Barbie v Oppenheimer: Dolls trump nukes as blockbusters hit screens | Movies

Cineworld on Renfrew Street in Glasgow may be the tallest cinema building in the world, with 10 floors accommodating nearly 20 screens, but on Friday night it seemed only two were really needed.

Called “Barbenheimer”, the simultaneous opening of blockbusters Barbie And Oppenheimer generated unexpected excitement, thanks in large part to their comically juxtaposed subject matter and tone: Greta Gerwig’s candy pink, plastic fantasy satire in one corner and Christopher Nolan’s dark exploration of the invention of the atomic bomb in the other.

In Glasgow, Oppenheimer fans kept a lower profile while crowds at ticket offices and pick’n’mix counters were predominantly young and female, with lots of pink polyester and bottle-blonde hair on display.

Smiling woman in sunglasses and bright pink Barbie outfit
Noellia, visiting from Mexico, gets into the Barbie spirit. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer

Noellia, from Monterrey, Mexico, was vacationing alone in Scotland and couldn’t wait until she got home to see Barbie. “I had to see Barbie in the UK,” she said as she queued for a photo in a giant pink Barbie box temporarily installed in the hall of the cinema.

“I’ve heard great things about this cinema, so I’m so excited to see it here.” Is she interested in Nolan Oppenheimer? “No, no,” she shakes her head. “Only Barbie!”

there too for Barbie were Jules, 17, Devon and Eres, both 19, and Adrian, 20 – friends from Glasgow and Edinburgh who met at Comic Con. Some had dressed more for the occasion than others – “I wanted to see Barbie but not the air that I saw Barbie“, Eres said of their death metal-inspired makeup — but all agreed that looking at Gerwig’s offer first was an easy decision, even though Oppenheimer seemed worth a look.

Oppenheimer it’s just for fun but Barbie is for education,” a deadpan Devon said — although some of the band had to admit, they only recently realized the former wasn’t a fictional character.

Some, like friends Millie, Ellie, Eiligh, Mary and Lauren, all in their twenties, were drawn to Barbie because of their childhood affection for dolls from the 90s, some of which had been dusted off and taken away for the occasion.

Cillian Murphy as Scientist J Robert Oppenheimer.
Cillian Murphy as scientist J Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s film about the development of the atomic bomb. Photograph: Melinda Sue Gordon/AP

“We all grew up playing with Barbies; everyone had a Barbie doll when they were little,” Millie, 20, said. “So it’s that kind of childhood excitement again.

And in addition to nostalgia, Barbie attracted a new army of fans thanks to the involvement of Gerwig and other big names in Hollywood.

“I do not really like Barbie but I’m into Margot Robbie,” said Nix, 28, accompanied by friends Simone and Craig. “When Margot agrees with something, you know it’s going to be good from a feminist perspective, which is why I’m here.”

Simone, 27, was also excited about Ryan Gosling’s involvement, she said. As for Craig, 28, “I’m thrilled to see Ryan and his ‘Ken-ergy’…but really I feel like I’m their roadie,” he nodded to his companions’ matching outfits, complete with trademark knee and elbow pads.

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