Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I loved Ocean's Eleven. So did the rest of the world, right? Big whoop. What's not to love? George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, stylish Soderbergh direction, hip Las Vegas soundtrack, clever caper plot with just enough secrets and twists to keep you guessing. It was perfect.
In that David Bordwell roundtable I linked to a while ago, Paul Ramaeker writes that he considers Ocean's Twelve to be "an experiment made in good faith." A failed one, sure, but "the way it plays with audience expectations is both dependent upon familiarity with the first film, and radically divergent from it." I think he's absolutely right.
Ocean's Twelve had all the charm and humor of the first film, but it lost me by keeping me entirely out of the loop until about five minutes before the movie was over. In Ocean's Eleven, the audience was co-conspirators with the thieves. There was this little bit at the end where the filmmakers said, "Whoops! Just for fun we didn't tell you about this part," and it was exciting and cool. But we were outsiders to pretty much all of Ocean's Twelve, so when they clued us in at the end I felt cheated and lied to. Not that I was morally outraged or anything, but it robbed me of my fun.
Still, at least they were trying to do something different. Soderbergh's a talented enough guy that I truly suspect Ocean's Thirteen to be another conscious experiment. That's because I don't want to believe that it's only what it appears to be: a mindless remake of the first one. There are absolutely zero surprises in Ocean's Thirteen. The whole caper is explained from the beginning and every glitch in the plan is fixed in the most predictable way possible. Even though Don Cheadle's character says at one point that good thieves never repeat themselves, that's exactly what they do, stealing elements from the jobs in both of the previous films.
What I expect Soderbergh is doing is saying, "Ocean's Twelve was too different from the first one? Okay, here. Have the first one all over again. How do you like that?" To which the answer of course is a pouting, "Not very much, Mr. Soderbergh. You're right. Keep experimenting please." I just wish he hadn't had to send that message using actors and characters that I so badly wanted to see in another really great caper movie.