Summer Double Feature Review: Oceans 8 and Deadpool 2
For me, the best part of summer is spending 2 hours in a heavily air conditioned theater with a bag of Swedish fish in my right cup holder and unwrapped Reese’s peanut butter cups in my left cup holder. Yes, going on an ice-cream date, having strangers bury you in sand, and getting a sun burn that transmogrifies into a tan are also important summer staples, but in my mind, SUMMER = MOVIES. Colorful, wisecracking, epic-in-scope movies that either make you physically ill and sad from being horrible, or make you think about how wonderful and truly unique the cinematic experience can be. So, with that being said, welcome to the SUMMER DOUBLE FEATURE REVIEW. Two summer tentpole releases reviewed in ONE article. Can you believe that? Has anyone done this before? Am I breaking new ground in the entertainment blogger sphere? (No, no I’m not).
SPOILERS FOR BOTH FILMS TO FOLLOW...
For this edition of the SDFR, I will be reviewing Ocean’s 8 and Deadpool 2. Both are sequels that are a part of larger franchises; both are superhero movies...
Ocean’s 8 because Rihanna
...and both are watchable at the very least! One is funnier than the other. Okay, I’ll stop there, I am not in the sixth grade and this is not a compare and contrast essay. Let’s start with Ocean’s 8!
Ocean’s 8 is not necessarily a romping good time, nor is it an awful time in my opinion. It’s another all-female cast version of a traditionally male-dominated franchise, a concept that I welcome, but always leaves me wondering why we just can’t come up with original ideas for female-led movies — at least that way we can avoid sexist comparisons to its progenitor. For me, the all-female Ghostbusters totally worked, but Ocean’s 8 is tougher to put my finger on.
In the movie, Debby Ocean has been released from prison with a scheme she has been boiling up over her five years in the slammer: to rob a super expensive necklace at the upcoming Met Gala. A lot has to be put into motion in order to pull off this heist, and with that comes her creation of a team of field-specific experts who are each willing to dabble in felonious crime in order to earn a giant cut of the necklace’s profits; it’s just a shame we don’t see all that much of them actually putting the plan into motion. A maddening amount of the movie is focused on the changing security system of the Met — definitely an important aspect of the heist’s success, yet it is extremely boring and a waste of the immense talent the movie holsters. A lot of this also has to do with director Gary Ross’s failure to create any type of visually interesting shot when the undeniably beautiful A-list actresses are not in frame. From the exterior shots to the exposition shots (in which he lingers on visually uninteresting maps), it is hard to be intrigued by anything the camera is doing, which is why the movie only works when the actresses are giving it their all.
And that’s what saves this movie. Each of the actresses are elevating second-rate dialogue and character work. It’s honestly a testament to how great they each are, but it still makes you think about how much potential this movie really had. Anne Hathaway gives a knowing performance that comments on the public’s criticism of her as a self-involved Hollywood actress that is the most fun to watch. I think it strikes the perfect balance of lampooning her persona without it feeling too knowing or mean. And she is IN on it, but not because she feels she has to be. Underrated national treasure, Sarah Paulson, is also super fun to watch as a suburban re-sale profiteer, who gets arguably the most screen time, as she is the most involved with infiltrating the Met. She exhibits a stilted passion for crime that is miraculously reignited, which really injects the movie with some much-needed energy. Awkwafina (to star in this year’s Crazy Rich Asians) is engaging and funny as well, and gets the honor of being in one of the film’s only cinematically cool shots, in which, from an aerial view, she crawls under bathroom stalls with necklace in hand. Mindy Kaling and Rihanna are both severely underused, especially playing such potentially cool characters. Blanchett and Bullock are fine and have great chemistry, however, they are not the most fascinating characters, which makes the sidestepping of the ensemble cast all the more frustrating.
The failure here is to develop a better sense of excitement and bonding teamwork through interesting visuals and more captivating individual character work and dialogue. This is a HEIST movie: why can’t we learn more about these characters as they plan the heist, and better yet, as the heist is set in motion? Also, after probably 45 minutes of time spent on security cameras, the fifteen-minute heist itself could not be more disappointing. Hathaway’s character is attention-grabbing because we see the most of her everyday life, while the ensemble cast are treated more like pawns of the grander scheme, ultimately just there to fill the roster of Debby Ocean’s team. The movie is worth the watch to see these awesome actresses in scenes together, but don’t expect to think too much about their dynamics outside of the theater.
Quick question: if Ryan Reynolds cracks a joke but Blake Lively isn’t there to laugh at it, is he still funny? I’m just kidding. I have vocalized my quips about 2016’s Deadpool before, but even I can’t deny that Deadpool 2 is an extremely entertaining summer popcorn movie. In a movie world where the superhero genre churns out nothing but same-y, forgettable fair as a part of a larger “cinematic universe” (aside from the spectacular Infinity War), Deadpool 2 serves as a distinct and refreshing take on the superhero movie, even if it doesn’t always work (and yes, I realize these films are a part of a larger superhero movie-verse as well. BLERG).
While the first Deadpool’s jokes were mostly too inside and steeped in nerdy superhero mythology to be universally funny (no shade to nerds), most of Deadpool 2’s jokes are actually funny. As in you don’t have to be well versed in the politics of superhero movies and find Ryan Reynolds a comedy messiah to laugh at them. In this one, Reynold’s Deadpool is grieving from the loss of his girlfriend while also reluctantly indoctrinating himself into a team of mutants called X-Force. Along the way he runs into a troubled young mutant, Firefist, who is suffering from abuse at the hands of a mutant orphanage. We get a bit of a Logan-esque dynamic between Deadpool and Firefist that is both heartwarming and winking towards the mentor-mentee dynamic of many a superhero movie. While struggling to control Firefist, Deadpool must also evade Cable (played by a winning Josh Brolin), a time-traveling cyber-soldier who wants to correct the course of future calamity by murdering Firefist, who is the cause of the coming apocalypse. Again, though, the story does not much matter here as much as the solid jokes and characters.
While the dialogue is sharp in this one, the visual gags are what really had me laughing. A sequence in which Deadpool’s newly assembled team skydives out of a moving plane is belly-laugh inducing, which, in my opinion, can make even the worst movie worth the watch. This movie is quite good though; it makes you think about how hard it is to strike a balance between story, jokes, and character moments. Yes, as I said the jokes are what matter most here, but the story is just interesting enough to carry the movie along. Another noteworthy aspect where this genre’s counterparts generally fail is the action! Actual interesting, fun, inventive action accompanied by super cool camera work. Honestly, and I’m truly sorry to say this, but none of those Avengers movies have action as compelling as this movie’s is. I have to give credit where credit is due here because action is one of those movie elements that most people mistakenly think is boring because it’s often never done right. So kudos to you Deadpool 2 (and I guess Ryan Reynolds)!
Yes, Reynolds’ shtick can get annoying, and you can start to see his reportedly insane obsession with these movies and his behind-the-scenes micromanaging crack through the seams of his snarky jokes, but I walked out of this movie ENTERTAINED, and that my friends, is the reason for the summer season.
So, I guess Deadpool 2 wins out. This wasn’t a head-to-head battle to begin with, but I don’t know, I guess I can’t completely avoid comparing two movies after writing about them back-to-back, can I? Anyway, this now concludes this edition of the Summer Double Feature Review. It felt very important and relevant. Justice for Rihanna in Oceans 9. Okay, gonna go put sun-tan-lotion on a beach ball until I see two more movies!