Kristen Stewart is a particular highlight in the high-octane action-comedy
Starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Clafin, Noah Centineo and Patrick Stewart
I must confess, it was difficult not to feel at least slightly anxious about the new Charlie’s Angels adaptation. The last attempt to bring the franchise into the modern age was a complete flub, despite two smash hits starring big names of the noughties: Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu. With popstars as iconic as Destiny’s Child featuring on the soundtrack, the original Charlie’s Angels films – themselves based off the 1976 TV series. My overwhelming feeling stepping into the cinema screen was that this was a film that had received the vast majority of its promo through its soundtrack, produced by modern pop diva Ariana Grande and preceded by not-as-good-as-Independent-Women Don’t Call Me Angel.
Wisely, Elizabeth Bank’s Charlie’s Angels does not erase what has come before, but rather builds upon the universe that has already been created, acknowledging the existence of the television series and the previous Charlie’s Angel teams that we have seen before. Our new Angels consist of Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart), Jane Kano (Ella Balinska) and Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) and they exist as one of many of the Townsend Agency employees around the world. The role of Bosley has been reimagined as a status within the company, which is fulfilled both by Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou and Elizabeth Banks throughout the film.
Charlie’s Angels follows the tale of Elena, a talented engineer, who attempts to make it known to her superiors that the technology that she has helped create has the potential to be used for catastrophic purposes. Her whistleblowing leads her to the Townsend Agency, as well as putting her in the direct firing line of those who wish to misuse her invention. The Townsend Agency call in Sabina and Jane and, with Banks’ Bosley, the quartet jet around the world in pursuit of the technology before it falls into the wrong hands.
While the turns of the plot may not be entirely surprising, the film is nicely pushed along with heaps of action. Even though there are lots of fight sequences, they never feel repetitive within the film, as each character is given a unique fighting language, and these sequences are made to feel realistic and full of tension. Each tussle feels like it has the potential to be the last, and never feels like you’re watching actresses being hoisted up by wires and harnesses.
In addition to this, you still have the same level of silliness inherent in a Charlie’s Angels production, with the leads putting on multiple elaborate disguises over the course of the movie. The sight of the wardrobes in one of the Townsend safe houses is simply a delight, especially with the hidden easter eggs of past costumes contained therein.
Another success of the movie is the firm focus upon female friendship. This is mainly seen through the changing dynamic between Jane and Sabina, as they begin the film being openly hostile and learn to have a deep affection for each other by the end. Through meeting Elena on the way, we also see the development of these three women into a formidable trio, which was a worry due to the profile of the Townsend Agency as a worldwide presence, why would three angels be particularly special?
Add onto that lashings of humour, especially from Kristen Stewart’s energetic Sabina, and you have a winning formula.
One element that I would have enjoyed to be present in the film would have been for the Angels featured within it to be more established as a unit. One of the great successes of the 2000 films were the dynamic between Barrymore, Diaz and Liu, which was present from the beginning of the film and didn’t need development. I understand the appeal of having the characters thrust together, but I don’t think that it was needed here. In fact, that might have got in the way of the potential great scenes that we could have had if these women were bonded the entire way through. I also felt that in some places the humour got in the way of the characters doing their jobs properly. For example, Sabina clearly tells the film’s villain three times, “Stop moving or I’ll shoot” before not shooting and then the villain getting away. Additionally, supposedly ex-MI6 Jane spends a prolonged sequence surveying an enemy in her sights before completely blowing her opportunity to take him out. Clichés like that really need to be retired.
Having said that, this did everything that Charlie’s Angels should do. It was delightfully entertaining, fit to burst with action sequences, great female friendships and never takes itself too seriously. Here’s hoping that, despite not performing as expected at the box office, Banks is given the opportunity to deliver a sequel.