The song you're listening to heralds the birth of psychedelic symphonies, predating The Beatles by a staggering 130 years. Hector Berlioz, the French composer who wrote "Symphonie fantastique" (French for "fantastic symphony") in 1830, offers one of the earliest musical depictions of a transcendent journey. Celine creative, artistic and image director Hedi Slimane stumbled upon this masterpiece at just 11 years old and was instantly captivated.

Berlioz's composition vividly captures the torment of unrequited love and obsession. Regarded as an "immense instrumental composition of a new genre", "Symphonie fantastique" showcases Berlioz's unmatched orchestration skills, impressing critics with its avant-garde essence. Transitioning seamlessly to Slimane's fashion narrative for Celine's Winter 2024 menswear collection also titled "Symphonie Fantastique", the collection boldly revives tailoring, epitomising the designer's pure sartorial essence.

(CELINE)

The fit: Bold and cutting-edge, the garments featured in the film embody Slimane's unmistakable design language in menswear. Embracing the iconic "I" line silhouette—reminiscent of 1960s tailoring with a nod to 19th-century Anglomania—the collection exudes timeless sophistication. Frock coats, three-buttoned suits, and intricately hand-embroidered waistcoats are meticulously crafted from sumptuous fabrics like silk, cashmere, and vicuña. Throughout, matte black, satin, and lacquered finishes dominate, infusing each garment with an unmistakable sense of opulence and refinement.

Standout pieces include iconic motorcycle jackets with cropped hemlines, elegantly paired with 1970s flared bottoms as well as pinstriped peacoats transformed into militaristic uniforms. As with every collection, embellished accents adorn a number of garments, adding a captivating touch. Well-dressed cowboys take the lead in ballooning denim and multi-pocket button-down shirts for more casual proposals from the collection.

(CELINE)

The details: Silver hardware embellishments on leather jackets inject that signature Slimane edge into the garments. They create a striking contrast to the refined aesthetic of the collection, all the while maintaining the rebellious spirit of Celine. Wide-brimmed hats and square-framed sunglasses further punctuate the collection's distinctive style.

Three exceptional looks: An embellished golden coat catching the sunlight; a sleek mandarin-collar jacket; and a pin-striped coat accentuated with a velvet collar.

The takeaway: This collection vividly embodies storytelling. Each piece reflects Slimane's current fascinations, meticulously crafted in every detail—from the setting and casting, to the music and garments.

View some of looks from the Celine Homme Winter 2024 collection in the gallery below.

(Editor's Note: This was originally posted last year but we've re-up this write-up due to Oppenheimer's Oscar sweep.)

10-Word Review

Get sucked in by the drama and Cillian Murphy's stare.

The Skinny

Now this is a story all about how / the world got flipped turned upside down / with a bomb from the Manhattan Project cadre / here's the life of Oppenheimer (and his thousand-yard stare).


Here Be Spoilers...


What we like:

Christopher Nolan isn't making films, he's creating an experience. For his latest trick, he presents the biopic of the father of the atomic bomb, J Robert Oppenheimer. Adapted from American Prometheus written by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin, the film chronicle the famed theoretical physicist's life, from student life at Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to being the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory to getting his security clearance revoked due to tenuous communist ties.

It seemed strange for Nolan to take up a profile like Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy). Especially, when it's shot in Nolan's preference for the IMAX experience. There are no action scenes, nothing that befits the movie being shot on large format film stock—IMAX 65mm and Panavision 65mm film—(there was an estimated 17.7km worth of finished film stock) but Nolan sees it apt to highlight Oppenheimer on such a scale.

It's quite amazing how it all came together. There's nary a dull moment throughout the film's three-hour running time thanks to Nolan's deft direction, stellar ensemble and immaculate sound engineering. Not content with a linear re-telling of Oppenheimer's life, the film jumps back and forth to key moments and not only that it switches between the perspectives between Oppenheimer and Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr), a senior member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC); one in colour and the other in stark black-and-white, respectively.

The sound and music for Oppenheimer is something to behold. Faithful to the physics, the sound follows after we see the explosion. This is also true during a storm, where we see the flash of lightning, followed by the boom of thunder. When the first nuclear weapon test started, the expected sounds of the explosion were sidelined by Oppenheimer's breathing as he saw the conflagration of fire and billowing smoke. In the theatre, we sat transfixed by the near-silence of the explosion before the sound kicked in.

