The Age of Athena: How Ocean's 8 proved women-driven movies can set the box office on fire
Clearly, it's time for these women to tell their stories because the world does seem to be listening — not as a charity, but as a thriving business
'Oceans 8' premiered only last week and it has already set its victory flag flying firmly on the box office. The film made more than $64 million worldwide in total and minted more than $41 million just on its opening weekend. That ranks it at the top of releases of the week. This female remake of the iconic 'Oceans' franchise is not only highly entertaining but is also proving to the industry that women-centric films work and, believe it or not, I'm almost certain this trend is here to stay.
Directed by Gary Ross and written by Ross and Olivia Milch, this star-studded film has multiple names from the industry that have a history of doing some amazing work. Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter are all names we have been familiar with for a really long time, and these women represent empowerment in their fields. Be it music, films or television both in front and behind the camera, these women have blown us away with their work.
The story follows Debbie Ocean, the estranged sister of Danny Ocean, and the gang who plan to wipe the Met Gala clean off its jewels, one necklace, in particular, that is worth $150 million. The Met Gala is one of the most prestigious charity events of all time and to set it there — Ross really takes the cake.
In most action films, women are nothing but sex objects — the hot girl in the background in something leather, lace or revealing or all three. She's pretty, she's dumb and all she does is make the man in the frame look good. But 'Oceans 8' changes all that.
These women mean business. They meticulously plan the heist, they execute the robbery and they do with so much swagger, it would put George Clooney to shame. No more is this genre of films ruled by men in their tuxedos and their hot women sidekicks.
The film has received mixed reviews from critics, some thought they were bland, while some felt that it was a badly directed film. Whatever the reviews maybe, there is no denying that 'Oceans 8' has indeed changed the game for women-centric action films, proving yet again that they are indeed bankable pieces of work.
This past year has been the year of female films — especially if you look at blockbuster, chart-topping, record-breaking movies such as 'Wonder Woman'. The movie threw the concept of a femme fatale superhero not working well — it was the highest grossing superhero origin film ever. It wouldn't be ambitious to say that 'Wonder Woman' came smashing down on all those notions to make a massive $821.74 million.
The other thing that 'Oceans 8' tackles superbly is the diversity palette. The colors and ethnicities in the cast could probably not make a rainbow, but they definitely make a good potpourri of black, brown, Asian and white. These women are all specialists in their own field and are no one's sidekicks.
Not to mention, it busts the myth that women cannot work together, on or off screen. These women pull off this heist like a team. Even on the set, as Hathaway recently revealed, they were more than comfortable working together. She had to pump her breastmilk and the entire cast stopped shooting just for her.
"I was so happy because I was breastfeeding and I had that moment where I was like, 'Oh, is this going to be a positive environment to be able to do that in?'. Everybody was fantastic and they understood. I remember there was one moment where we were shooting a little long, and I just kind of went, 'Uhhh,' and the girls were like 'What’s wrong?'
And I said, 'I'm sorry, I should have pumped an hour ago.' And the girls just, like, formed around me, and they were like, 'We need a break. We need a break. Annie needs to go do this.' And it was just, like, I mean, who gets that?" Crazy work environment? Crazy good, yes.
This incredible trend of box office hits with women at the center isn't new — think 'The Hunger Games' franchise, the 'Divergent' films, 'Girls Trip' and 'Annihilation' to name a few.
'Divergent' alone made more than $288 million worldwide. The Shailene Woodley-starrer made a profit of $71.87 million. This film, set in a post-apocalyptic time, portrays Woodley as the one savior for their people. It revolves around her struggles, her story, and her triumphs. The franchise has three existing parts and has one coming up sometime soon.
'The Hunger Games' is another classic example of women-centric plots being totally sellable — the film earned $408 million in the US & Canada, and $286.4 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $694.4 million! It is the highest-grossing film distributed by Lionsgate till date.
'Hunger Games – Catching Fire' made more than $865 million alone. 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' made more than $752 million and its second part made more than $653 million. Not to mention Jennifer Lawrence's character Katniss Everdeen became an icon to adolescents everywhere. While 'Girls Trip' may not have been such a money maker but when you put it next to its original budget, it's made quite a profit. The film made $140.1 million, against a net production budget of $19 million.
Clearly, it's time for these women to tell their stories because the world does seem to be listening — not as a charity, but as a thriving business.
It's like what Reese Witherspoon once said while accepting Glamour's 25th Women of the Year Awards in 2015. "Female-driven films work. Films with women at the center are not a public service project, they are a big-time, bottom line-enhancing, money-making commodity." Amen.