Synopsis – When a young systems engineer blows the whistle on a dangerous technology, Charlie’s Angels are called into action, putting their lives on the line to protect us all.
My Take – Not to spark up a debate, but I do agree with the fact that the current cinematic moment is indeed quite dark. As original films are being unceremoniously dumped on streaming services by studios all in the favor of recycling every other property they own the rights to and has succeeded in the past, without the concern or sense if the IP would work in the current date or not.
For example here, Sony executives, who didn’t seem to have learned a lesson from the massive failures of both the Ghostbusters and MIB reboots, have now attempted (a failed attempt box office wise, as of today) to revive a franchise, which has been dead for almost two decades, not considering the failed 2011 ABC television series reboot, to ride on the current wave of feminist representation.
Personally, the original 1970s TV series film adaptions that released in 2000 and 2003, still holds a special place in my teenage heart, as Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore were absolutely phenomenal in them. But keeping in mind how the landscape of films has changed now, it seemed hard to digest how its silly concept which included the female leads wearing flattering outfits for every possible occasion, find acceptance.
Nevertheless, despite keeping all that in mind, I couldn’t keep from casually smiling throughout its run time, as director Elizabeth Banks’ fresh cinematic take found intriguing ways to improve upon the unraveling of its evil plot with a bulletproof sense of fun, with fewer gratuitous butt shots and a more overt reinforcement of the power of sisterhood.
While it does little to escape the convoluted plot twists of the previous films and lacks memorable action set pieces, its unconventional female ensemble channels a bright and poppy empowering energy, which may be good enough to impress its targeted younger set of audience.
Timeline wise, the film is a direct continuation of the previous two films and the original ’70s series, with the Townsend Agency now providing the services of their female spies know as Angels on a global scale. With different sets of Bosleys all reporting to John Bosley (Patrick Stewart), the now retiring Charlie’s first and original assistant.
The main story follows Elena (Naomi Scott), a young systems engineer, who has developed a device named Calisto, for industrialist Alexander Brock (Sam Claflin), which aims to provide clean energy. However, Elena also informs her superior Peter Fleming (Nat Faxon) that the device is still flawed to be released publicly, and with the help of an expert, can be weaponized.
Realizing that her reports are being covered up by the company, Elena gets in touch with Townsend Agency, who dispatch a Bosely (Djimon Hounsou), along with two angels, Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska), to meet her. Unfortunately when that goes awry thanks to the interference of Hodak (Jonathan Tucker), an assassin, Elena, Sabrina and Jane are left in the care of a Rebekah (Elizabeth Banks), a former angel and a new Bosley, to regroup and form an attack plan to stop the Calisto from hitting the black market.
With the weighty themes pressing on the action, the mission becomes about Elena, Sabina and Jane using their specific skills to save the day and solidify their partnership. From the outset, Sabina tackles the previous films’ baggage when it comes to women being exploited for their sexuality. Wearing a wavy blond wig and tight dress, she discusses female independence and how being underestimated is an advantage in the spy profession, that is before flipping a misogynistic thug (Chris Pang) onto his head.
With this being only her full-length feature as a director, following Pitch Perfect 2, director Elizabeth Banks, exudes a certain level of energy and confidence, which helps in the film’s genuinely witty prose with an otherwise predictable action plot that appears generic with perfectly-styled and manicured scenes that are unexciting in nature. A discussion about a classic film getting connected to Birdman and Batman, turns into a serious back-and-forth between our main ladies that made the entire audience at the screening I attended cheer.
There are some cringe scenes and one-liners it could have done without, and the science and technology couldn’t suspend my disbelief at all, but still all in all enjoyably nostalgic. While her direction is decent, the film could’ve benefited from a tighter editing-job.
There’s too much jumping around between cities in the first half and everything looks as if it’s filmed in the same city. Also, the film’s agenda, apparently aimed at young women, is hammered home by a clumsy montage of real female athletes in their element. Every bad guy the angels encounter is male, goofy and demeaning to women in some way, or inappropriately touching them.
But I’ll give that the film has its heart is in the right place. It’s got big aspirations as it attempts to relaunch the classic glitzy spy brand while also updating it as a feminist franchise fit for our modern age. While all those admirable ideas don’t quite gel into a satisfying whole, until a very enjoyable third act that brings the entire enterprise into focus. Once the film laid all its cards on the table in its final minutes, I was shamelessly hooked.
Thankfully the leading ladies also share great camaraderie, and seem to be having a fine time delivering staid dialogues with bad punchlines in awkward situations. Kristen Stewart, who following the abominable Twilight franchise, has proven herself to be an acting powerhouse in the indie circuit, here, she makes an excellent return to blockbuster territory with interestingly and enjoyably hilarious results.
Naomi Scott who recent won hearts with her portrayal of Jasmine in Aladdin, shows decent range to carry a film on her own. While Ella Balinska excels especially in the action sequences. In supporting roles, Elizabeth Banks herself and Patrick Stewart make for some excellent Bosleys, while Jonathan Tucker, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Nat Faxon, Luis Gerardo Mendez and Noah Centineo put in earnest efforts. On the whole, ‘Charlie’s Angels’ is a decent action comedy which speaks highly about girl power.
Directed – Elizabeth Banks
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 118 minutes