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Oceans Ocho & Ghostbusters – When Progress Means Being Allowed to Fail

Warner Bros. is officially moving forward with an all-female Oceans 11 spin-off with a working title of Oceans Ocho, and they’re not letting the startling failure of Ghostbusters stop them. To some, this might seem foolhardy, or yet another example of Hollywood’s bankrupt creativity. Honestly, though, considering just how fundamentally and thoroughly the film studios seems to be broken these days the fact that Ghostbusters’s craptastic box office performance didn’t kill this long-gestating Oceans spin-off should be viewed as a sign of progress.

Let’s size up the damage first: Ghostbusters is going to lose somewhere between $25 million and $70 million, according to Variety. There will be no sequel. The cast, all of whom who were contracted for two more films, are free to move on. Paul Feig will have to fight with people on the internet about something else now. Ivan Reitman is back in control, planning a potential animated Ghostbusters TV series for 2018 followed by an animated feature film in 2019.

Naturally, all throughout Hollywood nervous studio executives are taking a second look at the female-led projects they have in the pipeline, such as an all-female League of Extraordinary Gentleman reboot (will they call it League of Extraordinary Ladies?), and re-thinking whether the market really wants to see these kinds of movies.

Yawn. Boo. Change the channel. I think this is a re-run.

It’s enough to make you feel like Rachel in Friends: “Oh my God! I cannot keep having this same fight over and over again!”

Male-fronted films fail all the damn time, and that doesn’t send studio execs. into a tizzy. Hell, Ryan Reynolds has more box office bombs than hits in his career, yet he still gets to be Deadpool (albeit through a lot of arm-twisting and internet lobbying). But, no, whenever a female-fronted film (e.g., Supergirl, Elektra, Aeon Flux) fails it’s always, “Thanks for trying, but now you get nothing for an entire decade!” Heck, even when female-led films succeed it’s often the same story, as Geena Davis told EW while reflecting on her stretch of 90s stardom:

“After Thelma & Louise, which was pretty noticed and potent and significant, [people were saying] ‘This changes everything! There’s going to be so many female buddy movies!’ and nothing changed. And then the next movie I did was A League of Their Own, which was a huge hit and all the talk was, ‘Well now, beyond a doubt, women’s sports movies, we’re going to see a wave of them because this was so successful.’ That’s balls. It took 10 years until Bend It Like Beckham came out. So, there was no trend whatsoever.”

As such, there was so much riding on Ghostbusters. It needed to be good, not just for the money people behind it but for every woman working in the film industry. A really good and truly successful Ghostbusters, like blockbuster big (bigger than modest hits like Spy or The Heat) could be the rising tide to lift all ships. A dreadful or mediocre Ghostbusters with correspondingly low box office numbers could be the wave that wipes out all the other ships coming in behind it.

As the film’s co-screenwriter Katie Dippold told KPCC’s The Frame:

I remember when I was thinking about doing “The Heat,” I kept hearing from people, Well, don’t pitch that — wait to see how “Bridesmaids” does, or They’re just not going to buy any more female comedies. Which is so crazy to me because it was not that long ago, but it’s still a question. I feel like there’s a lot of pressure right now on the actors. There’s just not a great a lot of great starring roles for women out there. So if for some reason that movie doesn’t do well, then that actor is back to being the guy’s wife with her hand on her hip telling him he’s a troublemaker like a bunch of other movies I never want to see again. All I’m trying to do is just help that cause.

They want to play cool Ghostbusters, not Malibu Stacy:

malibu-stacyThat’s a lot of pressure, and, not surprisingly, Ghostbusters crumbled under the weight.

Yet here’s Warner Bros. stepping up to the plate to proudly proclaim “So what?” They have Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway lined up to headline a movie about a bunch of woman who pull off a heist at New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Bullock will also produce as will original Oceans director Steven Soderbergh. The cast will be rounded out with Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Awkwafina and an eight female who has yet to be cast. Gary Ross (Hunger Games/Free State of Jones) is attached to direct.