In his second time working with Nolan, Ludwig Göransson took Nolan's advice in using the violin as Oppenheimer's central theme. Göransson said that the stringed instrument could go from "the most romantic, beautiful tone in a split second to neurotic and heart-wrenching, horror sounds".

The best example is the nuclear explosion at Trinity (the codename of the site where it took place). We were at the edge of our seats in the lead-up to the experiment. Which is weird because all the historical accounts said that the experiment went off without a hitch. But how it was edited and soundtracked, you hope the experiment will be successful.

Cillian Murphy, who is well-known for his tenure in the TV series, Peaky Blinders, puts on a defining performance as Oppenheimer. Demonstrating the complexity of Oppenheimer with nuance would hobble a lesser actor but not in Murphy's hands. With Murphy, Oppenheimer comes across as a sympathetic Frankenstein (the doctor not as most erroneously would assume, the monster), a man who witnessed the mysteries of the atoms with awe and, later in the film, as a nuclear shade who is now the self-appointed martyr for ushering in the Atomic Age.

Furthering adding to fleshing out Oppenheimer, Murphy went on an intense transformation by reading up on the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious text that Oppenheimer would quote from and going on a diet that reduced him to his character’s stick-thin frame.

Downey Jr gives one of the better performances of his career as the embittered Strauss, who has a fractious relationship with Oppenheimer. Driven by ambition, Downey Jr displays a man who is an imposing figure in America’s nuclear program but dwarfed by his pettiness against a slight from Oppenheimer. Emily Blunt plays Oppenheimer's wife, Kitty, and she holds her own in this movie. Her deathstare towards her husband's ex-colleague or her bemused reaction during an interrogation, Blunt conveys the hidden pillar of strength in Oppenheimer's marriage.

I'm just glad that Murphy is back to playing the lead for a major film. To my limited memory, the last movies that he headlined were Sunshine and 28 Days Later.

Because there's something mesmerising about the way he stares at you; as though vacant but yet arresting at the same time. I'm pretty sure if there was a short film of just the camera pushing in slowly into Murphy's haunted mien, people would pay money to see it.

I mean, look at him. Now imagine if this was in colour, you will DIE IN THOSE POOLS OF BLUE.

What we didn't like:

Seven words: NOT SEEING CILLIAN MURPHY'S DONG ON IMAX.

I'm joking. Mostly. I'll explain.

This is Nolan's first R-rated movie and it includes Oppenheimer's love life with Jean Tatlock (played by Florence Pugh). Nolan felt that the intimacy between Oppenheimer and Tatlock were necessary to showcase the couple's connection. There were rumours that this might show full frontal nudity from both actors but, alas, nothing from Murphy. Not even a bare buttock. (We are all about having male actors go the full monty on the big screen. CHILL IT WITH THE DOUBLE-STANDARD, HOLLYWOOD.)

I get that Nolan doesn't want to shy from Oppenheimer's intimate moments but it felt gratuitous. Instead of the sex scenes, maybe it would be nice to have more insight into Tatlock's life and motivations. The character does not seem fully fleshed out and even Emily Blunt's Kitty barely escaped this bare-bones characterisation.

What to look out for:

The number of established actors that are part of this cast. Aside from the marquee names like Matt Damon as Lieutenant General Leslie Groves and Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock, there are other notable faces to spot. Personalities like Jason Clarke as Roger Robb; Josh Hartnett as Ernest Lawrence; Dane DeHaan as Kenneth Nichols; Benny Safdie as Edward Teller; James Urbaniak as Kurt Gödel; Jack Quaid as Richard Feynman; Olivia Thirlby as Lilli Hornig; Casey Affleck as Boris Pash; Kenneth Branagh as Niels Bohr; Gary Oldman as President Harry S Truman and so on.

The only notable person not in the cast is Sir Michael Caine. Having appeared in all of Nolan's production since Batman Begins in 2005, this is the only film that doesn't feature him.

Also, don't forget the end-credit scene that sets up the Oppenheimer sequel. JK.

Oppenheimer was out in theatres and now lives rent-free in our collective heads.

