Christopher Nolan revealed to Total Film magazine that he recreated the first nuclear weapon detonation without CGI effects as part of the production for his new movie “Oppenehimer.” The film stars longtime Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, a leading figure of the Manhattan Project and the creation the atomic bomb during World War II. Nolan has always favored practical effects over VFX (he even blew up a real Boeing 747 for “Tenet”), so it’s no surprise he went the practical route when it came time to film a nuclear weapon explosion.
“I think recreating the Trinity test [the first nuclear weapon detonation, in New Mexico] without the use of computer graphics was a huge challenge to take on,” Nolan said. “Andrew Jackson — my visual effects supervisor, I got him on board early on — was looking at how we could do a lot of the visual elements of the film practically, from representing quantum dynamics and quantum physics to the Trinity test itself, to recreating, with my team, Los Alamos up on a mesa in New Mexico in extraordinary weather, a lot of which was needed for the film, in terms of the very harsh conditions out there — there were huge practical challenges.”Variety
When word first broke on what Christopher Nolan’s next project would be I think it was surprising to many to see him get away from sci-fi/action films and focus on something more grounded such as a biopic. Of course, the subject of said movie was one of the men behind the creation of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer. The jokes started pouring in about how Nolan, an avid supporter of practical effects as opposed to CGI, was going to set off an atomic bomb for the film. Well, it looks like he went and fucking did it.
This is why I love Christopher Nolan. In an era of green screens and VFX being the driving force behind every big budget film its always refreshing to see someone do something truly bat shit (no pun intended) insane. It’s what made so many of his films like The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk, and Tenet so memorable. Not everyone is sold on his films but I truly believe that there is currently no director working today better at making audiences say “how did they do that?”
Oppenheimer is still seven months away and despite a teaser trailer released several months ago we still haven’t really seen all that much from the film. Still images hit the web today and while they don’t necessarily offer anything too groundbreaking any piece of content Nolan hands out will no doubt be instantly dissected and consumed by the masses.
With Avatar: The Way of Water makings its way to theaters this weekend I wouldn’t be surprised if we get our first real trailer for Oppenheimer by this weekend. You don’t think Nolan would start publicly hyping up that he simulated a nuclear bomb explosion with still images the same week as one of the biggest film releases of all time by chance, do you?
I’ll dive into my most anticipated films of 2023 when we get closer to the new year but this film is going to be near the top of the list for sure. The film’s cast includes Cillian Murphy as the titular character, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Gary Oldman, Casey Affleck, Remi Malek, Kenneth Branagh, Josh Hartnett, David Krumholtz, Jack Quaid, James Remar, Alden Ehrenreich, and oh, Matt Damon. Believe it or not that still doesn’t cover it. My one piece of skepticism for this film is that is does feel like the most Oscar baity thing Nolan has done. He’s a five-time nominee, twice for writing (Memento, Inception), twice as a producer (Inception, Dunkirk), and only once as a director (Dunkirk) and his lack of nominations on The Dark Knight almost single-handedly changed the way Academy voting was done for almost a decade. Do I think that’s what he’s doing here? Absolutely not but its hard not to notice that this is probably going be his least commercially attractive film since Insomnia and its competing with Barbie on opening weekend. But hey, when your films have made literal billions like he has he gets to do what he wants with who he wants.
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