Talking to THR, a project insider laid out all the reasons they feel they are still on solid ground even after Ghostbusters:

  • The cast is internationally recognized, with 4 Oscar wins and 9 nominations between them as well as several worldwide hits to their names unlike Ghostbusters where the biggest star, Melissa McCarthy, has consistently struggled to connect with foreign audiences.
  • The budget will be kept to a manageable $70m, $80m less than the $155m Sony spent on Ghostbusters pre-tax breaks.
  • The prior Oceans films are relatively well-regarded but not considered so sacrosanct that fanboys everywhere will defend their legacy to the death (after all, didn’t Oceans 13 already damage that so-called legacy?)

You could also add that by making this is an in-canon spin-off they will at least honor what came before in a more organic, less internet-baiting way than Paul Feig’s glorified remake approach to Ghostbusters.

Village Roadshow, which co-financed Ghostbusters and will now do the same for Oceans Ocho, appears to have learned some lessons along the way.

This is progress. It really is. When Sony wanted to make a female-fronted superhero film in the Spider-Man universe Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter basically told them, “Why would you want to do that? Elektra, Catwoman and Supergirl all failed, ergo no female-fronted superhero film will ever work.” That’s how it generally works in Hollywood. No one has a damn idea how to make anything a hit, and once someone either gets lucky or is brave enough to take a chance their success is emulated until we’re all sick of it or their failure is treated as a cautionary tale so that we don’t even have the chance to get sick of something.  The fact that WB is looking at Ghostbusters‘ failure and thinking it through rationally, looking at all the reasons the film failed versus the way their film will do better, is a minor miracle.

That all being said…

Oh my God! I cannot keep having this same fight over and over again!”

Not to re-use that same picture, but there’s a completely different, by-this-point very familiar argument to be had about Ghostbusters and Oceans Ocho which has nothing to do with gender. In the case of Ocho, why can’t Warner Bros. just make a heist movie with a female cast that’s kind of like the Oceans movies but not officially attached? Why does it have to be a branded franchise pic? If those stars are truly bankable enough they don’t need some tired old franchise – they can start their own! Doesn’t Hollywood realize the world is getting increasingly tired of seeing the same old shit, regardless of cast composition?

And that’s where the Rachel quote comes back in because, honestly, these are the same exact arguments we had about Ghostbusters for literally years, from when it was a mere rumor to when we saw it and didn’t exactly love it. Ditto for whether or not using “all-female” as a descriptor is sexist. Ditto for whether or not “all-female” movies are even a good thing for feminism. It’s like we’re stuck in a loop or something.

It’s all so familiar, yet the more familiar thing would be for Oceans Ocho to die a quiet death in the wake of Ghostbusters‘ failure. That’s not happening. Progress, as it turns out, means being allowed to fail. Now let’s hope Oceans Ocho is a lot better than Ghostbusters.

Source: THR


  1. This is a beautifully written post. I agree that they should be making a movie that is unattached to the Oceans movies. I think Ghostbusters wasn’t incredibly well-received for the same reason book-readers don’t like movie adaptations: because people have a tendency to dislike anything that (in their eyes) is trying to replace the original. It cannot be the same (and it shouldn’t) but people have an aversion to it anyway. These writers and actresses don’t need their film franchise to have a pre-existing audience in order to succeed. They can succeed all on their own and I believe they deserve a chance to.

  2. You have Hollywood, which is a business being run by business people, who are not artistic or imaginative or creative enough to know what audiences want. Since they are not artists and creators, all they can go on is what worked before, which is why we kept getting the same twenty five actors starring in everything, if they get one hit (look for a lot more Ryan Reynolds movies after this), and getting endless unimaginative remakes of perfectly adequate films, inadequate sequels to mediocre films, and some things we don’t know what the hell they are, like Prometheus.

    1. What’s sad is that, I don’t even care about this movie. My liking for a the original is tepid, and I got no excitement at all for this one, despite the presence of Rihanna and Mindy Kaling, who will probably be sidelined (the way Cheadle was in the original) for a bunch of white women, whose movies I’ve never cared about. (Well, okay, I do like Bonham-Carter. She’s alright.)

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