This actually wasn’t the train wreck I was anticipating.
The all-female franchise reboots that have become popular of late haven’t exactly set the greatest precedent (here’s looking at you Ghostbusters), so I went into the latest “Charlie’s Angels” with low expectations. And don’t get me wrong, this film is nothing spectacular; the plot and villains are largely non-descript and the whole thing doesn’t come close to the fun and charm of the early 2000s installments with Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore. But there’s also plenty to enjoy here as well; the action is slick and well orchestrated, the Angels perform gravity defying karate and there are a couple of funny one liners. It’s a light, forgettable summer blockbuster, but it is disappointing that this didn’t breach that next level, and I think that’s due to a mediocre script and the lack of star power amongst the new Angels.
The story for this latest instalment is largely inconsequential; two Angels, Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) are assigned a project to recover a new energy device called Calisto, which could be deadly in the wrong hands. They’re teamed up with one of the scientists behind the Calisto technology, Elena (Naomi Scott), who luckily knows kung fu just as well as the others and headed by their newest Bosley (Elizabeth Banks), they set off to save the world.
Like I said, the plot is fine. There are probably one too many double crosses thrown in there and some confusing pacing choices, but overall the plot points are what I would have expected. What is strange is the characterisation of each of the Angels themselves. What was great about the two films from the early 2000s was that there was a definite sense of friendship and sisterhood that linked the Angels and that’s what is supposed to make them such a formidable crime fighting team. It was also a refreshing and fun take on the action genre, which is usually dominated by the angry, solitary man with a chip on his shoulder. The Angels in the earlier films had fun together, they bounced off each other well and you could tell that the actresses were enjoying themselves, and as a result, the audience does too.
This latest instalment doesn’t have any of that.
Each of the Angels are strangers when they meet, and though the film tries to force it towards the end, there is little chemistry between them. And what’s more, I can’t understand why the production studio wasted money on roping Patrick Stewart into what is a pretty generic and underwhelming supporting role and didn’t recruit some proper movie stars for the lead three Angels! I can understand some films needing an unknown for its lead, Wonder Woman being an example of this, but this is something where some star power I think would have really helped the film. There is nothing memorable or striking about the lead three actresses in this film (although they’re not given a great script to work with), with the potential exception of Kristen Stewart. I’m not the biggest fan of Stewart, but at least you could tell she was trying to have a bit of fun with the whole thing and inject a little personality into her character. Elizabeth Banks as the director was blatantly indulgent in casting herself as the new Bosley, and far from being the goofy comic relief from the first two, is now essentially a fourth Angel and the film suffers as a result.
The thing is, Charlies Angels is always supposed to be a little bit silly, a little bit unbelievable but most of all, a little bit fun. This latest instalment tries to do that, but is so intent on nailing the action and flaunting its feminist undertones that it forgets what made the original series and films appealing in the first place.
By Jock Lehman