Asteroid City Is Stealing Some Of Oppenheimer’s Thunder

Both films are set in 1955. “Asteroid City” employs the aesthetics of a chintzy hotel lobby that hasn’t been updated since the 1950s, employing a lot of cowhide/denim textured among its rounded sci-fi structures and buzzing ray guns. “Oppenheimer,” meanwhile, doesn’t have the cowboy aesthetic, but does indeed focus on the hefty, metallic technology of the time. Anderson’s film uses an exaggerated version of 1955 technology, while Nolan’s uses some of the actual, advanced technology of the time. Regardless, they are most definitely drawing from the same creative pool.

Additionally, both films use color and black-and-white similarly, using the former to depict a heightened version of reality, and the latter to show how grounded things are. Color is fancy, black-and-white has grit. The more difficult thematic notions of “Asteroid City” come during the black-and-white segments. One might assume something similar will come from “Oppenheimer.” 

And, yes, both films are about nuclear bombs. “Oppenheimer” is about J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) one of the theoretical physicists that developed the nuclear bomb. If the preview is any gauge, “Oppenheimer” will feature multiple outsized bomb blasts. 

The titular city in Anderson’s film, meanwhile, is located in the middle of the desert, not terribly far from where nuclear bombs are being tested. At the start of the film, a mushroom cloud appears in the background, and the despondent photographer Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman) takes a picture of it. Total nuclear annihilation, while not a central plot point of “Asteroid City,” remains hovering over the proceedings at all times. 

Indeed, the same is true of “Oppenheimer.”

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