I'm an artist, a writer, a director, a film critic and occasionally I cook. Here I will be mainly focusing on film critiquing.
Buckle In Fellow Readers, Because…
Rewind back to a few days ago, I get a message from one of my lady friends (Ms. Kaylon) who I interviewed some months prior for my article regarding women in action movies… I called it Women in Action Movies. The article itself was inspired by an interview with director/actress Elizabeth Banks discussing what she believed to be the reasons why her 2019 Charlie’s Angels reboot failed at the box office, which was mostly her pinning it on claims of sexism amongst men not wishing to see women leading action pictures. Anyways, previous to Ms. Kaylon’s interview on the subject, she had not seen Banks’ girl-power action flick and from the sounds of it, she had no interest in seeing it any time soon. Cut to approximately five months later where Ms. Kaylon has a chat with me about how she may have prematurely misjudged the movie due to the lackluster marketing campaign. Stating that after she finally sat down to watch the latest Charlie’s Angels adventure that she absolutely loved the movie, even though my friend did confess going into the feature with a hint of skepticism. Obviously, her perception was overcome with enjoyment by the time the credits rolled.
Upon hearing this news, it made me realize that maybe I should finally get around to checking out the new Charlie’s Angels flick since I did write a rather substantial article inspired by its own director and the box office failure it had unfortunately mustered. Admittedly, I also did not have all that much optimism going into seeing the new movie, as every shred of advertisement screamed “generic” to me. With that said, I did give my best efforts to credit the film the benefit of the doubt. Expecting very little, but open for at least some fun to be had with its characters and action. Maybe nothing necessarily great, nothing terrible, simply entertaining, and honestly, that’s all I could hope for in any movie… Sadly, that wasn’t the case here.
Honestly, I feel rather irritated that I have to put a disclaimer for the Charlie’s Angels reboot to express that I’m not judging the film by any gender politics… Yet here we are. Because of Elizabeth Banks’s claims of sexism among men supposedly not wanting to see women do action movies, I now feel that it is necessary to explain that as a male of the male species, I am not sexist. I am not going to proclaim this movie as bad on the basis that it stars women; it’s freaking Charlie’s Angels for God’s sake, of course, it’s starring women! No, I don’t hate women, nor do I hate them in action movies. To me, it doesn’t and should not matter what gender or race a cast is as long as the movie achieves being entertaining. A flick could star a ravenous chimpanzee as a down-and-out girl trying to make it big as a Broadway dancer, so long as I’m entertained, I don’t care. So please, if anyone comes across this saying, “You didn’t like it because you’re sexist/misogynist/whatever” then please show yourselves out of my review as I won’t be dealing with any of that. Thank you.
Also, please take note everyone that a movie’s box office numbers or even word of mouth should never dictate whether or not you like a movie. Make up your own mind about a movie, don’t let others make it up for you. In other words, people shouldn’t automatically “like” the movie because the director says to the public that the only way to fight sexism is to support her film. And on the other end of the spectrum; people shouldn’t automatically “dislike” the picture because someone like myself doesn’t much care for it. If this new Charlie’s Angels reboot still intrigues someone out there after reading my mainly negative review, then go ahead and make up your own mind about this movie. Like what you like, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Not even me. Except you should listen to me, I’m always right. So don’t disagree with me, but also don’t DON’T disagree with me… Ya dig?
Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) is a scientist of some sort that has discovered a flaw within the system of her new invention that could potentially be weaponized and cause the deaths of several people around the globe if the company she works for decides to ignore the threat. She takes this information to a secret organization known as Charlie’s Angels, putting their best agents on the case (Kristen Stewart & Ella Balinska) who vow to stop this technology from being mass-produced and save the world.
