Charlie’s Angels (2019)

Charlie’s Angels
Driector: Elizabeth Banks
Writer: Elizabeth Banks
Based on: the TV show
Sequel to (kinda): Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angles: Full Throttle
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Jonathan Tucker, Nat Faxon, Chris Pang, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Noah Centineo
Seen on: 15.1.2020

Plot:
Elena (Naomi Scott) is an engineer at a technology company and they are about to launch a product that will revolutionize the way the world works. Elena is worried that there is a terrible security flaw in the product, but nobody wants to hear about it. So she contacts the Angels, hoping to keep the worst from happening. Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) are assigned to her case by Bosley (Elizabeth Banks). What should be a routine mission becomes much bigger than they expected, though.

I honestly don’t understand why Charlie’s Angels tanked as much as it did*. I found it to be a refreshing, fun action comedy with great performances and a nice (basic) feminist message.

*I have an idea though and that idea can be summed up with “male critics”.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film, above all the angels.

To say that Charlie’s Angels is a feminist masterpiece may be going a little far. It’s definitely headed in that direction though, even if it may get stuck a little too much on the girl-power side of things. But still, there are things I honestly appreciated, like the fact that we get (a) female Bosley(s) – and it’s made explicit that it was long overdue for that to happen. Or the way the plot really leans into the strong male networks and men in general as the big bad – and one that can only be beaten with women forming networks as well. So, there’s definitely more here than “women are strong, too, and they’re damn sex while they’re being strong” – although there is a lot of that, too (including a lot of male gaze). The Angels are still all young and beautiful, no diversity in that regard.

But at least we get one explicitly queer Angel (Sabina) and two Angels of color (Jane and Elena gets to become one in the end) as the main characters, which is more diversity than we had so far. Not to diminish Lucy Liu’s role in the older films – to which there are some nice allusions, making this version more of a sequel than a remake – but other than her, the films were absolutely white, if I recall correctly (maybe I should watch them again, I remember them being a whole lot of fun, too).

Sabina (Kristen Stewart), Jane (Ella Balinska) and Elena (Naomi Scott) in fight poses.

In any case, Charlie’s Angels was great fun to watch. Banks’ script has some excellent jokes (although not all of them land) and Stewart gets to highlight her comic talent for once, which is rather a departure frome what she usually does. Generally Stewart, Balinska and Scott work extremely well together and it was a joy to watch them become a team – even if that doesn’t always go smoothly. (Also, Jane and Langston flirting is the cutest shit ever, props to Balinska and Centineo.)

There is not a boring second here and the action scenes are pretty well-handled, making Charlie’s Angels the perfect popcorn cinema. I would definitely go see a sequel if they made one.

Elena (Naomi Scott) looking at clothes in a huge closet.

Summarizing: Entertainment at its finest.

3 thoughts on “Charlie’s Angels (2019)

  1. “male critics”. I’m afraid I have to disagree with that assessment.

    A) While both a Metascore and a Tomatometer of 52 are not exactly a ringing endorsement, they also aren’t especially scathing. There are a lot of movies with worse critical ratings who nevertheless were widely successful (as well as movies who were beloved by critics and still bombed, of course).
    B) If you look through the detailed account of how those scores come to be, you’ll find that the positive and negative reviews are rather evenly matched throughout genders:
    https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/charlies_angels_2019#contentReviews
    https://www.metacritic.com/movie/charlies-angels-2019/critic-reviews

    I haven’t seen the movie yet and thus cannot speak to its quality, but it seems to me that this is yet another case of a studio vastly overestimating the appeal of a certain IP, and/or the demand for a new entry in the franchise (in that, “Charlie’s Angels” was hardly alone last year. See “Hellboy”, “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” and “Terminator: Dark Fate”, to name but a few). Add to that the fact that this didn’t have a similar well-known cast as the 0s-films (which offered three A-listers – Diaz, Barrymore and Liu – as Angels), instead relying almost sorely on Kristen Stewart’s star power (who, while an actress I personally like very much, also has her destractors), as well as the studio not really going out of their way to advertise it, and you got a cocktail that, to me, seems much more convincing to explain it’s box office-failure than “male critics”.

    Just the two cents of a male amateur critic, though ;-).

    • Of course, the reduction to male critics was a throwaway, half-joking comment that doesn’t explain 100% of what happened, but I still see a clearly gendered dynamic here. And with the exception of Hellboy, all the examples you mention are female-led as well, so I think my point still stands that gender plays a role here.

      • Ok, you’re right, there definitely is a gender dynamic here which I should have included in my explanation. Mea culpa ;-). But I think it’s rather (right-wing, misogynic) users/moviegoers than critics – and I don’t really think that those are even half as influental as they think themselves to be.

        And while “Dark Phoenix” and “Dark Fate” have female leads, I wouldn’t really throw them into the same pot as the (seemingly, from what I’ve seen and heard) feministic “Charlie’s Angels”. But I get your point :-).

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