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Oppenheimer: Why John F. Kennedy Is Getting Comparisons To The Dark Knight

JFK is giving Joker. 

Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" is one of the most successful films of the year, proving that audiences around the world are willing to show up for an R-rated, conversation-heavy historical drama. With a global gross of over $450 million, "Oppenheimer" is a win for cinephiles and Nolan. Looper critic Reuben Baron was particularly enthusiastic about the film, praising it for its captivating performances and immersive narrative, writing, "Even with the length and complexity on display in "Oppenheimer," Nolan is a director who knows how to hold an audience's attention, whether it's in a bomb test or a political hearing." 

As the film continues to dominate multiplexes and IMAX theatres, fans of the film are revisiting Nolan's latest for its breathtaking atomic bomb sequences and quick-paced, rapid-fire dialogue. The biopic on the father of the atomic bomb is filled to the brim with memorable moments, making it difficult to pick a favorite one. There is, of course, the Trinity Test sequence, and Emily Blunt's show-stopping performance during Kitty Oppenheimer's interrogation, as well as the film's hard-hitting, thought-provoking final moments. Some fans, however, are obsessed with how Christopher Nolan playfully teases John F. Kennedy in "Oppenheimer," reminding viewers of how he teased the Joker (Heath Ledger) in "The Dark Knight" trilogy. 

"Why did Nolan tease JFK like the joker card from 'Batman Begins,'" shared Reddit user u/FatWalcott on the r/Movies subreddit. Lewis Strauss' nomination to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce was ultimately shot down, thanks in part to Massachusetts senator (and future President) John F. Kennedy voting no. In "Oppenheimer," Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.) learns of the news in a strange way, where he's told that a young senator voted against him. When asked who the voter was, the information is trickled out and teased in a strange, wink-to-the-audience moment where it's revealed to be JFK. 

Oppenheimer fans say the JFK tease reminds them of Robin in The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan's way of revealing John F. Kennedy in "Oppenheimer" is drawing comparisons to how the Joker was first teased in "Batman Begins." In the debut flick from "The Dark Knight" trilogy, Gordon (Gary Oldman) reveals to Batman (Christian Bale) that a criminal with a "taste of the theatrical" is committing crimes in Gotham City. The police officer then reveals the criminal's calling card, revealing the nefarious force to be Joker. It's an effective scene that relies on the audience's perception of the Joker, teasing him and his antics without explicitly mentioning his name. Of course, "Batman Begins" is a comic book movie, so it's pretty interesting how Nolan took a cue from his first "Dark Knight" flick to tease JFK in "Oppenheimer." 

For filmgoers, the scene came across as a pretty hilarious moment, with several fans on social media sharing how the JFK namedrop felt like a tease for a potential "Oppenheimer" sequel. "My fave 'Oppenheimer' moment is still 'his name's... John F Kennedy, sir'," wrote Twitter user @Tom_Nicholas. "Like it's setting up a sequel in the Mid-20th-Century Cinematic Universe." 

But some fans think the nod to JFK is giving more Robin than Joker. In the final moments of "The Dark Knight Rises," audiences find out that John Blake's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) biological name is Robin. This moment clearly lets the audience know that while Blake isn't the real Robin, his essence is there, making him Batman's sidekick in spirit. "It also had the exact same feeling when Nolan ended 'The Dark Knight Rises' with the women mentioning Robin," wrote Reddit user u/Chargers_Super_Fan10. "I was laughing thinking to myself 'did Christopher Nolan just use JFK as his Robin in this film.' It was perfect and perfectly Nolan," they continued. 

Oppenheimer fans thinks the JFK nod is more than a joke

As funny as the John F. Kennedy moment is, some "Oppenheimer" fans think the nod to the U.S. icon is more than just a joke. Several critics and audience members have pointed out how "Oppenheimer" operates as a riff or tribute to Oliver Stone's 1991 biopic "JFK," which dramatizes the Senator-turned-President's life. "... visually and narratively, 'Oppenheimer'  follows the 'JFK' script, if you will, of framing the event the title character is most famous for around hearings and an investigation," wrote Uproxx's Mike Ryan, debating if Nolan actually intended to make a homage to Stone's film.  

Fans are also saying the same thing but going a step further, saying that Nolan's mention of JFK is both a tribute to Stone's film, and a nod to the iconic statesman. "I almost wonder if it was a wink to Oliver Stone's JFK which was clearly an influence on this," shared Reddit user u/sumspanishguy97 on the namedrop. "Stone's JFK almost feels like a spiritual sequel to this," wrote another "Oppenheimer" fan

Another viewer went deeper, pointing out how JFK played a significant role in Oppenheimer's life. "JFK actually tried to amend the wrong doings that happened to Oppenheimer when he took office," shared Reddit user u/Dry_Bank_3516. "Inviting him to the White House to apologize and awarding him the Enrico Fermi Award which they show in the movie," they continued. In the film, audiences see Oppenheimer accept the award and meet a few familiar faces. However, JFK is missing from the scene as he had been assassinated, leaving Lyndon B. Johnson to award the scientist. Johnson likely had the same affinity for Oppenheimer as JFK, as Johnson also voted against Strauss during his Senate nomination.