Oppenheimer - Game Infinite Review
Placing Oppenheimer at the bottom of my Nolan Ranked list may make it seem like I hated the film. I don't. In fact, it surprised me where it landed. But when I asked myself...which movies on this list would I least want to watch again...It was crazy even to me how Oppenheimer was the answer. It's spot may also give the impression that I maybe just don't like biopics. I do. One of my favorite movies of the year is very surprisingly a film about the origin of Nike. I care neither about sports or shoes, and somehow a historical character drama about the early days of Nike made for a fantastic film. I enjoy good historical films, slow character dramas, and slow narrative focused biopics.
Oppenheimer is an entertaining and well shot film, and something I would recommend watching (maybe once it's free on a streaming service). However, I feel misled with the marketing. I also am absolutely baffled by the focus of the film.
This movie is 3 hours long, and it has a LOT of just dialogue. Now here's the thing. If all that 3 hours of dialogue was focused on the science that went into the Manhattan Project, or the evolution of our knowledge physics like I was watching a very serious episode of Big Bang Theory with a lot of techno babble, then that would have been good. I expected a lot more SCIENCE. Yes, there's some in there, but way less than you'd expect for 3 hours of scientists talking. I expected more science, almost like a historical sci-fi film without the "fi". Interstellar or even Inception's pseudo-science, heck even Nolan's film about MAGICIANS had more science than this film. For a film about one of history's most important physicists, I was surprised how little science takes of the screen time. Perhaps the film could have focused on the moral quandaries, which was definitely a larger theme, but even that felt like a subplot to the story. The film has too little debate on the morals of dropping this bomb on cities for its three hour run time.
So what takes up the majority of this run time? The majority of the film focuses on the wrong thing. Not the bomb, but years after the bomb Oppenheimer in a review board discussing his security clearance while a character you've never heard of also is trying to be cleared for the President's Cabinet, a lengthy scene where Oppenheimer isn't even present. It's just very odd how so much of the movie is focused on a character no one knows of or cares about, and how so much of the plot is focused on two events that have NOTHING to really do with the building of the bomb. It's not that it's three hours of dialogue...it's that it is three hours of dialogue where 80% of it feels very unnecessary. The big plot twist reveal that Iron Man is the bad guy all along was just ...dumb. Now let's get to the biggest WHIFF of the film. I knew going into this that the movie was three hours long. A big part of the movie's heavy marketing was that the film featured "no cgi". This was to include the Bomb scene. There was much pre-release discussion on how big an undertaking it must have been to recreate the trinity test / atomic bomb with practical effect only. News articles dropped about how impressive this film was to be visually. In this era where "CGI" has become a bad word thanks to the ridiculous "cartoonification" by Marvel and Disney, this seemed to be a huge selling point. Practical Effects often can look way better than CGI. It was reported that some theaters even had to retrofit their projectors to handle the insanely large max reels for the film. No CGI was a mistake. My biggest disappointment of the film was the actually trinity test itself. I would forgive 3 hours of often boring dialogue if the 30 seconds of the REASON WE SAW THE FILM was actually worth it. This is a perfect time where maybe going for "realism" in the difficulty of viewing such bright phenomena, or the "practical effects" just don't do it justice. In fact, I thought it was pretty unimpressive.
I was expecting the see the screen light up the entire room. I was expecting to be BLOWN AWAY. So much hype was built up for this explosion scene and it was just...awkwardly bad. It was also strangely silent. You can uses silence to build hype for a sonic boom...but it was just not done well. The tenseness of the moment was conveyed, but the explosion was somehow underwhelming. The trinity test was about 2 hours into the film...so at first I thought they were taking a Godzilla 2014 approach. Tease and not pay off until the end. Don't really show Godzilla until the grand finale. The trinity test was like the tiny little glance they were building up to the Hiroshima explosion right? Wrong. If the trinity test was to the be the tease to a grande finale then it would be worth it.
But the Hiroshima explosion is NOT SEEN ON SCREEN. It is heard about on a radio. Imagine waiting 3 hours for a decent nuclear explosion scene and getting a radio broadcast. With CGI or even practical effects, today's technology, the trinity test and the Hiroshima explosions should have been way more impressive. I've seen more visually impressive explosions in much older films.
Look, It's not just that I want the "big boom is pretty". If I only was satisfied with a "big boom" I can see any Michael Bay film. But this entire films premise is the existential dread of this massive bomb, the size of it, how just unbelievably massive it is. How it just vaporizes everything within a massive radius. It is a film designed to give us a new appreciation of the responsibility that comes with it...that needs to be SEEN. That needs to be CONVEYED. it just feels small. There's not even the moral ickiness of showing the explosion in all its glory...as the Trinity test at least killed no one.
I don't want it to seem like I hated the film, but I was dissapointed. The best I can say about it is that the acting was superb. I felt like Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, and Florence Pugh were phenomenally casted, so well acted from all. If it were not for their acting this film would honestly have been insufferable. This film's hour too long run time and disappointing pay off would flop without their S tier performances.