The last time audiences could watch a Charlie’s Angels movie was back in 2003 with McG’s sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. Now 16 years later we are receiving a new set of Angels, and this time it’s directed by a woman (Elizabeth Banks). In this updated version, we are given the same amount of cheesy one-liners and thrilling action sequences as the originals. However, this time we leave behind the aggressive male gaze and are given a refreshing amount of genuine feminism that does not feel forced.
From the first minute of the movie, I was afraid that this would be another one of those studio movies that preach feminism to the audience to the point of exhaustion and almost mockery. The first line of the film is “Women can do anything.” But after Kristen Stewart’s wonderfully cheeky Sabina finished her speech, that fear quickly faded away. Sabina and Jane, played by newcomer Ella Balinska, are paired up on a mission to recover stolen technology that could be utilized as a weapon. One of the programmers, Elena (Naomi Scott), brought the dangerous flaw to the attention of the Angels. As the girls come together in order to stop the weapon falling into the wrong hands, they encounter betrayals as well as new friendships.
The surprise factor of Charlie’s Angels is that nearly everything in it worked. The relationship between the three girls grows naturally and never feels forced. It is the heart of the film and to see the development happen on-screen felt special to witness. This can be attributed to the three actresses’ wonderful chemistry. Each of these young women are breakout stars. Kristen Stewart’s return to mainstream Hollywood blockbusters feels natural. You can tell she is having a blast playing this role, and it is very different from her recent indie roles. Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott are also terrific in their parts. I can’t wait to see what Ella Balinska does next, but I do hope it is another action movie.
Apart from the interactions between the Angels, the action sequences are also quite fun. They fall into the typical formula for action movie fight scenes, but with a bit of a twist. The opening scene with Kristen Stewart involves her wrapping a curtain around her target in an intricate way that leads into an energetic action sequence. Later in the film, the three women are fighting separate fights, but it is cut together in an intense way that never feels boring. There are, of course, creative little gadgets for the Angels to use that add to the fun.
The thing that this film rectifies from the past installments is the sexism that many powerful women characters have fallen victim to. The outfits of the Angels are always fresh and exciting to see but never overly sexualize them. Sure, they all look beautiful and at times use their sexuality to deceive their enemies, but it never feels degrading. Elizabeth Banks’s direction could be to thank for this. With a woman behind the camera, the difference between how the Angels are portrayed in this film compared to the past ones is evident. They are sexy and powerful, but there is always more to them.
Of course, some of the issues within this film is the awkwardness of some of the humor and pacing in scenes. Half the time, the jokes really do land and they are quite funny. The other half, they are awkward and clunky. This leads to uneven pacing of some scenes as the film quickly cuts to a one-liner that doesn’t land then cuts back to the actual storyline. Despite this fault, this is a Charlie’s Angels movie. Some cheesiness is expected and usually welcomed, though it doesn’t quite match up to the originals.
As a huge fan of McG’s two Angels films, I walked into this movie with zero expectations. I already had my trio (Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Lui) and wasn’t looking for a new one. But after witnessing the relationships between these women on screen and seeing them support, help, and save each other, I was elated. As women, we are still starved for content that showcases solidarity between women in a fun and lighthearted way. Elizabeth Banks’s Charlie’s Angels deliver that in spades in a way that feels genuine without the typical pandering we are used to.