Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster epic Oppenheimer is wowing critics and selling out cinemas across the world. It’s already threatening to eclipse the disappointing Indiana Jones remake and even Tom Cruise’s raved about latest instalment of the Mission Impossible series. But it’s a worldwide hit with one notable exception: the film hasn’t been released in Japan yet, and no word has been given of when it will be. Some are speculating that there may be no Japanese release at all.
That would be highly unusual. Japan, unlike some of its neighbours, very rarely bans films and has accepted WW2 offerings, such as Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers and Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour without demur. It is also not unusual to delay big Hollywood offerings to test if they are likely to succeed in Japan (there isn’t much of a piracy problem here). And with the local blockbuster, Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron, about the aftermath of the Tokyo fire bombing, dominating the box office perhaps that is considered quite enough WW2-related material to be getting on with.
But it is certainly curious that Toho-Towa – the largest distributor of Hollywood films has yet to confirm a release date or preview screenings for Oppenheimer or offer any explanation for the delay. And a spokesperson for Universal (which made the film) has been similarly opaque, saying simply that plans have not yet been finalised. That does suggest there may be some disquiet about the content of Nolan’s film and the option of skipping Japan altogether might be being discussed.
Why would that be? There has been criticism that Oppenheimer features no scenes of the devastation wrought by the atomic bomb blasts on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (where 220,000 died) and has no Japanese actors in the cast.