In the age of franchises, it’s a big deal that Oppenheimer — an original movie that probably won’t have a sequel — has gobbled up so much cash. Not that it hasn’t inspired controversy. Big as the “Barbenheimer” memes have been, they’ve been met with (very, very understandable) coldness from those in Japan. Even Spike Lee has some thoughts, though his are far more measured.
As caught by Deadline, the beloved filmmaker, scholar, and sometime actor spoke to The Washington Post, during which he weighed in on some of this year’s big movies. One of them was Oppenheimer. He called it a “great film” and described its maker, Christopher Nolan, as a “massive filmmaker,” saying that he’s shown Dunkirk to his class at NYU, where he teaches.
But he had what he calls “not a criticism” but a “comment”:
“If Oppenheimer is three hours, I would like to add some more minutes about what happened to the Japanese people. People got vaporized. Many years later, people are radioactive. It’s not like he didn’t have power. He tells studios what to do. I would have loved to have the end of the film maybe show what it did, dropping those two nuclear bombs on Japan.”
But Lee added, “Understand, this is all love,” saying, “And I bet [Nolan] could tell me some things he would change about Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X.”
Lee isn’t the only person to make that comment. Throughout the film Nolan sticks to J. Robert Oppenheimer’s perspective (that is, when it isn’t jumping over to Robert Downey Jr.’s meddling Lewis Strauss). Just as in real life, Oppenheimer isn’t even told about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until after they’re over, and nor are we the viewers. Mind you, that move has always inspired praise for not dwelling on the death and destruction.
In the same interview, Lee shared some fulsome praise for another new movie: Killers of the Flower Moon. Of its TikTok star director, Martin Scorsese, he said, “That’s my guy.” He also gushed about someone he thinks deserves a Best Actress Oscar nomination. “Lily Gladstone, she’s winning an Oscar,” said Lee. “She’s got my vote.”
Oppenheimer is currently in theaters. Killers of the Flower Moon hits theaters on October 20.