I love the movies. But I don’t love all of them.
(mild spoilers, but not really. this post is more like a warning.)
We went to see the Christopher Nolan opus “Oppenheimer” yesterday. I hated it. Like, truly hated. It was 3 hours of bloated storytelling that bounced around all over the place and was centered around someone who is no doubt one of the most boring people who ever lived – regardless of what he had his hand in that changed history.
No, I didn’t read the book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.” There are only so many things a person can care about and invest the time reading – and a story about a genius scientist is just not an intriguing investment to me. But, thanks in large part to the hype surrounding the movie, I thought – what the heck, it’s by acclaimed director Christopher Nolan – surely he can make a story about a scientist compelling. I was excited going in.
Nope. It wasn’t for me. And I realize this goes against 94% of both critics and reviewers who absolutely loved it. I am not writing this post to be different or to shame anyone who liked it. But I sincerely have no idea how anyone could come away from this 3-hour thing thinking – that was a truly great movie!
The movie is in three acts. The intro is where we get the boring background on Oppy. Halfway through this first act I was like – ok, it’s going to get better. It has to. And then it did – act two was about how the bomb came to be developed. It was good, fast-paced storytelling, albeit peppered with courtroom drama set in the future, a few flashbacks, a congressional investigation set in the future, and Oppenheimer’s personal life – which was totally irrelevant to the story. Act two also contained the climax of the film – the explosion of the first atomic bomb in the dark New Mexican desert before sunrise. The scene lasted like 10 minutes. But then came the final act where timelines crisscrossed and you had to squint to see how much gray was in the hair of the actors to know which one you were watching. And then there were women popping in and out whose roles I didn’t understand. Then there was an award, then a dream, and then – curtains. I raced out of the theater to pee, proud of myself for not nodding off.
When we rendezvoused outside the theater, my wife walked up to me and said, “You hated it.” I started laughing. She knew. “Well I thought it was pretty good,” she added.
And so began a ride home where I asked sincere questions about the different characters not understanding how they all fit together. “Sometimes you just have to appreciate the art of a movie, Jim. Not everything has to fit perfectly into a story.” she said.
“What??” I replied. “The whole purpose of going to the movies is being told a story.”
“It was a story! It was a story about this man’s life who changed the world!”
“But it was a super boring story and shoddily told through a beautiful lens. And so I’m supposed to be ok with that? It was three hours! It could have been half that!”
I guess Robert Downey Jr. will win an award. Even though I didn’t understand or care anything about his character. Florence Pugh was topless so that was something – even though it was completely unnecessary. Not just the topless thing either, but her whole character. My favorite characters were Matt Damon, who played a colonel -> general in charge of the Manhattan Project, and Benjamin Safdie who played a scientist on the project who was smarter than Oppenheimer. That’s it. But oh, there were so many cameos! That surely makes it a good movie, right? It had Matthew Modine, Tony Goldwyn (the villain from Ghost), Rami Malek, Sadie Stratton, Kenneth Branagh, heck, even Gary Oldman!
I realize I’m not the smartest guy in the world, and that’s ok. But Nolan’s movies always seem overly complicated for no reason other than showiness. Oppenheimer was no different. And Nolan needed all those cameos to make this whale feel important – because the life story of J. Robert Oppenheimer was a borefest.
I would have gladly taken a 90 minute movie about Oppenheimer’s moral dilemma on the potential result of using this deadly, god-like technology back in the day. Instead we got 180 minutes of blather wrapped in good cinematography.
3/10 stars because one of the acts was interesting. Oppenheimer was one of the most boring, overhyped movies I’ve ever sat through.