Martin Scorsese on Barbie and Oppenheimer’s Role in Cinema’s Revival

Director Martin Scorsese contemplates the impact of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” on the revival of cinema. The simultaneous release of both films on July 21, 2023, marked one of the biggest film events of the year, often referred to as “Barbenheimer.” This strategic joint release proved advantageous for both movies: “Barbie” became the highest-grossing film of the year, raking in an impressive $1.4 billion at the global box office, while “Oppenheimer” achieved a notable $939 million worldwide.

Scorsese delves into the significance of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” in an interview with Hindustan Times. While he confesses that he hasn’t seen either film, he expresses his respect for various members of their creative teams. Scorsese reflects on the unique combination of “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie,” describing it as a “perfect storm” where two vastly different films came together and captured the cultural zeitgeist in an intertwined manner. Ultimately, he emphasizes that what matters most is that people flocked to theaters to watch these films.

These comments from Scorsese follow his recent statements about the need to preserve cinema from the dominance of franchise-based superhero content. He has suggested that filmmakers like Christopher Nolan offer a way out of the era of “manufactured content” by bringing distinctive creative voices to the forefront. Scorsese’s thoughts on “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” add nuance to his concerns about the state of cinema. He doesn’t reject all mainstream content but rather criticizes films that he perceives as lacking depth and failing to provide genuine experiences to audiences.

However, the success of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” is not without its critiques. Some argue that Hollywood may have drawn the wrong lessons from these successes. Following “Barbie,” Mattel announced plans for several other toy-related films, including adaptations of Polly Pocket, Hot Wheels, and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Given “Barbie’s” groundbreaking achievement as the highest-grossing film directed by a woman, the industry’s emphasis on toy-based films post-“Barbie” has raised questions.

From an industry perspective, the “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” phenomenon may not have triggered the healthiest response from Hollywood. However, as Scorsese suggests, it undeniably played a crucial role in bringing audiences back to theaters in large numbers, particularly important in the post-pandemic landscape where cinemas have struggled for the past few years. Hopefully, those who returned for “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” will continue to recognize the value of the theatrical experience, contributing to the box office’s recovery throughout the remainder of the year of cinema.

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