Movie Review: "Charlie's Angels"
Elena (Naomi Scott) works for a tech company that is developing a new device that creates green energy. It is a handheld device, it is efficient, and the development process has nearly been completed. However, Elena discovers a flaw in the device. If it malfunctions, it can trigger brain aneurysms in anyone nearby. If this knowledge gets into the wrong hands, and if the devices are mass distributed, someone could hack the devices to trigger such aneurysms.
This could be done on a large scale, or the process could be used to assassinate specific people. Either way, the incidents would be untraceable. This threat has wound up on the radar of two Charlie's Angels, agents Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska). Elena wants to help, but her knowledge of the design flaw has made her a target. Thus, the Charlie's Angels need to find a way to eliminate the threat, while keeping Elena out of harm's way.
The Pros & Cons
Sabina & Jane (+4pts)
Opening Feminism & Comedy (-3pts)
The Plot Twists (-8pts)
Townsend Agency (+3pts)
The Antagonist (-6pts)
Pro: Sabina & Jane (+4pts)
Sabina has been a Charlie's Angel for awhile, and Jane has just joined the team, formerly being a member of MI6. The two start with somewhat of a reluctant partnership, but I liked watching this duo grow. They each had their similarities, but their personalities could not be further apart. The two actresses seemed to work okay together, and their varying styles seemed to complement each other well. Each character had their own strengths, and had their own style, but they were both committed to the mission. We got to see two characters who may not get along in different circumstances, but they came together for their common goal and for their common devotion to the Charlie's Angels. This helped boost the importance of the Charlie's Angels, and helped make the mission feel important to the audience.
Con: Opening Feminism & Comedy (-3pts)
Right with the beginning of the movie, I was concerned. There were a number of feminist comments, and comedy that just did not work for me. Fortunately, the rest of the movie was not like this, but the beginning of the movie felt like it missed its mark. It missed its mark with the comedy, because all of the comedy in this section felt like it was trying too hard. The comedy felt desperate, which made it fall flat, but the feminist comments were the primary reason why I was concerned at the beginning of this movie.
To be clear, I am all for female empowerment in movies. I am all for women and men being held to the same standard, and I think it is important for strong female characters to be present in movies. However, if this feels forced, then it does not work. The female empowerment needs to be somewhat subtle, and it needs to feel like the character's gender is just coincidental. In other words, the character should be great and a woman; they should not be great only because they are a woman. Doing the latter makes the concept feel really on-the-nose, and makes it feel like the filmmakers are, again, trying too hard. Fortunately, I only felt these issues in the beginning of the movie, as the filmmakers ended up moving on from these problems.
Pro: Elena (+3pts)
Naomi Scott, played Elena, a scientist and one of the minds behind the device that is causing so much trouble. She is not a member of the Charlie's Angels, but her desire to do the right thing has put a target on her back. This brought her to the Charlie's Angels and meant that she was being introduced to the Charlie's Angels along with the audience, which made Elena easier to relate to. I liked her trying to integrate herself with the Charlie's Angels, and I liked the growth that the character went through. She started as a character that felt unnoticed, and grew as she tried to find her place in the group. The character was nothing special, but Naomi Scott played her convincingly, and Elena was effective in her role as a relatable primary protagonist.
Con: The Plot Twists (-8pts)
I was at an arcade not too long ago, and played the Deal or No Deal game. To start the game, a bunch of open cases are displayed on the screen, and you can see which one has the $1,000,000 prize. The cases then close and start moving around, giving you the impression that you need to try to follow which case had the big prize. Then, however, the case motion speeds way up and gets really crazy, such that it is obvious that you have no hope of keeping track of which case is which.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what the twists in this movie felt like to me. There was just plot twist after plot twist, followed by character reveal after character reveal. It was not that I found any one of these twists to be confusing, there were just so many that the whole plot became so messy, that there was no hope in even trying to keep track of what was going on. It even got to the point that it felt like characters were acting in ways that seemed to contradict what their objective was, all to setup another potential reveal for later. I am all for a good plot twist, but the use of plot twists in this movie went far beyond overkill, and the filmmakers did not seem to care if the twists made any sense.
Pro: Townsend Agency (+3pts)
Townsend Agency was the international agency of Charlie’s Angels. It had different branches located in various important cities around the globe, it had state of the art weapons and gadgets, and it had seemingly unlimited resources. This made the whole thing feel much bigger than just a few Charlie’s Angels, and made it feel very much like a spy movie. This movie had some major issues, but I liked what the filmmakers did with Townsend Agency, although it was nothing that we have not seen in other movies.
Con: The Antagonist (-6pts)
When I say that I had an issue with “the plan” in this movie, I am referring specifically to the antagonist’s plan. While the protagonists’ goal was simple, obtain the device, the filmmakers wanted to shroud the antagonist in mystery. Through the constant twists in the plot, the role of primary antagonist shifted, and the goal of the primary antagonist shifted as well. It then became obvious that this was all done to hide the poorly developed plot and poorly developed primary antagonist.
The filmmakers did not have this character thought out properly, so the character ended up with a super-generic and super-vague plan. It seemed like the filmmakers were aware of this, so decided to muddy the waters, so to speak, to make this movie appear more complex than it was. There was the assassin, the crime lord from the beginning of the movie, Elena’s boss, hints of the CEO being the primary antagonist, and teases to there being a mole within Townsend Agency. The filmmakers threw in a bunch of potential characters, for the role of primary antagonist, but did not care to properly develop any of them. This made it so that I did not care about the antagonist's goals, because I did not know what those goals were, and I do not think the filmmakers knew what those goals were either.
Grade: D+ (68pts)
Charlie's Angels had a decent cast, that did okay in their respective roles, and seemed to work okay together. I liked the almost rivalry between Sabina and Jane, and I thought Elena was effective as a relatable primary protagonist. I also liked how the filmmakers used the Townsend Agency to give this movie a spy organization that was somewhat entertaining to see explored, although it was nothing that we have not seen other movies do better. The movie had a few things going for it, but these were far outweighed by the movie's issues.
The filmmakers seemed to go crazy with plot twists, to the point where I stopped even trying to keep up with them (there is a Key and Peele sketch that pokes fun of movies like this one, which you should check out if you have a chance). This definitely hurt the movie, as it prevented me from getting invested in what was happening, but it also hurt the antagonist of the movie. With the excessive amount of plot twists came an almost ever-changing antagonist. The movie threw in way too many candidates for the role of primary antagonist, which meant that they kept the actual antagonist's goal vague. The filmmakers clearly cared more about "surprising" the audience than they cared about making a cohesive and impactful story. The result was an assortment of poorly developed antagonists, which definitely contributed to my lack of investment in the story. I am not one who thinks that this movie should not have been rebooted, but it was a mess that certainly should have been handled better by the filmmakers.