The Story *Spoiler Warning*
When I was told by my friend about her admiration for this movie, one of the biggest highlights she noted was that there were multiple plot twists that kept the viewer guessing the entire runtime. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen a lot of movies, but the second I saw Sir Patrick Stewart pop up on screen in the opening minutes of the flick, I knew exactly how this story was going to go down. The “twist” is that Patrick Stewart is the pal (or the Bosley, if you will) in the organization who’s gone rogue and is secretly the bad guy. The movie will try to hide that by making out someone else as the most obvious red herring ever seen on screen, in this case, Elizabeth Banks as Woman Bosley. Stewart for some reason feels betrayed by the organization, so he concocts a scheme to get a hold of this dangerous technology the Angels are trying to destroy in order to start his own organization of assassination. The super nice, good-looking fellow running the company producing the murderous tech is “secretly” also in on the whole evil plot. Oh, and, throw in the occasional ‘girl power’ in there, and you’ve got yourself a two-hour snooze fest.
If anyone enjoys this movie, including my friend, then I’m honestly glad for them. I truly am. Speaking strictly for myself, this is a generic narrative that I’ve seen plenty of times before and I know how it’s going to unfold. Therefore, I feel no reason to get all that invested in the plot as I can already tell how everything will wrap up by the end. Doesn’t help matters when the movie does such a poor job at hiding its twists, the level at which the film tried so desperately to portray Banks’ character as “being up to no good” was wildly way too easy to call its bluff on. In terms of story, it’s a mediocre bust because it’s not good enough to be engaging and it’s not bad enough to be enraged by, falling specifically into being just boring to sit through. Waiting for the next plot point to happen rather than being riveted by it. If there ever was a surprise, it wasn’t accomplished by the movie, but by my cat (Buster) who jumped onto my lap while watching and jolted me back to being mildly awake.
Let’s face facts: a Charlie’s Angels project is nothing without its Angels. Any version of Charlie’s Angels that I’ve seen previously has had a pretty solid cast taking up the lead roles; whether it be the original three (Farrah Fawcett/Cheryl Ladd, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith) or the trio from the early 2000s reboot starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu. To me, they all worked extremely well together in their chemistry as well as kicking ass. Truth be told, I didn’t watch a lot of the original show in my youth, but I still found plenty of fun to be had from time to time. Before anyone asks, no, I didn’t bother with the reboot series that happened like a decade ago. Nobody did.
Fast-forward to our 2019 cast of ‘bad asses’ and what do we have? Not much. There isn’t a shred of chemistry between a single one of these ladies, nor is there much in the way of character either. No, I’m not expecting the most in-depth of writing, but I was hoping for a modicum of something from our leads; whether it be dimensionality, personality, or some form of background info yet there wasn’t jack. With the exception of one particular Angel, who I will touch on more in a moment, there wasn’t anything there among the four leads (including Elizabeth Banks as trio’s Bosley backup). No charm or charisma, no empathetic character motivation, no personality whatsoever. I don’t know a single thing about these chicks other than they’re terribly barebones archetypes; Naomi Scott is the smart one that does stuff with gadgets, Ella Balinska is the serious one that is serious all the time unless there’s a random cute nerd she likes, and Kristen Stewart is the crazy one that’s a “loose cannon” I guess. Lastly, Elizabeth Banks is there to take care of them like an underpaid babysitter. Did I just describe Alvin and the Chipmunks?
Moving on, that is all the depth we get from these three. Which wouldn’t be so bad if they had decent dialog to work with to give them at least a chance to bounce material off of one another. Unfortunately, the script is about as basic and uninteresting as one can get. Including the onslaught of unfunny jokes that don’t come anywhere close to landing. Luckily none of the humor made me particularly irritated, but it was continuously throwing out some sort of lame joke that never resulted in even a chuckle; again, with exception of the one Angel that I previously mentioned, but we’re not there yet. In the end, I didn’t care. I didn’t care about any of these people and I didn’t care about what they had to say because there was nothing interesting being said or done with them. They’re just “badass” for the sake of being “badass” without any character to help me enjoy it. There’s not even a sense of friendship being formed, I don’t buy that these people can tolerate each other in a room, let alone become spiritual sisters by the end credits. Hell, I don’t even know the names of anyone in this movie with the exception of Bosley… But it’s freaking Bosley, so of course, I know that name. And Charlie too, but there’s more to touch on that one later.
