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Oppenheimer to finally release in Japan in March following controversy

Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-nominated Oppenheimer has officially landed a March cinematic release date in Japan.

The Cillian Murphy-led war drama about the life of theoretical physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, who developed the first nuclear bomb for the top-secret Manhattan Project, will open in Japanese cinemas on 29 March.

The film, which depicts the 1945 nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, resulting in the death of around 200,000 people, had initially faced scrutiny in Japan over its subject matter.

Following its release last summer alongside Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, memes about the two movies’ coincidence sparked outrage in Japan.

“We find it extremely regrettable that the official account of the American headquarters for the movie Barbie reacted to the social media postings of ‘Barbenheimer’ fans,” the Japanese branch of Warner Bros studios wrote at the time.

“We take this situation very seriously. We are asking the US headquarters to take appropriate action. We apologise to those who were offended by this series of inconsiderate reactions.”

Warner Bros later apologised for its “insensitive” posts, which had been accused of trivialising nuclear war.

Emily Blunt, Christopher Nolan (center) and Cillian Murphy on set of ‘Oppenheimer’ (AP)
Emily Blunt, Christopher Nolan (center) and Cillian Murphy on set of ‘Oppenheimer’ (AP)

One of the memes that the US Warner Bros account had reacted to showed Barbie star Margot Robbie with a hairstyle in the shape of a mushroom cloud. The social media account wrote in response: “This Ken is a stylist.”

Another meme showed Oppenheimer lead star Cillian Murphy carrying Robbie through a burning city, with Warner Bros replying: “It’s going to be a summer to be remembered.”

Then, in early December, after months of “thoughtful dialogue associated with the subject matter and acknowledging the particular sensitivity for [the] Japanese”, local distributor Bitters End announced the decision to allow for its release.

The film originally went on to make a whopping $953.8m (£751m) at the global box office. Its earnings made it the highest-grossing biopic ever, officially dethroning 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Oppenheimer’s scheduled Japanese release will come nearly three weeks after the 96th Oscars, in which the movie has been nominated more than any other (13 times in total).

Murphy has received a nod for Best Actor, while co-star Robert Downey Jr has earnt a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Nolan, meanwhile, is competing in the Best Director category against Poor Things’s Yorgos Lanthimos, Anatomy of a Fall’s Justine Triet, Zone of Interest’s Jonathan Glazer and Killers of the Flower Moon’s Martin Scorsese.

Oppenheimer is available to rent now on Apple TV+ in the US and UK. UK viewers will be able to stream it free on Now TV beginning 12 April.