Christopher Nolan is a name familiar to many. Whether for his work on the Batman movies starring Christian Bale or his other films like Memento, Inception, Dunkirk, or Interstellar—most people have seen at least one of his films.
He is also well-known for his choice to use practical effects, rather than CGI, whenever possible. This led to him choosing to crash a real Boeing 747 jet for Tenet.
Since Nolan is so drawn to practical effects, it's not really a huge surprise he wanted to try to recreate an explosion for his latest project, but that project is Oppenheimer—a biopic about nuclear physicist J Robert Oppenheimer—and that particular explosion was Trinity—the first detonation of a nuclear weapon.
The attempt to recreate a nuclear explosion with practical effects is daring, to say the least, but Nolan said he and his team pulled it off.
Nolan said of the 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."
"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."
Of the film itself, Nolan wants movie-goers to hold off on their initial judgements about historical biopics.
"We’re trying to tell the story of somebody’s life, and their journey through personal history and larger-scale history."
"And so the subjectivity of the story is everything to me. We want to view these events through Oppenheimer’s eyes."
He also gave huge credit to his crew for helping him to realize his vision for the film.
"And that was the challenge for Cillian that I set him, to take us on this journey; that was the challenge for Hoyte van Hoytema, my designer, my whole team: how do we view this extraordinary story through the eyes of the person who was at the heart of it?"
"All of our decisions on how to make this film were based on that real premise."
"It’s a story of immense scope and scale, and 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."
Twitter users had a field day speculating about how Nolan pulled off the explosion recreation.
Some folks had some ... interesting theories about how Nolan pulled it off.
In addition to the innovative explosion, Oppenheimer is the first film to be shot in black and white for IMAX viewing—a feat achieved by developing a whole new type of film.
Oppenheimer is scheduled to open in theaters on July 21, 2023.
So we all have a little while to wait before we can see how well Nolan and his crew pulled off their recreation of the Trinity test.