Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer will be out next summer, with a release date of July 21. From what I’ve heard about the film thus far, it will be visually stunning, as most of Nolan’s films are. That being said, it feels like pretty heavy subject matter for a summer release. Perhaps it’s counter-programming, especially for a core audience of History Channel Dads. As for the visually stunning part of this endeavor… well, the subject matter is about the Manhattan Project and how America developed atomic weapons. Nolan delves into the history, including the tests. Apparently, Nolan didn’t want to use CGI for the imagery of the atomic bombs’ detonation. Did Christopher Nolan set off atomic weapons to get the shot???
Christopher Nolan revealed to Total Film magazine that he recreated the first nuclear weapon detonation without CGI effects as part of the production for his new movie “Oppenehimer.” The film stars longtime Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, a leading figure of the Manhattan Project and the creation the atomic bomb during World War II. Nolan has always favored practical effects over VFX (he even blew up a real Boeing 747 for “Tenet”), so it’s no surprise he went the practical route when it came time to film a nuclear weapon explosion.
“I think recreating the Trinity test [the first nuclear weapon detonation, in New Mexico] without the use of computer graphics was a huge challenge to take on,” Nolan said. “Andrew Jackson — my visual effects supervisor, I got him on board early on — was looking at how we could do a lot of the visual elements of the film practically, from representing quantum dynamics and quantum physics to the Trinity test itself, to recreating, with my team, Los Alamos up on a mesa in New Mexico in extraordinary weather, a lot of which was needed for the film, in terms of the very harsh conditions out there — there were huge practical challenges.”
Nolan went on to call “Oppenheimer” a “story of immense scope and scale,” adding, “It’s one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever taken on in terms of the scale of it, and in terms of encountering the breadth of Oppenheimer’s story. There were big, logistical challenges, big practical challenges. But I had an extraordinary crew, and they really stepped up. It will be a while before we’re finished. But certainly as I watch the results come in, and as I’m putting the film together, I’m thrilled with what my team has been able to achieve.”
Wow, he’s really taking pains to talk around the idea that he set off atomic bombs to get a shot for a movie. My guess is that Nolan really wanted to create that “mushroom cloud” effect in real life, and he also wanted to show the actors reacting to a real atomic “pulse.” While I think much of the CGI in movies today is utter trash, literal cartoon bullsh-t, this is one of those rare moments where I wish a director was like “let’s send this to the visual effects team, I don’t need to put my actors and crew in danger just to get a pretty shot.”
*detonates nuclear weapons for a gender reveal*
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Universal.