Monday, June 25, 2018

'Ocean's 8' Botches Up Its Biggest Twist

Ocean’s 8 is a spin-off film of the Ocean’s trilogy.  This time around, instead of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, the focus is his sister Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock.  Debbie, who belongs on the same line of work as her legendary brother, has just spent nearly six years behind bars before getting paroled.  However, she didn’t waste any time in the slammer, as she planned for the biggest heist of her life while serving her sentence.  Once released, she puts it into motion, starting with recruiting her former collaborator Lou (Cate Blanchett).  Together, they assemble the crew required for the job – fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling), hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), street hustler Constance (Awkwafina), and profiteer Tammy (Sarah Paulson).  Their target?  A $150 million diamond necklace that is going to be worn by snobby celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the annual Met Gala.

I’m a big fan of Ocean’s Eleven – both the movie and the eponymous gang.  After Ocean’s 13, I wished that more movies would get made – maybe even have Danny and Rusty assemble a new crew (especially since original cast member Bernie Mac is dead).  So when an all-female Ocean’s movie was announced, I was all for it.  However, I wanted it to be a spin-off that is set in the same universe as the original movies, and not just a gender-swap reboot like 2016’s Ghostbusters.  And I thought the best way to do it is to let Julia Roberts – who plays Tess Ocean, Danny’s wife – headline the movie.  Not only would this let an OG character serve as connection, it also would allow the premise of a “female Ocean” make sense.
So Ocean’s 8 turned out being canonically linked to the original movies, and for that, I was happy.  However, they went with a sister – someone who hasn’t ever been referenced in the original trilogy.  I guess they wanted to have a woman version of “Danny Ocean” – a mastermind type – and Tess doesn’t fit the bill.  After all, she isn’t really even a criminal.  Still, what’s wrong with having a non-mastermind like Tess get top billing?  She could have been the bankroller.  A supporting character could serve as mastermind.  That would have intriguingly shake things up, making itself distinct from the original movies.

However, the concern of Ocean’s 8 is not to be different, but to be as similar as it possibly can to Ocean’s Eleven.  This is apparent from its style, tone, and editing.  This is fine, of course – preferable even.  But it’s disappointingly not limited to just those things.  The script also feels like a beat for beat recreation of Ocean’s Eleven.  Sandra Bullock’s Debbie and Cate Blanchett’s Lou are basically just the female counterparts of George Clooney’s Danny and Brad Pitt’s Rusty.   Both Debbie and Danny start out from being released from prison.  Both Debbie and Danny are partly motivated by revenge.  Etc.  One who is familiar with both movies will easily pick up parallels like these.

In short, Ocean’s 8 essentially wants to be Ocean’s Eleven, but with girl power.  
Moreover, (SPOILERS) not only did George Clooney not appear in this movie, Danny Ocean is also supposedly dead.  What?!  Now, the possibility of Danny just faking his death is offered, but nothing was made definite.  This really bugged me; I don’t think it was a proper way of explaining the absence of the character.  Meanwhile, two of the original members of Ocean’s gang – Reuben and the Amazing Yen – showed up, and it was fun.  But it was far from being as exciting as a Brad Pitt cameo.

But what I think is its biggest failing is how the surprise of its biggest twist is ruined right from the very start.  It was very easy to tell that – SPOILER (is this really a SPOILER?  It’s quite obvious) – Anne Hathaway is in cahoots with the rest.  One can effortlessly guess this from just knowing these information: a.) the movie title clearly alludes to eighth members, despite the trailer’s winking suggestion that there are only seven; and b.) Anne Hathaway is the one of the biggest stars in the cast, and surely, she is the most logical eighth member.  Or just from looking at the freakin’ movie poster for it.  Or from the promotional stills that show all of them together (see the first and third photos above.  Moreover, the still below this paragraph also spoiled another one of its twists. Lol).  In spite of this, I would have been fine with it if at least there was a solid red herring for an eighth member, as well as a cool “how” and “why” revelation about Hathaway’s character being part of Debbie Ocean’s crew.  Unfortunately, there was no attempt of a red herring, and the way Hathaway’s character became a part of Ocean’s crew was unsatisfying.  (You know who would have made a better “eighth member” twist?  Tess Ocean.)
That being said, I did like Ocean’s 8.  While it’s not as chic, suave, and stimulating as the original trilogy, it’s nevertheless as adequately fun and charming as you would expect from a heist comedy film starring a couple of magnetic A-listers.

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