THIS week sees the release of two of the year’s most hotly anticipated blockbusters. A cinematic duo from two directors at the very top of their game, each boasting a sparkling all-star cast. Separately, both films could be deemed ‘event cinema’.

Released in tandem, they’ve created a moment. It’s a phenomenon that’s been affectionately named ‘Barbenheimer’.

Counter programming is common practice at the box office. This is the term given to the release of two completely polar films alongside each other. Back in 2008, for example, The Dark Knight launched the same week as Mamma Mia. The idea here is to max out the multiplex by ensuring that there’s something for everyone without the two main features competing for sales.

In theory, Barbie and Oppenheimer serve as perfect counter programmers. While the former is a bubblegum pink fest of froth, the latter is a grim, partially black and white, biopic about the man who built the world’s first nuclear bomb. Come on Barbie, let’s go wipe out millions. Ahem.

That’s the theory. In reality, the pair are so deliriously diametric that doing the double has quickly become the Summer’s biggest craze. The question on everyone’s lips? Do you see Barbie then Oppenheimer or vice versa?

Of course, it’s worth noting that much of the fad stems from an awareness that each film boasts an Oscar-winning director at the helm. It’s a lot harder to dismiss a Barbie movie from Greta Gerwig, the maker of Lady Bird and 2019’s Little Women. As for Oppenheimer, that’s the work of Britain’s own Christopher Nolan.

Cillian Murphy leads Oppenheimer, playing the titular physicist with sinewy severity. It’s the performance of a lifetime from the Peaky Blinders star in a film chockablock with top tier acting. Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Matt Damon…all here, all outstanding.

Around them, Oppenheimer is a tense and relentlessly paced drama, intricately in tune with a minefield of philosophical conflict. Cinema doesn’t get more immersive than this.

As for Barbie, it’s a funnier and smarter feature than anyone had any right to expect. Margot Robbie is delightful as one of a dozen Barbies, with Ryan Gosling glorious as her principal Ken.

Sharp satire meets surprising emotional depth as the two dolls enter the real world. It’s also the most pink you will ever see on screen.