The Sandra Bullock-helmed spinoff is the most prominent in an upcoming slate of female-led reboots and remakes; “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Silver and Black” and a new “24” possibly on the way
Sandra Bullock is the new George Clooney, but better.
The internet is abuzz after getting a first peek at the upcoming “Ocean’s 8” film when the trailer for the heist comedy dropped earlier this week— the trailer has been viewed over 4 million times on YouTube in just over 24 hours. Boasting a star-studded girl squad that includes Sandra Bullock, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna and Anne Hathaway, the movie is both sequel and spin-off to the blockbuster “Ocean’s Trilogy,” which featured Amal Clooney’s husband leading a blokey gang of thieves played by Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and company.
“Ocean’s 8,” which drops this coming summer, is arguably the most anticipated of an upcoming number of female-led spinoffs and reboots. Sony is in pre-production for “Silver and Black,” an extension of the Spiderman universe about two female mercenaries that Gina Prince-Bythewood has signed on to direct, making her the first woman of color to make a superhero flick. After a past TV movie, “A Wrinkle in Time” is headed for the big screen, with the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon set to appear in the adventure flick. And even “24,” America’s favorite counter-terrorism TV franchise, could be set to launch a series revolving around the life of a female prosecutor, Deadline Hollywood recently reported.
These upcoming shows are an extension of Hollywood’s current preoccupation with (re)creating expansive universes from popular series. “With any reboot, you’re trying to infuse a modern sensibility into an older franchise,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. “If you can execute on taking a venerable piece of intellectual property and updating it with an innovative cast, you’ve got pure magic.”
Though “Silver & Black” and “Ocean’s 8” were in the pipeline before the women behind #MeToo became Time Magazine’s Person of the Year and “Wonder Woman” made waves at the box office, they too speak to a desire by audiences to see strong women on big and small screens alike. Just witness the box office acclaim awarded “Hidden Figures,” which told the story of three African-American scientists at post-war NASA.
“In a climate of horrible misogynistic backlash in the U.S., these shows speak to a majority of Americans,” says Moira Weigel, a Harvard University fellow who studies female representation in the media. “These properties can be successful in a moment of gender politics and reckoning around Hollywood.”
Of course, diverse gender representation isn’t a guarantee of success. The record is mixed: Netflix made the highly popular “Jessica Jones,” which stars Krysten Ritter as a former superhero with PTSD and the CW had four popular seasons of a “Nikita” remake. Still, a 2016 women-driven reboot of “Ghostbusters” proved disappointing at the box office. “Innovative casting can only get you so far,” says Dergarabedian, who likes what he’s seen of “Ocean’s 8” so far. “If you make bad sequel reboots, that will start poisoning the well.”
For studios, this suggests that girl power flicks can get audiences to pay attention, but they need compelling, female-friendly storylines to keep moviegoers hooked. “You can’t just make Superman a woman and say ‘Job done! Feminist representation!’” adds Weigel, author of “Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating.” “I would love to see stories where women are protagonists of our own lives rather than objects, which is how the action industry has treated us.”
One thing’s for sure though, there’ll be a segment of internet fanboys unhappy that strong women get screen time. A case in point: the catty comments about the cast under “Ocean’s 8” trailer. “Anytime women enter a field men see as theirs, there’s a backlash,” says Weigel. “Some traditional fans may lead the backlash, but there are also new audiences who don’t feel served by the dominant franchises that exist.”
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