If recent times are anything to go by, Hollywood is all about reproducing what has worked in the past. It's based on a perception that intellectual property and recognisable brands are the key to minimising risk and preventing extensive losses at the box office. The highly anticipated release of Ocean's 8 again follows this trend. This time the franchise starts all over again with a predominately female cast of stellar actresses, taking advantage of the public's audible cries for more diversity in movies. Unfortunately, this push for diversity is often at the sacrifice of story and plot. Ocean's 8 places itself as a sequel of sorts to the successful Ocean's Eleven trilogy featuring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. While Ocean's 8 does stand on its own, knowledge of the previous trilogy will definitely enhance the viewing experience.
On first impressions Ocean's 8 undeniably seems a lot less fun than the George Clooney led trilogy. Much of the marketing for the previous trio of films was built around the comradery amongst the cast, and the parallels they had with Frank Sinatra's "rat pack" and the original Ocean's 11 film. The Ocean's 8 cast, while much more impressive on paper, lacks the chemistry that you'd expect from such a stellar group of performers. This flaw is not based so much on performance, but more on the lack of plot and character development.
The plot to Ocean's 8 essentially see's a retread of the Ocean's Eleven film from 2001. There is, of course, the planning of an impossible heist, which elegantly disguises a subplot for revenge and retribution. Meanwhile, a number of creative surprises and revelations are sprinkled along the way. While some of the concepts seem original, most of the key story beats feel incredibly familiar. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially considering Ocean's 8 is tipping the hat to heist films of the past. However, the opportunity to push the boundaries especially with such a stellar cast at their disposal is undeniably missed on this occasion.
In essence, the story sees an amalgamation of 2001's Ocean's Eleven and 1999's The Thomas Crown Affair, with the Met Gala taking centre stage as the perfect scenario for a heist. We are introduced to Danny Ocean's sister Debbie Ocean, who is conveniently up for parole. She has been incarcerated for 5 years for a scheme that went wrong after she was betrayed. This has subsequently gave her the perfect opportunity to conjure a flawless plan to rob the annual Met Gala at New York's famous Metropolitan Museum. Her target is one of the most expensive diamond necklaces in the world. The only catch is that she needs a team of eight to complete the job. From here much of the film is focused on assembling the team and establishing their unique skill sets, not to mention their unusual quirks. While this is accomplished effectively for the most part, each of the eight cast members is tremendously underdeveloped.
Strangely one of the most neglected is Debbie Ocean herself. Audiences will understand her motivations and the predicament she finds herself in, however, the plot and script does little to stir the emotions. As a consequence, audiences may find it difficult to feel totally invested in the characters or the story. The 2001 Ocean's Eleven movie doesn't necessarily do much to build character depth either, although it seems to rely on its humour and fun character conflict to compensate for this. In a way it makes audiences feel part of the crew. This is a factor that is lacking in Ocean's 8.
The movie's greatest accomplishment is the construction of the tremendous cast. The film stars Sandra Bullock as Danny Ocean's immensely independent sister Debbie, in addition to Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson and Rihanna. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett lead the film well for the most part, although they seem to have little to do, which makes it difficult for them to flex their acting muscles. In a strange turn of events, Anne Hathway's role as the main antagonist Daphne Kluger seems to steal most of the film. The role is a departure from her previous work, which sees her conjure a tremendously vain persona that is annoying as it is entertaining.
The undeniable star of the film is the marvellous backdrop of Manhattan and New York City. The urban scenery is absolutely stunning, with the aesthetically pleasing Metropolitan Museum forming the centrepiece for most of the action. An eclectic range of cameos make the whole scenario seem all the more authentic, not to mention the addition of a few surprise appearances that are sure to keep fans of the previous trilogy happy.
Steven Soderbergh's cinematic influence and visual style from the previous Ocean's movies is clearly present throughout Ocean's 8, offering the audience a familiar feel not to mention a nice level of continuity. However, from a cinematography perspective, Ocean's 8 takes less creative chances than the trilogy of Ocean's films that preceded it. This is undeniably a result of the studios' immense desire to reduce risk and maximise nostalgia. It is also likely a result of backlash towards Ocean's 12's unique and artistic visual style.
Overall, Ocean's 8 falls flat on the aspects of originality and execution. The premise is strong and the cast is formidable, but the script doesn't take enough chances to be a worthy successor to 2001's Ocean's Eleven. It also has to be said that the cast's synergy doesn't feel very organic, which again seems to be due to a lack of imagination when constructing the story and the script. Ocean's 8 had the perfect opportunity to create something new with the strength of such a recognisable intellectual property. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much to take the heist genre to new levels. In saying this, the cast dynamic and performances are more than enough to make it a worthwhile trip to the cinema. The surprise cameos and references to 2001's Ocean's Eleven will also keep fans of the franchise entertained for the time being. Ocean's 8 is in cinemas right now.