I sat down last night on a whim and put Ocean’s Twelve in my DVD player. Let me tell you…it’s no Ocean’s Eleven. And that’s a good thing.
Watch it again…it’s pretty much a perfect movie with fantastic comedic timing, a brilliant way of slowly revealing information, a plot that is both smart and goofy all at the same time, and a tone that manages to define “cool” without feeling like a retread of other films…even though it is a remake.
So, like all of you, I was ecstatic when I learned that there would be another Ocean’s movie. These characters, I felt, were strong enough to endure another feature film, and the idea of seeing another heist excited me.
When the movie hit, though, most of the fans and critics seemed luke warm about the movie. It wasn’t as clever, it wasn’t as action-packed, and it wasn’t as cool. In other words, it wasn’t Ocean’s Eleven, so people simply weren’t interested.
I will never argue that Ocean’s Twelve is a better movie than Ocean’s Eleven. It just ain’t true. Ocean’s Twelve, though, must be commended for doing something that most sequels refuse to do: it allows itself to be its own movie.
Where as the original is a single, simple heist carried out with insane precision, the sequel is a severe twist on that formula. If you think back to the movie, we never see one single successful heist–other than the flashback scene that reveals how the egg was stolen, and that heist was so simple that it doesn’t really even count.
No, Ocean’s Twelve is a movie about taking everything you learned in Ocean’s Eleven and turning it on its head. The heist is the movie, itself–an elaborate plot to fool everyone into thinking that our heroes have failed. It would have been easy for Steven Soderbergh and gang to look at the prospect of a sequel and do a thinly veiled remake (a la Ghostbusters 2) but instead they take the elements and tone we love about the first movie and use them in a whole new way.
I guess that’s why so many people were disappointed.
In addition, Soderbergh pulls out a whole new bag of tricks, moving the story from slick Las Vegas casinos into the cultural epicenter of Europe. Everything from the camera work to the shot selection to the editing and even the titles are different. They all feel just a little more…french. A little more artsy, and a little more tongue-in-cheek. Who doesn’t giggle a bit when the camera completes an insanely long, stylistic zoom to focus in on Catherine Zeta Jones sitting in a picturesque cafe?
As I said, the movie has serious problems. Most of them stem from Catherine Zeta Jones’s detective character who feels flat, unnecessary, and unwanted. When she reunites with her father at the end, it means nothing to us…because we don’t feel close to either character. In a movie that is usually so meticulously planned and clever, this was a huge dark spot of convenience and sloppy storytelling.
But it’s forgivable. I mean, we are living in a world where Julia Roberts plays a character who looks like Julia Roberts pretending to be Julia Roberts carrying out a heist. It’s goofy and ridiculous, but so is everything in these movies. They’re the definition of fun, and I feel like Soderbergh wanted to experiment…to see how far he could push things.
I appreciate that. And I’ll defend Ocean’s Twelve over the hackneyed, rehashed Ocean’s Thirteen any day.
I appreciate when a filmmaker tries to do something different with a proven franchise, and with Ocean’s Twelve I felt like it legitimately worked. If I wanted to see a slew of remakes, I’d just re-visit the original, but now I have a distinctly unique choice.
Most of the time I’ll choose to watch the superior Ocean’s Eleven, but every once in a while I’ll be in the mood for the goofy Twelve. Where else can you see an expertly executed lookie-lou with a bundle of joy?