I have to admit I hadn’t paid attention to the movie adaptations of Charlie’s Angels, though I did enjoy the original tv series. There’s no particular reason why, I just was never enticed by it. But when they announced Kristen Stewart as one of the Angels, as well as Naomi Scott who I like as Princess Jasmine in Aladdin, plus Elizabeth Banks directing, my interest was piqued.
It was quite fun watching Kristen Stewart in an action movie, having seen her in mostly smaller/indie features like Clouds of Sils Maria, Certain Women and Personal Shopper. The opening sequence opened with her being a seductive bombshell (in a blond wig) in a sequence in Rio with international smuggler Chris Pang (Crazy Rich Asians). The mission was led by senior operative John Bosley (a code name for top leader, equal to a lieutenant, in this detective agency), played by Patrick Stewart, who we later learn is retiring.
Similar to a Bond flick, the film moves from one glamorous city to another. From Rio, they’re off to Hamburg on a mission involving a tech company that’s about to release a energy-saving device called Callisto. One of its programmers, Elena (Naomi Scott) figured out that Callisto’s flaw can be deadly, as it can be weaponized and potentially be sold to criminal organizations. Of course, given Elena is a woman (an attractive one at that), her boss undermines her and ignores her request to report her findings to the company’s founder Mr. Brock (Sam Claflin). The ‘me too’ references isn’t exactly subtle in this one, but I guess it’s to be expected in a movie that celebrates female bad-assery and girl power.
This is the first time I saw a movie that Elizabeth Banks directed (whose debut Pitch Perfect 2 was pretty well-received), and color me impressed. Apparently Banks also wrote the screenplay, based on the story by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn. I gotta say the action sequences are a lot of fun to watch–it’s dynamic, energetic and quick on its feet. I especially enjoy the chase sequence in Callisto headquarter in a Hamburg skyscraper in which the Angels manages to outwit a team of [male] security guards in a whimsical fashion. Banks infuses the sequences with lighthearted humor and most importantly, lively camaraderie from her cast. It’s all about sisterhood and learning to work together as a team, and the three Angels have a nice chemistry.
I think the casting of Stewart as Sabina with two relative newcomers Naomi Scott (Elena) and Ella Balinska (Jane) work well here. I enjoy seeing the lighter, even comical side of Stewart who seems to have a blast making this movie. Balinska is easily the most physically imposing of the three, while Scott makes the most of her often-baffled role who takes a bit of time adjusting to life in the fast lane with the Angels. I like that the film shows that on top of their sheer intelligence and formidable physical prowess, these Angels are ‘just like us’ in that they want to feel supported and loved, which is what the team does to each other. While the Bond flicks have gadget guru Q, the Angels have a ‘healer’ appropriately named Saint (Luis Gerardo Méndez) because no matter how much heavy artillery one has, it’s useless if you’re not in a proper mental state. Unlike the Mission Impossible series that pretty much puts Tom Cruise front and center, I like that Charlie’s Angels franchise is all about teamwork and collaboration.
While the movie has plenty of fun moments, sadly it’s also riddled with clichés and lacking any character development. The main plot is far from original, and the intrigue (if you can call it that) lacks any real suspense. Most of the guys in this movie is also reduced to three basic types: dumb/clueless, evil criminal or cute nerdy type (hello Internet Boyfriend Noah Centineo), as if women can only be strong in a world where all the guys are pathetic. Oh, I also think the henchmen Hodak (Jonathan Tucker) looks like a poor imitation of Robert Patrick (as it T-1000, still the scariest villain in all of the Terminator franchise). I think my biggest issue is with the twist in the third act. I’m not going to elaborate for fear of spoiler, but let’s just say it’s so incredulous, eye-rolling stuff that I blame it on lazy writing. A good story doesn’t always need a twist, especially when the ‘surprise’ isn’t all that clever.
That said, the movie does have its moments and is well worth seeing for the main cast alone (most notably Stewart). It sure looks gorgeous, boasted by excellent cinematography by Bill Pope (who shot The Matrix), slick production design, and fun action sequences/car chases designed for pure escapism. So yeah, despite its flaws, I still wish it did better at the box office (at the time of this posting, it bombed with a disappointing $8.6 million debut). It’s true that nobody wanted this reboot, but to be fair, there are plenty more male-oriented franchises that went on forever. The movie was sort of set up for a sequel, and I’d be willing to see it, but I doubt that would be happening.
– Review by Ruth Maramis
Have you seen Charlie’s Angels? I’d love to hear what you think.