The biggest issue I had with the three Angels, in particular, was the inclusion of Naomi Scott’s character, not to say the actress did poorly. Honestly, in a better movie, her performance would probably work a lot better. However, there is no reason why this untrained innocent bystander is tagging along with the Angels. There’s no excuse for Scott’s character being recruited into the organization, no acknowledgment that she has any skills other than being relatively tech-savvy, nothing. She simply calls the Angels for help, then when they’re attacked by a Crispin Glover wannabe, all of the sudden she’s just kind of part of the team? Not as though she can actually handle herself in any situation required by these secret operations they’re pulling off. Although out of nowhere, Scott is somehow able to fight. Because, sure.
I didn’t buy why her character remained with this team. If this supposedly intelligent team had any sense they would realize bringing around a citizen with no training would probably result in bad things happening. Which they would be correct since Scott’s character did accidentally murder an innocent man. According to the movie though, I guess I wasn’t supposed to feel bad that he died because he had a minor creepy crush on Scott… Yet after the guy died we were supposed to still be concerned? Confusing. Anyways, yeah, what the hell was the reason why the Angels thought it was a good idea to bring her along? Setting aside that she was also a good-looking woman that would fit perfectly alongside them on the movie poster.
Apologies in advance that I don’t remember the character’s name that Kristen Stewart portrays, but she was still the only one that actually provided a little entertainment value. Not to say that the dialog from her character was any better, I’d argue that it is equally as uninspired. With that said, what separates her from the rest of the cast is the energy she brings to every line spoken. Clearly, Kristen wants to be there and she is having as much fun injecting life into her scenes as humanly possible. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that she saved the movie, but she was a very bright spot in an otherwise dull picture. Any minor laugh I got was from Kristen Stewart and her crazy over-the-top personality being so infectious throughout the movie, I constantly found myself wanting to laugh at her jokes and one-liners. Always ready to bust a gut, sadly it never really happened. That didn’t deter me though from her performance because I saw that spark in her and she never let up.
In the current state of her career, I’m not entirely sure what the public opinion is on Kristen as of late. All I know is that she was unfairly ridiculed because of her involvement with the Twilight series. Personally, I’m a fan of this actress and have been for some years now. In one of the last pictures I saw Stewart in, Personal Shopper, I found her performance to be bold and I easily became excited to see where she would go next as an actress. Now I have garnered those same feelings once again, regardless of the movie itself, her performance does entice me into seeing where she could go in the action genre if she so chooses. I truly do adore the versatility Stewart is showing as an actress and my fingers are crossed that she continues growing her skills. Unlikely it’ll be in any future Charlie’s Angels sequel though.
To say that Charlie’s Angels is a “girl power” property would be a fair assessment, correct? The original show, among the rest of the franchise, was made to show how women can kick some major ass and be totally cool. This should be no different as the message should be made clear through the actions of the female protagonists. Seems that the writers never got the memo as the movie constantly comes across as trying too hard to nail in the idea that this movie is for women. Opening the movie with a scene where a male character is unloading a slew of sexist remarks about a woman’s place in the world, subtle. Immediately continuing on into a montage of random women doing random things in the world like riding bikes as though it’s supposed to be inspiring, but it hadn’t earned that moment yet so it came off as awfully on the nose and lazy. Lingering shots of women standing there seconds after they overpower a room full of men, as though they’re waiting for the applause from the audience. At one point, no joke, one of the villains brings out a golden collar and chain leash to put on the neck of Scott’s character… For no reason! Other than to be more on the nose with its message by saying, “You get it audience? Men treat women like dogs.” After a while, it was fairly tiresome. I’m not trying to say that there shouldn’t be female empowerment in a film like this, of course, there should be. It’s freaking Charlie’s Angels! All I’m suggesting is maybe not to have it feel so cynical and lazy. Please?
