have the technology to show movies on film anymore, and not many movies are on film, with most of them being made digitally. 35mm is more common as it’s been the standard for movies on film, but 70mm is an even more obscure breed, and only around 30 theaters in the world have the projectors to show 70mm IMAX films. It’s thanks to Christopher Nolan and his love for film that we have movies like Oppenheimer keeping film alive and even now, pushing the boundaries of the format. I hope that Nolan’s efforts to keep film alive pays off and that, somehow, film becomes a format that, while no longer being the standard for film anymore, can still be a format that is accessible to people years from now.
Watching Oppenheimer itself was quite an interesting experience, let alone watching it on film. The movie itself, while somewhat jarring at times, does an excellent job peeking into the mind of Oppenheimer and his history with the atomic bomb and providing a surreal viewing experience for movie-goers. This movie also does an excellent job as a showcase for IMAX and film as a format through its boundary-pushing technological feats and fantastic cinematography, and takes full advantage of the film format. I highly recommend watching this film, but I recommend watching it on 70mm EVEN MORE.