The “Ocean’s” franchise is, without a doubt, one of the most useless on the planet. It contributes absolutely nothing to the cinematic conversation, there are no overarching themes that are explored and there doesn’t even seem to be a point to the movies being made.
And that’s exactly why I like them so much.
Are they great films? Not by any stretch. But they are incredibly fun to watch, based in no small part on the fact that it looks like everyone involved was having so much fun. See, when I go to see a band in concert I would much rather have them play the stuff that’s inspiring and fun to them than the same old greatest hits set. When performers have fun it inspires the audience to do the same and these Ocean’s movies are a great example of that.
This latest installment brings Danny Ocean and his crew back to Las Vegas, the setting of the first movie, get even for the wrong done to one of the crew, Reuben, played by Elliot Gould. Reuben had been partnering with a casino owner (played by Al Pacino) in the opening of a new casino in Vegas but Pacino’s character decided to end the partnership suddenly. So, to exact vengeance, the Ocean crew sets up an elaborate heist that involves rigging all the games in the house so the house loses. But the plot really doesn’t matter. It’s just an excuse to get the band back together.
I didn’t like the initial poster that was released for the movie that had the cast looking up at the ceiling while standing around a craps table against a red background. At the time I thought it was poorly put together and too stark to convey the sense of fun that had been the previous movie’s big allure. I’ve since changed my mind and think that, while it’s not the best poster in the world, it is pretty good and does a good job of putting the whole cast on the one-sheet for everyone to enjoy. I even like the playing card conceit that initially I thought was overbearing. I liked the white background version a bit better.
The version I liked the best, though, is one that I didn’t see until a few weeks before the movie’s release when it started appearing in bus stops here in Chicago. It continues the playing card theme but this time puts the main cast on the top and Pacino, flanked by his Gal Friday Ellen Barkin, at the bottom. This one finally captured the franchise’s sense of whimsy, I thought, and was a worthy final, theatrical poster.
That being said, this is yet another movie whose third entry has ignored the branding efforts of the first two movies. The poster for Ocean’s Twelve had the feet of a group of group of guys running across the camera view. The Ocean’s Eleven poster had just the feet of the crew showing like they were milling about, but in a very cool way. The point is they had a theme going, a theme that did not involve showing the faces of the actors in the movie but instead created a very hip sort of swaggery image that presented the movies as ensemble efforts. This is at least the third movie this Summer whose poster has deviated from its predecessors. Stop doing this. Go with the branding, not against it, even if that means trying to sell a design that doesn’t show off Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.
The teaser trailer is great, setting up the main driving force of the film and introducing us to Pacino’s character in a way that establishes the conflict between him and the Ocean crew. If there’s one thing that’s missing it’s why they’re at odds, with no mention of Reuben’s incapacitation made. That’s not a huge omission for a teaser trailer, but without it they guys are just acting for no purpose, at least not one that’s discernible.
The theatrical trailer is much better at that and is, quite frankly, a ton of fun. In fact both are, full of the loose attitude that made the first two movies so infectious.
In a great move, Warner Bros. created a YouTube channel for the movie’s trailers and various TV spots. The page has been skinned with the red version of the movie’s first poster, with the cast outlining your browser window. It’s an absolutely fantastic move since it creates a single hub – something I’m always looking for and advocating on behalf of creating – for all the promotional video content for the movie. An awesome move that I wish more studios would do. The channel would likely have never been discovered by me except for the fact that it was promoted on the front page of YouTube when I happened to be researching for the movie.
Warner Bros. has created a very nice official website for the movie. When you first pull it up you’re greeted with a mini site lite and the theatrical trailer that autoplays. There’s also the teaser trailer you can watch. A pretty cool Photo Gallery – including mostly stills that aren’t pulled just from the trailer – and the ability to listen to clips from the soundtrack are also on the page.
You can click a link on the page to get content on your mobile phone, including wallpapers, trailers and more. Finally, there’s a link to enter a contest, powered by Zannel, where you can submit your funniest revenge stories for the chance to win $1,300, some DVDs or other goodies.
But that’s just the introduction site. We haven’t even entered the main site yet.
When you do enter the full website the trailer plays again after loading – the progression of which is marked by a dealer timer. Then a spider-webs of sorts appears that has the names of the main characters spreading out from a poker chip at the middle of the screen. Clicking on one of those names doesn’t do much – just brings you to a page for them with a couple quotes from the flick. Some of the characters have things you can do, like break a bank with a sledge hammer or something, but this isn’t where you’ll find character profiles or anything like that.
You will find character profiles as part of the Production Notes in the “About the Film” section, the first item on the menu that pulls out from the left when you mouse over it. Also in there is a Synopsis and details on the people the Ocean’s crew is going after and the settings in the movie. “Cast” has really good write-ups of the major players you can scroll through, with histories and their resumes. “Filmmakers” does the same things for those behind the camera.
“Downloads” just has some buddy icons, wallpapers, a poster and a screensaver. “Photo Gallery” replicates exactly what is on the introductory site but in slightly different format. “Videos” is just the trailers and the TV spots. If you want to learn more about the movement to fight the genocide in Darfur – a major theme of the cast’s promotional tour – you can click on the Not on Our Watch link in the “Partners” section. Finally, “Promotions” is just a list of links to radio station and entertainment Websites that are hosting sweepstakes related to the movie.
Advertising and More
The latest movie got some major pimping during a recent broadcast of Ocean’s Twelve on CBS, a broadcast that included a bunch of TV spots for the new movie and some behind-the-scenes interview. That was roughly the same format as the feature on TiVo’s Showcase, where there as a four-minute feature that mixed BTS footage with stuff from the trailers. There was also the deal with Glu Mobile to distribute content from the movie to mobile users. There were also a bunch of online ads that popped up all over the Internet.
This is a good campaign, but only in fits and starts. Some weak posters are overcome by some great trailers. A ho-hum website is made up for by some of the better posters and a focus by the stars on philanthropy. On the whole it’s good but not great. Had there been a stronger website and a stronger emphasis on maintaining the branding established by the first two movies I would probably have a higher opinion of the push as a whole but as it stands it’s little more than a shoulder shrug. The trailers are definitely the strongest aspect so just keep watching those.