Find N3. OPPO

There’s a new foldable in town, and its name? The Oppo Find N3. But it’s not just any foldable; it’s the kind that leaves you genuinely impressed. We’re three iterations in, and Oppo’s commitment to getting it right is evident. Not only does it fold (of course, that’s the point), but it does so with an elegance that’s hard to ignore.

Slimmer than your average men’s magazine (ahem) at 5.8mm when unfurled, its design screams quiet sophistication – especially the gold model (albeit, still a little too ostentatious for us). The ‘Cosmos Ring’ on the rear isn’t just for aesthetics – it hints at a beautiful partnership with the camera boff’s at Hasselblad.

Photos taken in Hasselblad Portrait Mode. OPPO

Camera

Speaking of cameras: you get a trio of powerful lenses (48MP wide, 64MP telephoto, 48MP ultra-wide). So far, colours have been vibrant with excellent clarity. But we’d need to spend a little more time with it at night before we can render the full review.

The fact that it folds isn’t just skin deep when it comes to photography. The N3’s "flex-form" mode lets one screen act as a mini tripod, letting you place it on counters/tables for steady images. The second screen then provides you with advanced controls.

Dual screen preview. OPPO

Obviously, the main draw of a foldable is that screen. Here, you get a primary 7.8-inch display, boasting a 120Hz refresh rate, is lovely on the eyes. And for those quick phone checks and messages? The 6.3-inch AMOLED front display has you covered.

Under its stylish exterior, the Find N3 is a powerhouse. Packed with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip and a whopping 16GB of RAM with 512GB of storage. It’s ready to handle any task you throw at it. Gaming, multitasking or streaming, it doesn’t skip a beat.

Find N3's two flagship displays. OPPO
Boundless view displays. OPPO
Third-generation flexion hinge. OPPO

Battery

Battery life, often a concern when it comes to foldables because – obviously, this has many screens – is another area where the Find N3 shines. Thanks to Oppo’s cutting-edge charging tech, you can go from zero to 35% in a mere 10 minutes. Imagine that: a quick coffee break, and you’re powered up and ready to go.

The Oppo Find N3 then is not just another foldable in the market. It’s a blend of design, performance, and improvement. With this release, Oppo is not just participating in the foldable race; it’s really competing against the likes of Samsung (and the self-crowned king of foldable phones).

Originally published on Esquire ME

OPPO Find N3 is available for pre-order online.

Cocktails on tap. DRAFT LAND

You know an idea is so simple yet so great when immediate reactions sum up to, "Why didn't anyone think of this sooner?". Well, they did. Draft Land founder/bartender Angus Zou did, to be specific. Originally launched in ZhongXiao, Taiwan in 2018, the bar led the pioneering concept for cocktails on tap in Asia. The Draft System, created by beverage R&D company Drinks Lab, works by injecting N2 or CO2 into the tipples for a fast, high quality selection.

So why consider this approach clever? Firstly, you save on the wait time. If you can already get cocktails in a can, why not on tap? Sure, you don't get to witness the fancy shakes and distilled pours, but watching the 'draftenders' locate which of the identical taps—which aren't labelled or numbered—dispenses your order is itself a form of entertainment too.

Another undeniable benefit is the establishment's Sample Service, which allows you to try a shot of the cocktail before you commit to a full size. This was, in fact, an essential feedback the founders commonly received about bars that spurred the idea. The venture also comes as a collaboration with Nutmeg & Clove's Shelley Tai, so you can be assured that standards... are there.

Bar counter. DRAFT LAND

Ambience

With more standing spaces than seating, it's definitely a casual arrangement. There's nothing to complain about the industrial colour palette, cosy pub-style layout and straightforward overhead menu—unproblematic, if not for ingredients in a font size too small.

Drinks

While accessibility and affordability are key here, going from SGD18 (SGD12 for non-alcoholic) a pop, the cocktails are surprisingly good. Perhaps the only giveaways in a hypothetical blind test would be the extremely smooth texture and lack of garnish. There are currently 20 mainstays, with savoury-sweet Popcorn & Coke marking the highest ABV on the board.

To commemorate The World's 50 Best Bars happening in Singapore for the first time, exclusive creations crafted by internationally-recognised bartenders are available throughout the month of October, highlighted in red on the menu board.

