Directed, written by, and co-starring Elizabeth Banks, Charlie’s
Angels stars Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, and Kristen Stewart as the new
Angels of the Charles Townsend Agency, tasked with retrieving a self-sustaining
energy source that could endanger the world’s population if put into the wrong
What a weird franchise to try and keep alive today. Charlie’s
Angels started as a 70s TV series that ran for 5 seasons, was cancelled in
1981, spawned two movies in the 2000s due to a small boom of movie adaptations
of shows from the 70s. The movies grossed a fair amount of money and were
well-liked by general audiences for the performances of the main cast, but they
were as much a product of the time as the original series was. Initially, the idea
of having a new Charlie’s Angels movie now could mean a fresh take on
the franchise and keeping it up to date with current action cinema and
narratives around female empowerment. This 2019 reboot certainly does a lot of
the latter and nowhere near enough of the former.
I do enjoy Elizabeth Banks as an actress, but since her only
directorial credits are this and Pitch Perfect 2, I can say I’m not a
fan of her as a director. The Pitch Perfect movies are insufferable and
generic, and I had faith that Charlie’s Angels could utilise its cast in
a kickass and thoroughly enjoyable way, but Banks’ script is mostly laugh-free,
relying more on obvious jokes or not understanding basic timing in the scenes
intended to be funny. It’s quite baffling how much the movie will either linger
on a bland joke as if waiting for the hopeful laughter to die down, or
sometimes it will just throw joke after joke in a condensed and frantic fashion
that you’re left unsure of what just happened. Banks is the writer and director
and star, and if she had be one or the other I’d perhaps be less critical, but
being all three feels too much, making her expression as a filmmaker and a
severely bland one.
What hurts the most is that this the poorly directed action.
Sure, there’s a few moments where things slow down and you see a wide shot or
sweeping angle of something big and flashy, but the simple hand-to-hand combat
or gunfights have the camera just too damn close, creating little to no geography
within the scene. Basic action direction would say that everything should be
centre-framed to hold the attention of the audience when things start to get
active, but Charlie’s Angels constantly forgets this in favour of
off-centre framing and cutting to close-ups as if this is a Taken sequel
we never wanted.
Kristen Stewart feels energised and ready to do anything,
Naomi Scott continues a winning streak of being charming and likeable in
generic movies, and Ella Balinska is a great new talent to keep an eye on. Surprise
appearances from Sir Patrick Stewart and Sam Claflin can keep my attention
going, but such a nice cast can’t save a lacklustre plot you have seen a
hundred times before and can predict every beat of. Charlie’s Angels may
be a better fit to audiences of young girls wanting a bit of inspiration, and
that’s ok, but even in areas of empowerment and representation, this movie is a
clunky piece of nothing that I forgot as soon as it was over.
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