Don’t panic, we’re not announcing the end of the director’s career.
With a budget of nearly $ 100 million, the American super-production Oppenheimer from Christopher Nolan is not taken from an already known franchise and does not evolve in a universe of superheroes. In this, it is unique in its kind. Or rather, it doesn’t find many equivalents, given that few original ideas result in big budget films. This analysis is developed by Variety, which is based on forecasts from box office specialists: to produce a film at the height of Nolan’s new project, one would have to consider a return on investment of at least 400 million dollars. A guarantee that few producers can move forward, especially when the world of cinema is still struggling to recover from successive shutdowns due to the health crisis. However, Universal takes the bet (and no longer Warner Bros, the studio to which the filmmaker was attached for his previous projects, but whose he doesn’t like the new movie release strategy, in parallel to cinema and streaming).
However, Nolan is one of those directors who are still a hit at the box office, even with Tenet, released on August 26, 2020, and which still gathered more than two million spectators in theaters in France, while the country was just emerging from the first confinement. Even if the film was not as profitable as the studios hoped (he reported “only” $ 363 million to Warner), it is not insignificant to blame the pandemic for this score, while the director’s former feature films brought in between $ 500 and $ 900 million. “In other words, Nolan is a filmmaker with an enviable box office track record,” highlighted Variety.
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Despite these successes, the US industry is said to be skeptical, the article argues, tending to bet against Nolan. The subject of the film is one of their arguments: with Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan leaves his favorite themes. It won’t tell a grandiose story using fantasy and special effects (like Inception Where Tenet), nor does it convey a heroic feeling that would bring spectators together (such as Dunkerque). By taking an interest in the life of the scientist behind the first atomic bomb, he takes up a dark subject, which is part of a moral vagueness concerning the memory of the war. Variety then nuance his remarks, affirming that the Hollywood professionals do not bet against Nolan in this context of crisis, and on the contrary hope that his film will work. For them, a success of Nolan at the box office on this subject and in a period when cinematic originality is struggling to be profitable, would encourage the managers and the financiers of studios to take more risks on new ideas. At least the big studios, the smaller ones already being more open to new ideas – but able to finance only smaller budgets.
At last, Variety ends his presentation by studying the shift of big budget films from the big screen to the small one, with the (almost) obligatory passage of super-productions on streaming platforms like Netflix. Recent examples come first: 6 Underground by Michael Bay, Mank by David Fincher or even closer Red Notice with Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. A displacement which can be explained by the recent analysis of the world box office of large productions which are not attached to franchises. We can for example evoke The Last Duel by Ridley Scott, success on paper which nevertheless flopped at the box office.
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This feature film will be the 16th for Nolan. It is described as “an epic thriller shot in IMAX, which will immerse audiences in the thrilling paradox of the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world to save it“, the official synopsis read. Based on the book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, by Kai Bird and the late Martin J. Sherwin, Pulitzer Prize winner, Oppenheimer will also be written by Christopher Nolan.
American theoretical physicist and professor of physics, J. Robert Oppenheimer became the head of the Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II. It is thus known how being “the father of the atomic bomb” for his role in the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer is also infamous for saying this phrase: “Now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds“, quoting the Hindu text Bhagavad Gita after the successful detonation of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945.
The will begin production in early 2022 and would be shot on a combination of 65mm and 65mm IMAX wide format film. The cast will include popular comedians, including Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Robert Downey Jr.
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