‘Oppenheimer’ to be released in Japan after delay following ‘Barbenheimer’ controversy

Actor Cillian Murphy pictured as nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer in the "Oppenheimer" movie.

Actor Cillian Murphy pictured as nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer in the “Oppenheimer” movie.Universal PicturesLondonCNN — 

Cinemagoers in Japan will soon be able to see box office hit “Oppenheimer,” months after much of the rest of the world.

The blockbuster’s release was postponed amid controversy over an unofficial marketing campaign that critics said trivialized the 1945 nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Film distributor Bitters End said in a statement posted to social media Thursday that the movie, directed by Christopher Nolan, would be released in Japan in 2024.

“It is being referred to as ‘Nolan’s ultimate masterpiece’ and gaining attention as a prime contender in all film awards categories,” read the statement posted on Instagram. A specific release date wasn’t announced.

The three-hour biopic has broken several records since its global release earlier this year, becoming the highest-grossing movie set during World War II, according to Universal.

However, “Oppenheimer” was also at the center of some controversy. The movie, which tells the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, considered the father of the atomic bomb, was released on the same July weekend as “Barbie,” a film about the iconic Mattel doll, in many parts of the world.

As a result, many people went to see both movies as a kind of double-header, and social media was awash with unofficial fan-made “Barbenheimer” memes.

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The posts triggered outrage in Japan, and the Warner Bros. Film Group apologized after the X account, formerly Twitter, for its “Barbie” film sparked backlash over its embrace of memes that appeared to depict the character immersed in atomic blast imagery from “Oppenheimer.”

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The posts from the official “Barbie” account responding to the unofficial memes were later deleted. But screengrabs posted on X showed the “Barbie” account responding positively to a meme of a mushroom cloud superimposed on the head of Margot Robbie, the film’s star, and to another post depicting “Oppenheimer” actor Cillian Murphy carrying a cheerful Barbie on his shoulder against a burning backdrop.

Critics said the posts trivialized the nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US Air Force in 1945, which killed at least 110,000 people instantly and tens of thousands more from its aftereffects.

Warner Bros. Film Group said in a statement to CNN at the time: “Warner Brothers regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement. The studio offers a sincere apology.”

From left, Barbie and Oppenheimer (2023).

Warner Bros. apologizes for ‘Barbenheimer’ tweets that sparked criticism in Japan

Warner Bros., like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.

Meanwhile, a rival hashtag – “NoBarbenheimer” – garnered attention on social media in Japan, with people using it to criticize the “Barbie” account’s conflation of the two films.

Jeffrey J. Hall, a US academic based in Tokyo, tweeted: “The #NoBarbenheimer controversy is a reminder of the perception gap between Japan and the US over the issue of nuclear weapons.

“Japanese grow up learning about the horrors of https://zorozuno.com the a-bombs and every year’s memorial ceremonies are treated as national news … Although 78 years have passed, these events are far from forgotten in Japan.”

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