OCEAN’S 8 is certainly an above average heist movie with a meager 69% on Rotten Tomatoes as of the date of publishing this article, but more importantly, this film managed to completely avoid the intense furry of hate lobbied at the recent GHOSTBUSTERS for seemingly the same choice: replacing all of the male characters of the film with women. What could account for this change?

Seemingly these films are the same, so the hate should for all logical purposes be the same as well. However, I have a theory that slight differences in three aspects of these films themselves and their marketing account for this difference. The three differences between these films are the classic nature of the source material, the integration of characters from the source material in the rebooted film, and the genre of the source material and rebooted film.

OCEAN’S 8 Isn’t Rebooting a Classic 80s Film

OCEAN'S 8
OCEAN’S 8 Promotional Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

There is no doubt that OCEAN’S ELEVEN is an extremely entertaining and fun film, but it does not hold the same place in the hearts of moviegoers as the original GHOSTBUSTERS.

First of all, GHOSTBUSTERS came out in 1984, and as evidenced by TV Shows like GLOW and STRANGERS THINGS, it is hard to argue that 80s nostalgia isn’t strong with this generation. One of the most famous shots from STRANGER THINGS involves all of the main child characters in Ghostbusters Halloween costumes.

In comparison, OCEAN’S ELEVEN is a delightful film. I can attest to the fact that my father and I have watched it far too many times to count on just two hands. However, OCEAN’S ELEVEN came out in 2001. In addition, it is already a remake of the original Frank Sinatra version. There simply hasn’t been enough time to truly build that nostalgia and reverence up for a film that is already a remake.

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In addition, OCEAN’S THIRTEEN came out just a little over twelve years ago. Meanwhile, the last GHOSTBUSTERS sequel, GHOSTBUSTERS II, came out in 1989, or about 30 years ago. Another good comparison could even be the reboot of the SPIDER-MAN franchise and the response that received. SPIDER-MAN is a classic with its sequel being hailed as one of the best superhero movies of all time.

The franchise was rebooted only five years after it’s final entry, SPIDER-MAN 3. Interestingly enough, the response to this reboot was a fatigue by fans and movie-goers, but it was not the intense hatred received by GHOSTBUSTERS (2016). I believe part of this was simply due to the timing of the reboot.

The longer a film has been able to sit in the cultural consciences the more likely it is to become a classic. Not only is it classic it also becomes perfect. However, if you reboot a recent film it is far easier for fans to be willing to receive a new version. The previous version is fresh in their mind. An older film becomes iconic and set in stone. It’s understandable that any rewriting would anger a few fans.

Overall, I believe that the strong nostalgia for this film build up over time combined with the fact that we are currently in a cultural moment that is obsessed with 80’s nostalgia helped to create the perfect environment for GHOSTBUSTERS to receive a large amount of flack while OCEAN’S 8 could simply slide by.

OCEAN’S 8 Is a Sort-Of Sequel While GHOSTBUSTERS is a Straight Reboot

OCEAN'S 8
GHOSTBUSTERS Promotional Image Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

OCEAN’S 8 is — spoiler alert — a sort of sequel to OCEAN’S ELEVEN as a franchise. I don’t want spoil any of the fun, so I won’t go into detail. However, I do believe that this reverence and acknowledgment of the original films is actually helping this movie avoid backlash. As I already said, GHOSTBUSTERS is a phenomenon that is only intensified by the current 80’s nostalgia.

Because of this, the GHOSTBUSTERS reboot’s failure to truly acknowledge the original film in its story doesn’t help. For example, the idea behind the film is that ghosts are running wild and they are the only ones who know and are willing to stop them. However, we as audience members know that this has happened before.

The film is treating this as novel when we are aware that it is not.

OCEAN’S 8 Is Just Another Heist

In comparison, OCEAN’S 8 acknowledges that this heist is another in a long line of heists that have been carried out across the last three films. OCEAN’S 8 presents its storyline as a progression of the ideology and lifestyle that led to the previous three heists. Furthermore, while both films utilize cameos in order to call attention to the previous films, perhaps capitalize is a better term then utilize but I’m trying to give them credit, OCEAN’S 8 actually integrates the cameos into the story.

It’s a stretch, and I will not give spoilers, but those characters demonstrate a flaw in the other characters in the film. They illustrate an aspect of the main character and her struggle. Unlike the cameo’s in GHOSTBUSTERS, which simply exist to remind the audience that the film itself is aware that this movie is related to the original GHOSTBUSTERS, and isn’t that funny/cool?

Heist Movies Are Easier to Remake Then Comedies Because They’re Flexible

OCEAN'S 8
OCEAN’S ELEVEN Promotional Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

I have to say that I think the hardest part about trying to remake GHOSTBUSTERS was that it is a classic 80’s comedy. The performances in it are almost as iconic as the film’s song itself. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson are known for this film. The movie attempted to recreate that spark with an all-star cast of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, but the issue is that they’re chasing a laugh and a spark. Both of these things are subjective and, therefore, much harder to capture in a rebooted film.

In comparison, however, OCEAN’S 8 has to recapture mostly a clever and sophisticated heist. The performances are without a doubt integral to the film, However, the writing doesn’t have to carry the burden of producing an iconic comedic performance. Instead, when it comes to characters, it mostly has to make them cool. The same kind of cool exemplified by Brad Pitt and George Clooney in the previous film.

In addition, because Brad Pitt and George Clooney are not necessarily known for their iconic performances in OCEAN’S ELEVEN, the actors don’t have to worry about filling those shoes. They just have to be smooth, and by achieving that in a movie that is well-thought out, they have already managed to do leaps and bounds better then GHOSTBUSTER’S reboot.

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Why Did OCEAN’S 8 Succeed Where GHOSTBUSTERS Failed?

Finally, OCEAN’S 8 had a lot more flexibility in its concept. All it had to do was be a heist. In this case, they chose the Met Ball. Compare that to GHOSTBUSTERS, where pretty much the only thing changed in that film was the final enemy. It’s still in New York City. It’s still a group of misfits fighting ghosts. People still don’t believe them until they do. This lack of flexibility in changing the premise makes the film feel like a copy. If it fails to include an iconic Bill Murray level performance, then it has failed as a film.

Honestly, there are a million factors that can account for the different response received by these two films. I haven’t even gone into the rampant sexism that was present in people’s comments about the new GHOSTBUSTERS. It all comes down to the fact that OCEAN’S 8 seems original.

I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s original from the initial trilogy. However, while it might stick to a few plot conventions, it manages to make its own original story. The only real connector is that this film is a heist and the names of certain characters. This made the film a little easier to swallow for moviegoers.

GHOSTBUSTERS attempted to take a classic and recreate its success while only changing the gender of the characters. Here’s a lesson for all you producers trying to reboot male films into female only films. Before you make your FAST AND THE FURIOUS female reboot, make sure your idea is original.

Otherwise, you’re gonna have another GHOSTBUSTERS on your hands.

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