Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the 1960 Rat Pack film was a great film. Featuring a cast of big names and possessing an even bigger sense of fun, it was something I enjoyed watching again and again. Then the series went downhill thanks to the release of Ocean’s 12 and had a slight improvement with the final installment Ocean’s 13. Soderbergh was adamant that neither he or George Clooney wanted to carry on with the films but that didn’t stop the rumours of a gender-swap reboot. Now, I’m all for female centric films but was there really anything to add to this series? Soderbergh’s trilogy proved that it was an area that you couldn’t really get very innovative with so would we literally just see the same film but with females in the male roles? The cast list was sensational and exciting. Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sandra Bullock, Helena Bonham Carter. Love them all. Anne Hathaway? She’s had her moments alongside her undeserving Oscar wins. Rihanna? I guess. So I was there. Really, I was just secretly glad that Leslie Jones wasn’t here in the Bernie Mack role. We’ve seen where that gets us in Ghostbusters.
Ocean’s 8 is a reboot but, unlike the recent gender-swapped Ghostbusters film, it takes place in the same universe as the Steven Soderbergh series. Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, younger sister of the first 3 film’s Danny Ocean, who is now supposedly deceased. Debbie has spent the past 5 years in prison after being set up by her old boyfriend Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), an art dealer. She has spent her time wisely and planned out an intricate heist to steal a priceless piece of Cartier jewellery at the Met Gala. She rounds up a team of old and new faces and sets her plan in motion.
I guess my major gripe with Ocean’s 8 is that everything centres around the Met Gala. That thing is treated with so much reverence it becomes super irritating. It feels as though somebody sat in a brainstorming session and said “we’re making a female only Ocean’s 11 reboot so what do women like? I know clothes!” Or is this something secretly being pushed on us by Anna Wintour herself in a bid for world domination or something? I like seeing the fun gowns as much as the next person but I don’t need to see an entire film about it. It feels kind of patronising to base the film around it. It just summons up the image of a film executive who loves nothing more than to call women “honey” in a demeaning way. But maybe I’m just super sensitive?
Because, as a film, it’s not that bad. That’s not to say that it’s great but it’s definitely not bad. The cast work really well together and, despite there being a major lack of character development, they manage to have some good times with the material. Even Rihanna, who has previously starred in the woeful Battleships comes up trumps as sassy tech wizard Nine Ball. It’s just a shame that each woman is only defined by her job and nothing more. There is a lack of the familiar banter than made the first film soar. And I for one want to know how Cate Blanchett got such short shrift. I mean she barely does anything. That’s the biggest crime on show here.
The major problem with rebooting a series created by someone like Steven Soderbergh is that so few directors can compare. Soderbergh handled the story with such ease that everything was artistic and effortless. Director Gary Ross definitely doesn’t have the same deft touch and handles things with a heavy hand. Nothing about this film really flies in the way the first remake did. It feels heavy and obvious. It feels as if nobody off-screen cares as much about this as the people on-screen. The actors are clearing trying to create something wonderful but aren’t being given the chance to do it. There is no attempt to use the massive potential for humour in the room. This is a film that would rather highlight the cavalcade of celebrity cameos than the comic timing of Sandra Bullock or Helena Bonham Carter.
Aside from the massive clichés and unoriginal plot, I have one big gripe with the narrative as a whole. There is no real sense of drama. There is no real foe to fight against. The first film had the marvelous Andy Garcia following Danny at every turn and causing real problems for them. There was a real sense that the team could get caught at any moment. The villain here? Well, it’s Anne Hathaway on particularly annoying form playing a vacuous celebrity. Or is it James Corden’s insurance investigator? Either way, no matter what these ladies have thrown at them, there is never a moment when you don’t see them getting away with it. It’s all too easy and it makes the whole thing feel kind of pointless. Which is a shame because this could have been such a great film. It just feels watered down. I don’t know if that’s just because it’s for a female audience or if it’s some other reason but Ocean’s 8 is missing something. Some real danger.