Oolong Tea Collins (Antonio Lai of Quinary, Hong Kong) is the first tea-infused attempt of several personally tried over the years that actually tastes like the perfect ratio of tea to alcohol; where both ingredients harmonised rather than kill each other in the fight for the spotlight. Peach & Coke (Demie Kim of Zest, Seoul) is a dream for those who love the flavours old school cough syrup. A safe choice for the unadventurous would be the Margarita Spritz (Matt Whiley of Re-, Sydney), while Soul of Osaka (Hidetsugu Ueno of High Five, Tokyo) would easily divide the room. 

From left: Drunken Clams, Egg Pancake, Duck-fat fries, Braised Pork Arancini. DRAFT LAND

Fret not, you won't be drinking on an empty stomach. Taiwanese-inspired bites like the Braised Pork Arancini, Egg Pancake and duck-fat fries are amongst the yet-to-be expanded list of ideal companions.

How we feel about it in a gif

Season 2 Drinking GIF by Parks and Recreation - Find & Share on GIPHY

Draft Land is located on 24 Purvis Street, Singapore 188601.

The massive rear triple camera array. SIMON COCKS

Apple just unleashed a quartet of new iPhones upon the world. You’ve got the standard lineup of the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus, in addition to the premium iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. So far, so expected. But is it time to trade in your trusted companion for a new titanium powerhouse? That’s what we’re here to help you decide.

While we can’t say we’re that surprised about any of the announcements – there’s been a new model every September for over a decade, and much about these ones was rumoured – we’re happy to report that, after going hands-on, we can say there are appreciable and noticeable upgrades to every phone in the new lineup.

We’ve been testing every new Apple phone and there’s nothing that we’d call a mere “S” model here. But, if you want all the most eye-catching changes, there’s likely only one that you’re lusting after: The iPhone 15 Pro Max.

The 15 Pro Max will feel large, though, if you’re used to a smaller phone. SIMON COCKS

iPhone 15 Pro Max Design and Refinements

It’s all about titanium in 2023. Light, strong, and ready for space exploration. Across the board, Apple has made its Pro phones less weighty. The 14 Pro was 206g, and the 14 Pro Max came in at 240g on the scale. With the 15 lineup, the 15 Pro is 187g and the 15 Pro Max is 221g – it is a big difference that you can actually notice.

Beyond that, though, all of these phones continue to look just like other iPhone models. You’ve got the same look with the massive triple camera setup on the back, and the “Dynamic Island” at the top of the display, housing the front lens and clever face recognition sensors. It’s worth mentioning that both this and the 15 Pro have the thinnest bezels ever witnessed on an iPhone, shaving crucial millimetres off the body of the handset and making it feel slightly smaller when held.

If you like your phone to live without a case, then Apple has some changes you’ll appreciate. It’s not only the reduced weight of the thing, but it now also has these lovely contoured edges and a slightly more matte finish to the back glass. It makes it feel less like you’re going to drop it, so it’s now a realistic option without a case (as long as you’ve got insurance).

The iPhone 15 Pro Max in Apple’s FineWoven case. SIMON COCKS

Speaking of cases, Apple has ditched leather in an environmental push and replaced those cases with its “FineWoven” lineup. We do like the suedelike look and feel of these, but they feel a little overpriced and if protection is your focus, we reckon you’ll prefer highly durable designs like the ones from British brand Mous. If you like a soft touch, the FineWoven ones do feel lovely, though. Want to show off the colour of your phone? Look at Apple’s clear case.

On those colours, the Pro range now comes in four minimal shades: black titanium, white titanium, blue titanium and natural titanium. We’re aware of the critiques that these are all a bit similar, especially the white and the natural, but having seen them all in person in Cupertino, we think they’re easy to distinguish from each other. We think the blue and the natural titanium (the colour of our review unit) are especially appealing.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max action button. SIMON COCKS

iPhone 15 Pro Max Action Button

Let’s be honest, none of us were ever using that mute switch on the left side of our iPhones, were we? Ours has been left on silent since at least the iPhone 4, so it’s essentially useless. That’s why we’re so glad that Apple has replaced the toggle with a fully customisable “action button” on the side of the Pro devices.

