“Ocean 11”, perhaps one of the most successful films of all time in bringing together several of the biggest names in the movie business, was never really expected to have such a cult following. In the 1960s, this heist film was created by Lewis Milestone with the goal of featuring the original rat packers, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. During this time, it was never expected that this would be such a success in its later years yet in a 2001 remake of the film, it opened up the franchise to a whole host of opportunities by again featuring some of the biggest names in the business such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts (Ansen 2001).
The 1960’s Ocean’s eleven movie was based on a series of thefts of Casinos along the Las Vegas strip by a number of World War II veterans which was originally based on a story that was heard from a gas station attendant by Gilbert Kay (Levy 1998). The basic premise of the movie is the New Year’s Eve heist which is planned by the group. The success is virtually ensured as no group as highly trained has ever attempted to commit such a heist. The plan is to blow up the tower to create a diversion and under the cover of darkness, steal the money from the cashier’s cages and then load them into garbage bins (Levy 1998). This basic plot, is quite similar to the remake of the same except for the major difference which is that the original movie was never conceived to have a sequel whereas the 2001 remake of the same was (Levy 1998).
In the 2001 version, there were other subtle differences such as the fact that the group was not composed of World War II veterans but rather highly trained and specialized group that previously engaged in all sorts of scams and heists (Ansen 2001). The main motivation in this case, aside from the enormous amount of cash that they plan to steal, is revenge. In the remake, the financier for the group had a grudge against Benedict Arnold and wanted to get back at him. This is quite unlike the original movie which was simply about robbing the casinos and does not feature the same high tech gadgetry that the gang in the remake uses.
Another difference in the remake comes in the characters that were used in the film. To avid fans of the Ocean’s 11 movie franchise, the fact that the supporting cast used different names from the their original counterparts will be quite obvious (Ansen 2001). Due to the perceived difficulty that the director and the screenwriters of the remake would have with the characters, it was suggested that the names be different in order to bring about a fresher perspective (Ansen 2001). This also made it easier for the gang to put an entirely different spin on the ending of the movie and allow for the characters to develop more as the franchise progressed.
While the 2001 Ocean’s 11 had the pretenses of being quite different from the 1960s version, it also had several similarities as it employed the same basic plot and featured several prominent casinos in Las Vegas during this time (Ansen 2001). Yet, the crucial difference came from the fact that in the original movie, all the money that was taken during the heist was never distributed. It eventually ended up being burned to a crisp along with the body of Bergdorf who dies during the operation. This is a startling difference from the remake wherein the group is shown to have successfully escaped from the Casino with millions of dollars contained in eight duffels bags (Ansen 2001). This main difference is what sets the tone for sequel because it provides the opportunity for Benedict Arnold to exact his revenge or at least attempt to recover all of his earnings (Ansen 2001). It also sets the stage for several likeminded criminals to attempt to steal the money away from the group.
As a whole, the differences in the film can be attributed to the change in era. The high tech gadgetry and the evolution of the casino business necessitated a change in the circumstances as well as the plot of the film. Though the drastic change in ending did make these movies different, the greater difference lay in the fact that the remake characters were distinct in their own ways and had already changed the perception of the movie even before it was remade.
Ansen, David (2001-12-17), “Boys Just Wanna Have Fun”. Newsweek. 138 (25):66
Levy, Shawn Rat Pack Confidential 1998 Fourth Estate Ltd pp.117-121
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