Have most of you seen these movies? They are populated by an amazing ensemble cast, and they are funny, detailed, subtle, intricate, and wonderfully well written and acted. I’d seen the first (Ocean’s 11), which was very good, and the third (Ocean’s 13), which was fantastic, but until this morning, oddly enough, I hadn’t seen Ocean’s 12. To be honest, I was tentative about seeing it. The consensus, as much as I’d heard of it, was that it wasn’t as good as the others. Some reviewer or whoever suggested that it was because of the presence of Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones as integral parts of the plot. I had seen an interview with George Clooney, and he said he loved the movie and I think he said it was his favorite of the three – his comments intrigued me, as I believe he is very good at his business.
Turns out Mr. Clooney was right. It’s a great movie. I tried to figure out where the weakness was that kept it from being as well received as the other two movies, and I think I have. It’s not the women – they are brilliant. It’s not any of the cast or the writing – the movie is as filled with gems as the others, maybe even more so (in the way that many “second of three” movies are – they answer a lot of questions, and ask a lot of questions, pulling together the trilogy, and setting up for a truly satisfying third movie). The only weakness in Ocean’s 12 is that they just slightly overplayed the “everything’s going down the toilet and we’re not going to make it” part. They just take it a little too long. All the elemental parts are fantastic, it’s just that the pacing of that specific attribute is a hair dragged out. In these movies, you do need the “all hope is lost” part, but then hints of “wait a minute, did you see that” need to come in at exactly the right time. Ocean’s 13 is a beautiful example of that.
Having said all that, many other movies are wonderfully successful at “truly all hope is lost, and we’re all going to die” including making it feel like there’s absolutely no good end in sight – sometimes with a rescue at the end (like Argo or Paycheck), and sometimes not (like Wolf Creek). The reason you can’t take it to that extreme level with movies like Ocean’s 12 is that fundamentally this movie is witty and entertaining – it is not meant to be gritty, heart-rending, and emotionally exhausting. Don’t get me wrong – Ocean’s 12 was not in any way that extreme, but one of the Ocean’s movies’ best elements is that the stories are subtle and well told – therefore the slightly out of balance pacing was just obvious enough to keep people from thoroughly enjoying the movie.
This phenomenon is interesting to me, because it does show that underneath the totally self-absorbed, unthinking, happily accepted mediocrity that is rampant in our society, the actual capabilities of thought and awareness still exist and influence people, albeit only on a subconscious level (i.e. resulting in comments like “I don’t like it because” and then they go on to say something totally idiotic and unrelated to anything even remotely close to reality). The thing I can’t figure out is if that means there’s hope the majority of people will again start thinking because the capability still exists, or if it means we’re sliding down toward the bottom of the sink and getting ready to circle the drain because most people are staunchly determined to avoid thinking under any circumstances even though (and maybe because?) they still can.