Another *SPOILER ALERT* in case anyone cares. Charlie in this movie is a footnote, truth be told he basically always is. It’s about the Angels more than involving Charlie, which is perfectly fine by me. Here’s my issue though. The movie does something with Charlie that just feels cheap and lame; that ‘something’ being to make Charlie secretly a woman who disguises her voice as a man. Because of how forced the feminist message is being shoved in our face throughout the movie, this additional little detail comes off as condescending to me. Yes, it is a quick and tiny moment that in the grand scheme of things does not remotely matter. The only reason it bugs me here is that the rest of the movie already forces the “girl power” element into an unenjoyable degree. Making Charlie into a woman I can be fine with and I can see working, how it’s handled here is executed so fast it hardly matters. Feeling as though it was only there as a quick jab of somehow eradicating all traces of men from the good guys’ team? Which is weird. Seriously, it seems like 99% of the men in this movie are for some reason supposed to be disliked in one way or another. Most of which are villains. Then the 1% of men who aren’t villains are either killed off in the first act (more on that later) or is a shlubby harmless nerd. All other men are evil, I guess. Alrighty then!
The first and only word that I could mentally summon when thinking back on the action in the picture is, “Meh.” Quite possibly the most unprofessional description anyone could make when discussing the film, yet all I can come up with is “meh.” The reason was that there was no energy, no ambition, no suspense, no fun or enjoyment or thrills to be had in any one of the action sequences I saw here. Everything is shot about as standardly as any run of the mill, modern mainstream “blockbuster” can get. Actually, some of the action didn’t make all that much sense, thinking back to a scene where a guy is supposed to be mowing down an entire street with a minigun, yet somehow causes practically no visible damage. As though the majority of his bullets are vaporizing in midair. Forget about anything even remotely harming the Angels themselves! For instance, in one scene the Angels can be found inside a building that explodes, yet they walk away with maybe a scratch at best. Granted, yes, I understand that suspension of disbelief is mandatory in a silly action flick. I get that. I’ve grown up on stuff where the hero should undoubtedly be dead from his injuries or unbelievable stuff happens all the time and I somehow buy it regardless. Here’s the major difference though, the movies I’m describing accomplish a sense of danger to the hero or are at least entertaining enough for me to forgive the ridiculousness. 2019’s Charlie’s Angels fails to achieve those same goals, resulting in me rolling my eyes when the leads walk out of these situations unscathed.
Things become especially unbelievable when the editing occasionally botches up a scene in the middle of the action. For example; the opening scene establishes there are five major players in a room together, four bad guys and one Kristen Stewart. Then when the action gets brought into the mix, the editing gets sloppy as it becomes difficult to say exactly how many people are in the room once the Angels sneak into the fight. Quick cuts and cluttered shots far too uncomfortably close within the scene where we can barely register the environment or what’s happening within it. Only when the action is over do we finally see the entire room is filled with female agents. Would have liked to have been aware of what was going on before the action concluded, but alright. Another moment, later on, had me scratching my head immensely when we see one of our leads in the front passenger seat of a car, then as the vehicle becomes airborne during an accident, magically our lead is flying through the back of the car and out the trunk door. What in the hell happened there?! There are a lot of questionable editing choices where it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where everyone is located in any given scene and how certain events transpire that make me a bit annoyed.
Oh, Djimon Hounsou Is In This Movie.
Djimon Hounsou has been appearing in several big-name franchises lately, and I completely forgot he was in this one too. This is a shame since Hounsou is a really cool and suave actor who deserves better than to be thrown in as an expendable extra. An expendable extra that we are supposed to have some semblance of sadness when he departs from the story, but because he has all of two minutes of screen time, no one cares. Initially being established as Balinska’s friend and mentor in a way, then is speedily disposed of in the next scene. What was the point of him being there? Other than to give that character the flimsiest excuse for a vendetta against the Crispin Glover wannabe dude. Yeah, that’s what I thought. There is no reason. Just lazy.