By default, a long press of this button still changes your handset between audible alerts and silence, but you can hop into settings and alter it to quickly launch the camera, switch on the torch, put on “do not disturb”, record a voice memo, or do whatever you like with a “Shortcut” – effectively, this launches any app or does almost any action you can imagine. Want to press the button to start your podcast queue, hit play on a workout playlist or launch a third-party camera app? It’s all possible. Not enough of you are taking advantage of the power of shortcuts, so now’s the time to start.

We love this little button, but if we were being picky, we’d say that we’d appreciate even more customisation. Imagine if you could control what it does in different apps or if it could have different functions depending on your focus mode. We’re just throwing out ideas here, but with per-app functions, we’re picturing features to turn it into a way to hop back to the camera when browsing your photos app, while having it still be a way to control something else once in a different app.

Or maybe that if we’re in our “Reading” focus mode it’ll automatically open Reeder or Instapaper, without changing its main use when not in that mode. We’re aware some of this would be complicated to implement, but it’s exciting that there are possibilities and future upgrades could make this button even more useful. So long, mute switch.

High resolution shot. SIMON COCKS

iPhone 15 Pro Max Camera Upgrades

We should be clear that we already adore the performance of the camera on the iPhone 14 Pro. And, if you’re not a discerning photographer, it’s true that it’s also getting harder to notice the increasingly gradual changes between versions.

But there are clear reasons why the 15 Pro series is yet another big step up. It’s a larger main sensor, with reduced lens flare, improved portraits in night mode and, well, just upgraded portraits overall. But there’s one last trick up the sleeve of the 15 Pro Max, and that’s an expanded zoom range. Say goodbye to the 3x zoom, and hello to a 5x reach.

First up, though, portraiture. Look, we can’t be the only ones here who appreciate the notion of the creamy bokeh-licious background blur of a portrait mode but find we barely ever remember to switch it on. Apple gets it. With all the iPhone 15 models, the portrait mode is automatic in photos with people and certain animals (yes to cats and dogs, but no to hedgehogs – sorry, we don’t make the rules).

Telephoto camera. SIMON COCKS

This is going to make it much easier to fill your camera roll with pro-looking portraits, and we’ve already found it simple to use. It works every time with people but is a little more hit-and-miss with animals – it may have just not gotten along with the Shih Tzu we met in the park, but it worked for the Cockapoo we encountered in the pub. We’re fans of the depth control on all the shots, and how you can change the focus point after the shot. You’re getting a huge amount of creative control in a compact package here.

We tested out the longer 5x zoom on the Pro Max too, and we like the crisp and detailed shots from this third lens. We know Samsung fans swear by the absurd zoom length on the S23 Ultra, but we just don’t find it useful and the results are inconsistent, crunchy and too unnatural.

The iPhone is the better pick for consistency between the lenses and more true-to-life reproduction of details and colours. This system is a fantastic option for mobile photographers – we’d say if you lean more towards wildlife, outdoor events or field trips, the 15 Pro Max’s long 120mm equivalent zoom is better, but for a classic portraiture focal length, the 77mm telephoto of the 15 Pro is the one to pick.

Zoom range. SIMON COCKS

Both Pro models also give you a new ability to choose your standard lens and switch between the 24, 28 and 35mm focal lengths. We’ve already seen some commentators confuse this with a digital zoom, but there’s actual computational wizardry going on here too.

You can tell because the output of each option is at the same 24-megapixel resolution, and the results do come out looking terrific. Where we can see this coming in handy is if we want to match the focal length of our main camera (a 35mm-equivalent Fujifilm X100V) while shooting and want to include a few iPhone snaps without them sticking out like sore thumbs.

Overall, we’re left feeling like there’s little that this camera can’t do for most photographers – it’s an absurdly capable piece of kit that delivers quality shots from every lens.

Finally, USB-C. SIMON COCKS

iPhone 15 Pro Max Charging and Connectivity

Rejoice, Apple has caught up with the rest of the industry and the direction of its own gadgets by finally adding a USB-C port to every iPhone 15. Everyone doesn’t always remember this detail, but Apple was in fact the first brand to put USB-C on a laptop back in 2015, when it added it to its 12-inch MacBook. So, it’s a bit of a shame that it’s taken this long to reach the phones (USB-C iPads have been sold to the masses since 2018), but we’re not about to complain.

