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Thursday, June 07, 2012

We watched the utterly preposterous and mostly adorable heist movie OCEAN'S TWELVE. The plot is borderline incoherent. Basically it's an excuse to watch big, big stars do their thing.

And they do, adorably. There are scenes between Brad Pitt and George Clooney that you just want to loop over and over because they're so much fun to watch, even when they're barely doing anything -- especially when they're barely doing anything, because any actor can do something and look interesting, but it takes a star to do nothing and make it interesting.

(I did a couple of seasons of Meisner Technique acting training in order to learn to direct and write better, and I got to watch some actors with star quality. There were actors who came in with the right interpretation of the scene. But two actors in particular, Mariska Hargitay and Clare Carey, could come in with completely the wrong interpretation of the scene and yet you couldn't take your eyes off them. They both went on to leads on TV shows)

OCEAN'S TWELVE made $125 million bucks domestic. Not huge, considering the cast, but they made another one, so I doubt they lost any money. I suspect it did bigger numbers overseas. It's a spectacle movie. You're not really watching for a story. The story is there to support set pieces -- dramatic or comic scenes where the stars are on fire, and action sequences that are just huge fun to watch.

I care a lot about story; I'm a writer after all. I have to remind myself from time to time that it's not just story that the audience is paying for. They will also gladly pay for spectacle. In fact, forced to choose between a great story and an amazing spectacle, a big chunk of the audience will choose spectacle. (See TRANSFORMERS and the STAR WARS prequels.)

The spectacle movies will date themselves really fast, as the tech improves. Movies with great stories will last. But if you get a chance to write the next Transformers movie, you can watch the next Martin Scorsese on the 3D screen in your giant Hollywood mansion.

Fortunately, you can write spectacle too. You don't have to wait for the director to add it. You can imagine the action sequences so they're spectacular. And I believe there is a way to write big parts for stars. I think it has something to do with letting the scenes breathe a little bit -- give the characters room to be stars.

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4 Comments:

It's unclear from your post if you know OCEAN'S TWELVE is the sequel to OCEAN'S ELEVEN (which is a remake).

I 100% agree with you. Just curious if you've seen the first one and your take on that.

I liked the first one (OCEAN'S ELEVEN). Thought it was really fun and well constructed. It wasn't anything incredibly deep, but it was a solid caper.

TWELVE on the other hand was just crap. Like you pointed out, an excuse to watch stars.

I only bring this up because Twelve wouldn't have happened without the the success of the Eleven remake.

There's also some rumors that Twelve's script was a spec that was lying around and had been hammered into an "Ocean's" story (which makes sense why half the cast is in jail for the majority of the film, unlike the first one that uses everyone).

By Blogger James, at 1:00 AM  

Yeah. Ocean's Eleven was a solid movie. It was more a good story populated by stars than an excuse to show stars being stars.

O's 11 made $180M, and O's 12 made $125M. My point is that the crap story didn't exactly flop, and there's a lesson to be learned from that.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 9:25 AM  

Gotcha. Was just curious.

As for sequels. Meh, they're sequels. Pirates 2 and 3 both outgrossed the original and are far inferior.

Same with Matrix 2 and 3.

Sequels get made despite story. People attend them in the hopes of the experience of the original. Very few sequels in cinematic history live up to the original. In fact, you can probably count them off on 2 hands. And 2 of them are James Cameron films.

Jeffrey Boam also has 2 pretty strong contenders with Indy 3 and Lethal Weapon 2.

Anyway, totally agree crap stories can make big box office. I just don't think it is something you can duplicate without prior success. Those films are thriving off of a pretty stellar first flick.

By Blogger James, at 10:21 PM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger mischy, at 2:49 PM  

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