I am Death, Destroyer of Worlds (And He’s Just Ken)

By: Seth Jefferson Maquiling, Vanni Marzo
July 29, 2023

Artwork by Eah Dino of The LANCE.


Filipino moviegoers saw the back-to-back release of the films Barbie and Oppenheimer on July 19, 2023, which resulted in an internet phenomenon called “Barbenheimer”. Two seemingly thematic opposites that resulted in breaking their box-office expectations as viewers purchase tickets for either of the two, even both.

The Barbenheimer trend is not exactly new as several twin releases throughout the years have ended up in a similar situation with films, such as Mamma Mia and the Dark Knight and Deep Impact and Armageddon.


Fission and Fusion

Directed by Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer” is a biopic film following the American theoretical physicist and Father of the Atomic Bomb Julius Robert Oppenheimer, who is played by Cillian Murphy. He is with a cast lineup consisting of the likes of Florence Pugh, Emily Blunt, and Matt Damon.

Nolan tries to reconcile the different facets of the man behind the bomb, such as his love for science and the conflicts that made up his adult life. The film also dives into different perspectives and timelines, where the color even shifts from black and white to technicolor. The contrast of aesthetics is a great juxtaposition of subjectivity against objectivity.

The film is in technicolor when Oppenheimer narrates his experiences, signifying his point of view. Here, Oppenheimer’s struggles, his joys, and his fears are shown as images of atoms and molecules symbolize his mind and the beauty of science. 

On the other hand, black and white is strictly the domain of Lewis Strauss - played by Robert Downey Jr. - initially a friend but turned nemesis. This point of view shows his actions from a more clinical perspective and the consequences of his actions rippling throughout history, giving it a cold feeling.

Lead actor Cillian Murphy and director Christopher Nolan also had a bit to say about the character and the movie itself.

“I thought it was naive of him to think that you could create this genocidal weapon and think that it would end all wars or that governments and countries would work together to restrict nuclear armament or proliferation and I think we all see now that was incredibly naive, but that’s what makes him so fascinating,” says Murphy on his character.

“It is an intense experience, because it’s an intense story. I showed it to a filmmaker recently who said it’s kind of a horror movie. I don’t disagree,” Nolan says.

The existence of the atomic bomb itself is controversial as debates continue whether its creation was a war crime or a necessary evil. Oppenheimer wanted to prevent the nuclear fallout that could occur should Nazi Germany develop the bomb first. The bomb itself was tested in the deserts of New Mexico in 1945, about a month before the fateful destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nolan’s epic is a cautionary tale of the destruction humanity is capable of and a frank reminder of the horrors of war.

This Barbie is Hungry

Directed by Greta Gerwig, “Barbie” talks about the true meaning of womanhood. It stars Margot Robbie as Barbie herself and Ryan Gosling as Ken, along with other known actors, such as Kate McKinnon and Will Ferrell.  

Barbie is a known icon for little girls out there: women can be anything they want without feeling the need to rely on others. However, with the rise of feminism, the doll was placed in the question of how it reinstated the negative expectations placed upon women. 

With that, the film shows the everyday lives of females around the world and how the world still caters to men. The movie takes its viewers on a confusing yet comforting rollercoaster that ends with a question and a burning need to want more.

Gerwig talks about not shying away from the issues that Barbie has faced over the years. "One thing we really wanted to do was look at this complicated icon from all angles, but always approach everything with a big heart," adding how they wanted to hug every character. 

“I just didn’t ever expect to have so many big, profound conversations about the meaning of life or what true happiness is,” Margot Robbie says. 

The story is a love letter to women with Gloria’s character - played by America Ferrera - mirroring the beauty of being an Ordinary Barbie with no distinct characterization at all, and yet still manages to be everything good about being ordinary. It rejects the notion that women have to be the best at what they want to be. 

The montage, filled with women from all walks of life, revealed to Barbie that her dread for the things that made people human is also what made it glorious. Gerwig skillfully redefined what Barbie meant, showing the conundrums of femininity and the debilitating feeling of being judged. 

It left an unsatisfactory hunger, coupled with the exhausting thought some people would still not get it. The hunger for a world where women can be more and be everything they dream to be without fear – may it be a mother, a president, a doctor, or simply a woman.