At last, your iPhone can charge using the same cord that you use for every other gadget in your house, whether that’s your headphones, MacBook, portable speakers, or wireless mechanical keyboard – it also means you’ll have one fewer cable to remember to bring with your power bank when you leave the house, or when you pack for your travels.

We’ve been testing what this port can do, and it’s good news that it’s not locked down like Lightning. We’ve connected third-party memory card readers to access photos and videos taken on our camera, a powerful USB-C to 3.5mm DAC to drive our wired headphones playing music from high-res music streaming services, and to recharge the phone with the same charger we’d use for our laptop or iPad.

The devices will negotiate the required amount of power, and as long as you’re not buying weirdly cheap third-party chargers from no-name brands on Amazon there isn’t a risk because USB-C is a standard, and that’s why this change is such a welcome addition. Apple talks about how it can charge the new USB-C AirPods and an Apple Watch with the necessary cable, but it actually goes much beyond that.

This battery will last several hours more than your old 12 Pro Max. SIMON COCKS

We tested several connections and it can pass power over to another iPhone 15 with less remaining battery via a USB-C to USB-C cable – it’ll do the same to an older iPhone via a USB-C to Lightning cable or to the older AirPods. It appears to work to give a little charge to non-Apple wireless earbuds too. This is all super helpful if you’re low on power, and it’s something we’d use in a pinch. It’s also good news for Pro users that this port supports rapid USB 3 data transfer, allowing you to quickly move files to attached USB-C thumb drives or fast solid-state drives.

When it comes to overall battery life and recharging, we’re looking at essentially the same story as last year. The 15 Pro Max offers up to 29 hours of downloaded video playback and up to 25 hours of video playback over streaming, continuing to offer the fastest maximum charging speeds of a 27W to 29W peak that matches its predecessor.

We need a little more time with the phone to see if it delivers the quoted battery life, but we’d expect to get just over a day of regular use, depending on screen brightness and data use. You should find it hits about half full in 30 minutes, which we tend to think is fast enough for most people, especially as it also offers convenient wireless charging via both MagSafe (up to 15W) and Qi (up to 7.5W) stands and pads.

Just about the thinnest bezels on any smartphone we’ve seen. SIMON COCKS

iPhone 15 Pro Max Verdict

If you appreciate a bigger screen, bigger battery and all the latest features, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a tremendous option. It feels innovative rather than iterative and brings some long-overdue features and some seriously impressive additions to the Pro iPhones.

Sometimes, we do find it a little too large to use one-handed but if you’re worried about that, the 15 Pro is a great phone with the vast majority of the features you get in the bigger model. However, if that far longer 5x zoom is calling out to you, we’d pick the iPhone 15 Pro Max. We love the performance of this camera setup, the capabilities of the USB-C port and the gorgeous brushed titanium design.

iPhone 15 Pro Max: The Need-to-Know

The iPhone 15 Pro Max camera in use. SIMON COCKS

iPhone 15 Pro Max: Other Rivals to Consider

Originally published on Esquire UK

10-word review

A visually detailed universe of idiosyncrasies, with a human core.

The skinny

In Barbieland—a world separate from reality and where the actual Barbies and Kens reside—Stereotypical Barbie (the Barbie, played by Margot Robbie) lives a perfect, plastic life that has seemingly no end. Until, she starts questioning her reality and begins deviating from her known, repetitive path. She ventures off into the real world in hopes of “rebooting” and finds out that women don’t rule it, among other things.


Here Be Spoilers...


What we like:

Let’s be honest. When a real-action Barbie film was announced, no one was expecting it to be this much of a cultural phenomenon spurring women and men to be decked out in all pink to watch the film. Nor could we have anticipated the first reviews to be anything but overwhelmingly positive. The Barbie movie franchise has always been based on fantasy and idealism typical of any ‘90s Saturday cartoon—regarding it as anything more seemed bonkers.

Yet, Greta Gerwig managed to craft a narrative that goes beyond the plastic veneer of a, well, doll.

But that’s not to say that Barbie is dark or too in touch with reality. In fact, Gerwig leaned into the absurdity of a Barbie utopia. Barbies are always physically on their toes when barefoot (just like the actual dolls), see little need for stairs as they defy gravity by floating down as though placed into position by human hands, shower with imaginary water, drink imaginary liquids, and change clothes (for every occasion) with nary a finger lifted.

