‘Oppenheimer’ earns mixed reactions in Japan premiere

‘Oppenheimer’ earns mixed reactions in Japan premiere
via Universal Pictures
Michelle De Pacina
14 days ago
The highly anticipated premiere of the Academy Award-winning film “Oppenheimer” in Japan has garnered mixed and highly emotional reactions among Japanese filmgoers. 
Key points:
  • Christopher Nolan’s 2023 historical drama film, which follows the story of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and a team of scientists developing and designing the atomic bomb, premiered on Friday in Japan, wherein the nuclear weapons obliterated two cities 79 years ago and killed more than 200,000 people. 
  • The release of the film was anticipated with trepidation due to the sensitivity of the subject matter. The film earned praise for its depiction of Oppenheimer’s inner turmoil, but also criticism for its omission of the horror and tragedy from Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s standpoint.
Catch up:
  • Oppenheimer,” which won seven Academy Awards earlier this month, has grossed nearly $1 billion globally. However, Japan had not screened the film until eight months after its global release due to concerns about its nuclear theme and the country’s history as the only nation to suffer atomic bombings. 
The details:
  • Some Tokyo theaters posted signs at their entrances warning that “Oppenheimer” features images of nuclear tests that may be triggering.
  • Toshiyuki Mimaki, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, attended a preview event of the film. While he expressed his fascination with the story of the physicist, he noted the absence of scenes depicting the tragedy throughout the movie.
  • “During the whole movie, I was waiting and waiting for the Hiroshima bombing scene to come on, but it never did,” said Mimaki, who is currently the chairperson of a group representing bomb victims. 
  • Former Hiroshima Mayor Takashi Hiraoka also criticized the film, stating that it appeared “to validate the conclusion that the atomic bomb was used to save the lives of Americans,” rather than adequately depicting the devastation caused by nuclear weapons.
  • However, other moviegoers interpreted it as an “anti-nuclear” film, finding resonance in Oppenheimer’s moral conflict over the creation of the atomic bomb. Professor Masao Tomonaga, who is also a survivor, believes that the film serves as a message for future generations to decide how to eliminate nuclear weapons. 
  • Other viewers were also enlightened as it prompted reflection on the importance of educating younger generations about the horrors of nuclear weapons and fostering a commitment to preventing their use in the future. “It’s made me think again about what I and other young people can do… starting from the insistence that nuclear weapons should never be used again,” said Shogo Tachiyama, a university student.
A Japanese perspective: 
  • Japanese historians and filmmakers see “Oppenheimer” as a starting point for discussing humanity’s reflections on nuclear war. There are suggestions for a Japanese response to the story, with talks of potential future films addressing Japan’s wartime atrocities and nuclear reflections.
  • “I feel there needs to [be] an answer from Japan to Oppenheimer. Someday, I would like to make that movie,” “Godzilla Minus One” director Takashi Yamazaki reportedly said in an online dialogue with Nolan, to which he agreed. 
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