So Ocean’s 8, the controversial female revitalisation of Soderbergh’s heist series, has finally arrived. And if Hollywood has proven anything in the past, there will soon be talks of how the producers can serialise this hot new reboot as soon as possible. While the box office reception has been lukewarm, there is enough bare materials to look at a second movie (Ocean’s 9?). However, some will, rightly so, argue that this is not such a good idea.
Let’s look at history. Ocean’s 11 was also a solid enough film. While time has aged this movie considerably, stripping it back to be a flashy blockbuster with the barest shred of depth, it did its job suitably. Few could argue with the result. Back then, too, the very mention of a sequel was enough to get people excited. It didn’t seem likely that seeing the A-List cast, boasting the likes of Clooney, Pitt, Damon and Garcia could ever get old. But the quality of each movie plummeted disastrously. Ocean’s 12 was a messy grab at what came before. And Ocean’s 13 was so wrapped up its own past that it became a predictable affair that had the audacity to drag the great Al Pacino into the muck with it. The evidence shows that a mishandled Ocean’s 8 sequel has the potential to fall into the same traps. This is especially true when we look at the problems noticed in Sandra Bullock’s movie. The story strayed too close to what came before and the tensions weren’t raised high enough. The knee-jerk reaction would be to make something totally different than what came before, potentially killing off that Ocean’s vibe. Or perhaps the producers will stray close to what they know and simply make the same movie again. While that will likely end up better, it will likely condemn Ocean’s 8 to the realm of failed experiments. And we really want this series to work, because of what it stands for. Seeing this feminist flagship crumble under the pressures of Hollywood’s demands will definitely be bad for cinema as a whole.
Therefore, perhaps it is all about changing things up in the right places. My answer would be to change up 75% of the cast. Keep Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean, whose family name and character would be the clear driving force behind whatever story the writers come up with, in the mix. And keep Blue, seeing as Cate Blanchett’s laidback Aussie worked so well with Debbie, both in terms of complimenting each other’s acting, but also as it makes sense narratively for the pair of them to work together again. The rest of them would be scrapped and replaced with a brand new cast. And before anyone gets angry, this is nothing to do with them as actors. I personally though Sarah Paulson was close to stealing the show and Rihanna has worked at a higher level here than I have ever seen from her before. I simply believe that the best way to keep the Ocean’s franchise fresh and innovative is to adopt an approach that constantly cycles through the cast. From a logical stand-point, it doesn’t make much sense for the same crew to work together again; it would be a sure-fire way for everyone involved to get caught, simply for a coincidence being too great. It also became such a struggle in the male sequels to explain what everyone was doing together again. For one, the heists were forced to use an explosive expert and a gymnast, simply to give everyone something to do. In an Ocean’s 8 sequel, what story would involve Mindy Kaling’s diamond expert or Helena Bonham Carter’s fashion designer being useful again? How would Anne Hathaway’s spoiled actress character work her way into the story? Having the same cast would be a quick way to either make the sequels get overly complicated with each convoluted explanation of a reunion or have the stories fall into the same routine. But surely the positives for this approach are worth investigating too. Imagine the actresses queuing to be in this pro-women franchise storming Hollywood. While it would be hard to top Hathaway and Blanchett, you can see Ocean’s 9 giving it a good go. Meryl Streep, Judi Dench… maybe Catherine Zeta Jones could come back for another bite of the apple. The paths that could be explored would open up dramatically.
Failing that, call it Ocean’s One and make a Billy Ocean documentary. I’m game.