Much has been said about the diversity of the extended cast, with naysayers decrying it as part of a woke agenda. Apart from the racial diversity that includes Issa Rae as President Barbie, Alexandra Shipp as Writer Barbie, and Ana Cruz Kayne as Judge Barbie, Barbie portrays other facets of humanity with transgender actress Hari Nef as Dr. Barbie as well as Nicola Coughlan and Sharon Rooney portraying Diplomat Barbie and Lawyer Barbie respectively. There’s even a Barbie in a wheelchair.

Issa Rae portrays President Barbie in a mostly pink Barbieland

What dissenters fail to recognise is that Barbie the doll has always been inclusive. The first Black Barbie debuted in 1980—slightly over a decade after the original Barbie—and a new line of differently sized Barbies were introduced in 2016. And of course, that’s alongside the pretty impressive range of occupations that Barbie has held throughout its 64-year existence.

But back to the story…

The main narrative of Barbie is the Barbie gaining some form of sentience, away from the rest of the Barbies. It's almost like a reverse The Stepford Wives where instead of women being reprogrammed to be submissive robots in a patriarchal community, it's the Barbies who reign all while Kens are side characters that the former care quite little about (when Barbie gets asked where do the Kens stay, she simply says, "I've never thought about it.").

Stepping into the real world causes Barbie to actually experience real human feelings, complete with tears. But most importantly, she finds out that Barbieland's existence did not mean that women in the real world are completely liberated or at the very least, given the same opportunities and treatment as men. Ken too witnesses this and because he constantly feels that his existence is wholly tethered to Barbie, decides to head back to Barbieland and enforce real-world patriarchy. But in the most naive of ways.

The most human element of the film comes in the form of Ruth Handler (played by Rhea Perlman), the co-founder of Mattel and the creator of Barbie. It's not explicitly explained in the film but based on the fact that the film occurs in present-day reality, we can safely assume that it's a spiritual representation of Handler. She guides Barbie in realising that—like the countless other versions of Barbie created after her—there's no predestined ending to her path; Barbie can essentially decide what she wants to be.

What we didn't like:

If we were to nitpick, there are quite a number of loopholes that aren't exactly explained.

While it Barbieland is aware of the real world, it does seem as though the real world is somewhat aware of the existence of Barbieland too—at least that's what can be gleaned from the rather blasé reactions real-world humans had towards Barbie after she crossed over. The film describes an opening of a rift between the two worlds, but if that were the case, why do the Barbies allude to venturing to the real world as something that happens quite regularly?

Barbieland is incredibly detailed

The connection between how Barbie dolls are played in the real world and their affect on Barbies in Barbieland too isn't well communicated.

We're introduced to Kate McKinnon's Weird Barbie character that's a manifestation of kids mistreating their Barbies, but does her existence represent the countless number of Barbies constantly made to do the splits or getting their hair butchered? Which also begs the question: Why was Barbie's sudden existential crisis tied to a single person (America Ferrera's character)—are we to believe that no one else in the world were able to project negative thoughts onto Barbie?

There are more of such puzzling inconsistencies but we can always chalk them up to the fantasy nature of the film. Could they have been explained better? Yes.

What to look out for:

Robbie and Ryan Gosling are by no means the only A-list faces in the cast. Barbie is quite a star-filled ensemble.

Look out for Dua Lipa as a trio of Mermaid Barbies, John Cena as Merman Ken, Sex Education's Emma Mackey and Connor Swindells as Physicist Barbie and a Mattel intern respectively, as well as Will Ferrell as Mattel's oddball CEO. Oh, there's also Helen Mirren as the film's narrator who cheekily breaks the fourth wall in one scene.

Because the Barbieland universe is incredibly detailed, take note of how everything was perfectly done to actual Barbie-like scale. For example, Barbie is proportionally bigger than her car, and even the items that she uses—hairbrush, carton of milk, etc.—were scaled according to the actual toys.

Finally, there's a scene where Handler shows Barbie what it feels like to be human, and does so through a collage of moments experienced throughout a woman's life. Gerwig called for submissions from the cast and crew of the film for this as a way of adding that personal, human touch. Brilliant.

Barbie is now out in theatres.

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