Recreating Barbenheimer

Why forcing another movie trend won't work

It was an eventful summer for movie fans online, largely due to the internet phenomenon dubbed  ‘Barbenheimer’. 

‘Barbenheimer’ refers to the social media trend around the simultaneous releases of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.” Both were released on July 21, resulting in impressive box office numbers and broken filmmaking records.

One point that sparked the trend was the pure tonal contrast between the two films. Gerwig’s “Barbie” is a bright fantasy comedy based on Mattel’s fashion dolls. It follows Barbie and Ken, played by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, as they travel to the real world on a quest of self discovery and worth. “Barbie’s” bright, creative set and costume design are in stark contrast to the other half of this trend.

Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” is an intense biopic portraying the life and career of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, played by Cillian Murphy. The film mainly focuses on the Manhattan Project during World War II, the creation of the atom bomb and the political fallout the physicist had with the American government. The darker subject matter makes for a consistently thrilling and dramatic narrative.

Rather than starting a rivalry between the two films, internet users brewed excitement about the idea of watching both back-to-back. This trend grew naturally on social media apps such as Twitter and Instagram.

The collaboration was supported by the two directors and some members of the main casts. The official “Barbie” movie Twitter account posted pictures of Gerwig and Margot Robbie showing off tickets for a triple feature of newer films releasing in July, “Oppenheimer” included. Cillian Murphy stated in an interview with IGN “I’ll be going to see Barbie, one hundred percent.”

At of the time of writing, both movies have been out for four weeks and have both been highly successful for their respective studios. “Oppenheimer” has made over $650 million for Universal, steadily making its way to the $700 million mark.

On the other hand, “Barbie” has broken records for Warner Bros, grossing over $1.2 billion for the studio. Greta Gerwig has become the first solo female director to have a film cross the $1 billion mark. The hype around and success of ‘Barbenheimer’ has definitely caught the attention of Hollywood. It surely seems like a winning strategy for studios to use in the future. Surprisingly, another similar instance is coming up next month.

Directed by Kevin Greutert, “Saw X” is the tenth and newest installment in the Saw film series. This upcoming horror movie takes place between the events of “Saw” and “Saw 2.” The film was originally set to be released on October 27th. Earlier this year at the San Diego Comic-Con, Lionsgate announced that the movie was set to be released almost a whole month earlier. “Saw X” is now set to release on September 29th. The same day as the new “PAW Patrol” movie.

“PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” is the upcoming computer animated superhero movie based on the children’s television series “Paw Patrol”. The film is directed by Cal Brunker and is a sequel to 2021’s “Paw Patrol: The Movie,” also directed by Brunker.

These two films releasing on the same day seem like a quick attempt to ride the success of ‘Barbenheimer.’ Online news sites came to call this trend ‘SAW Patrol’ or ‘the next Barbenheimer.’ The official Lionsgate Twitter account even wrote “reporting for SAW PATROL, sir.” This has been met with mixed and even negative feedback from internet users.

To me, the ‘SAW Patrol’ trend feels very shallow and corporate. With the change in the release date for “Saw X,” it’s easy to see why. This new pair is even more tonally different than “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” and have drastically different target audiences. Rather than a celebration of two talented directors, it’s closer to a marketing stunt.

I personally think it will be at least another decade before we get a natural double feature that resembles the hype that “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” had.