Indy, Oppenheimer, Barbie surprisingly share common themes

In order to escape some of the recent afternoon heat, the woman who is my wife and I spent three afternoons watching movies in Bainbridge Island theaters. We saw the new Indiana Jones film, Oppenheimer and Barbie. We enjoyed them all but were surprised they had similar themes and plot lines.

The new Indiana Jones movie is a classic big-screen summer blockbuster. It stars Han Solo as a grumpy, 80-year-old Harrison Ford who is evidently a teacher in an underfunded school district in a place that does not appear to be Indiana. Indy is retiring, but not before he gets caught up in one final series of car chases with Nazis. Indy is racing against time and the Nazis to recover a legendary dial that can change the course of history.

Indiana is joined on his pre-retirement adventure by his goddaughter, played by an English actress with a hyphenated name – something like Phoebe London-Bridges on Avon. Near the end of the movie, the heroes and villains end up in an airplane that manages to use the magic dial to fly back in time to the Middle Ages (when Harrison Ford was only 65). The Nazis are thwarted in their attempt to change the outcome of World War II, and Indy and his goddaughter return to Ford’s apartment in not-Indiana where he reunites with a woman who he evidently knew in a previous film, and they live happily ever after.

Like Indian Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Oppenheimer also prominently features actors playing Germans who fled to the United States to escape the Nazis. Oppenheimer and his merry band of scientists are also racing against time, and the Nazis to develop a weapon of mass destruction that could change the course of history, but doing so without the time-traveling dial.

Oppenheimer is played by the Irish actor Cillian Murphy who, in the movie, is married to the famous English actress Mary Poppins, who, in turn, is married to Jim Halpert the paper salesman from The Office TV show. Oppenheimer and his team overcome many challenges and manage to create the first nuclear bomb to drop on the Nazis to end World War II.

Unfortunately for Oppenheimer, the Germans surrender before they can have the bomb dropped, so, in order not to waste the first two hours of the movie, the bomb is instead dropped on Barbieland. Not really, they are dropped on Japan—twice.

Realizing the forces he has unleashed on the world, Oppenheimer sets out to prevent a nuclear bomb from being dropped on anyone else and runs into political opposition from Robert Downey, Jr. The last third of Oppenheimer takes place largely in a stuffy conference room where crooked political deals and backstabbing play out while Indiana Jones is down the street looking in a government warehouse for the boxed-up Arc of Doom and the Dial of the Covenant.

Like both of those movies, Barbie is a classic morality tale played out by smart, attractive women in high heels, and attractive but not-so-smart men who are mostly not wearing shirts. I think Barbie is more historically accurate than Indiana Jones, but less so than Oppenheimer. It’s also different in that there’s a lot more music and dancing in Barbie than in the other two combined.

Barbie leaves her idyllic life in Barbieland, which is located somewhere in the deserts of New Mexico, to visit the Real World in an effort to…do something. (I missed that part due to an emergency popcorn run). While she’s gone, the Kens of Barbieland stage a coup and assume management and control. Barbie is so distraught at how the Kens have ruined Barbieland that she lays down on the grass and cries. But then she decides to fight fire with pink clothing, and scams all the Kens out of their control and returns Barbieland to its previous status as a sharply dressed, women-run utopia.

At the end of the film, Barbie decides she’s had enough of being an iconic doll and leaves Barbieland to go Down Under to root for Australia’s Women’s Soccer Team in the World Cup Championship. But first, she pays a visit to a doctor. I think it was to de-arch her feet.

So there you have it. Three great films all exploring the theme of battling Nazis and/or guys named Ken. I hope it stays hot for a little while longer so Wendy and I can see the new Mission Impossible (Tom Cruise battling Nazis), The Meg (oceanographers battling giant Nazi sharks) and Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, which appears to be a cool melding of the story of Oppenheimer with the costumes and set design of Barbie.

See ya at the movies!

Tom Tyner of Bainbridge Island writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.