Sucks. I’m sorry, I’m back to being unprofessional and honestly, it’s a matter of taste in this category. In this case, I found the majority of the soundtrack to be insufferable and the musical score itself to be forgettable. With the exception of Donna Summer’s ‘Bad Girls’, which was of course good, everything else was modern pop music that kept me rolling my eyes. As I said, it is a matter of taste and most of this music was not my taste. Although it made for damn sure to keep the soundtrack comprised of entirely female artists, because of girl power! In all seriousness though, that’s fine if a movie wants an all-female artist soundtrack, I would just prefer a better one. More Donna Summer, less… umm… who else is on this soundtrack anyway? Who’s popular today? Is Miley Cyrus still cool with the kids today? I don’t know and I don’t care. More disco, please.
Back on the subject of the score, it’s bland. And I can’t for the life of me remember if I even heard the original television show theme. Which is a shame because it’s a solid theme. Maybe it was inserted somewhere without my recollection of it, which is fair. If it’s not though, I’d understand if the composer wanted to leave it out in order to go with their own direction, but the direction made with the musical score here left zero impression. Therefore, I believe it was a bit of a mistake not utilizing the original show’s theme more or at least using it as a base and evolving it from there. This score had nothing going for it, it was a modern lackluster stock action score that I’ve probably heard a million times already.
The Only Good Song in a Pointless Dance Number
What else is there to say? I’ve said everything there is to say about the 2019 Charlie’s Angels reboot; the movie is generic, it’s bland, it’s uninspired, it’s forgettable, it’s lazy, it’s forced, and Kristen Stewart is the only bright spot that I genuinely liked. I did not like this movie and I won’t lie when I say how I disapprove of Elizabeth Banks’s attempt to guilt-trip audiences into seeing her movie based on gender politics. That said, I really did want to like this movie. Partially because I do want to see more kickass female-led action flicks. If for anything, just to have some fun. This Charlie’s Angels wasn’t very fun at all. For me, it missed the mark by a long shot. Now, if someone were to say they enjoyed the movie then that’s great! There is honestly no shame in liking this flick since overall, the film is harmless entertainment. In my opinion, though, there are better movies out there that will get the job done tenfold with far more entertainment value than what we got here.
When looking back on my time watching this latest reboot, the biggest sin I see being committed is the significant lack of character. While I did enjoy Kristen Stewart’s performance, this problem resides in her character’s writing as well. There is no humanity here and that is probably why I disliked this film the most. Not a single character has anything to them to make me care, there’s not enough information given about any of them to begin the process of investment. They’re a bunch of hollow shells wandering around while explosions happen around them. To me, that’s insulting when this is supposed to be a female empowerment flick yet these shallow nobodies could have been any gender and they would have still bored me to sleep. If this film or these characters had provided a shred of personality, I think this would have been a completely different experience for me. As it is, it’s a failed attempt to lure in the female demographic with nothing all that worthy of support.
That’s All, Folks…
Charlie’s Angels… Again. What did you think? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Wonder what the deal was with that gold collar and leash? Me too. Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a heavenly day!
© 2020 John Plocar
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on April 25, 2020:
Understandable. Charlie's Angels isn't for everyone, and like I said in the review, I wasn't exposed greatly to the original show, but I still enjoyed the little I've seen of it. And the McG movies I can see why someone would like or hate them, to me though, at least they're memorable movies while this last one I think I'll be forgetting in a couple days.
Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on April 25, 2020:
Frankly, I was not a fan of the original series, and even less of a fan of the McG films. Kristen Stewart is only as good as the talent sharing the screen with her, which means I liked her better in Panic Room and Still Alice than Snow White And The Huntsman. If I ever get bored or just curious, I might give this incarnation of Charlie a chance. Thanks for sharing.