Charlie's Angels (2019) Nov 16, 2019 0:50:58 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 16, 2019 0:50:58 GMT -5
Charlie's Angels (2019)
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks
Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, and Naomi Scott are the new Angels in Charlie's Angels.
You know a reboot is bad when you're waxing nostalgic about the previous bad reboot. Where McG's Charlie's Angels and its sequel planted the seeds for some of the worst conventions of action moviemaking, Elizabeth Banks' clunky effort doubles down. It's a myopically modern movie with flimsy feminist overtones that are spoonfed to its target demographic to eat up but infuriatingly surface-level enough for outsiders to mock. When Kristen Stewart is the most lively soul on screen, that too says something.
Banks — who serves as writer, director, and producer — claims the film is not a reboot, but a continuation of the franchise. I can't pretend to give much of a rip about the "Charlie's Angels Cinematic Universe," but to take the bait, that couldn't be further from the truth. Aside from a shoehorned photo-reel that reminds us that the material we're watching originated with Farrah Fawcett and continued with the Cameron Diaz/Drew Barrymore/Lucy Liu films, there's no semblance of connective tissue. Banks goes as far as to include Patrick Stewart's Bosley (one of many Bosleys in this film, I might add) into photos with Diaz and company when he wasn't in any of the previous films. No other mention of any former Angel exists outside of that brief moment. If you're going to reboot a dormant property, just admit it. If you must cloak it under the feeble guise of being a continuation of what was already barely a franchise, there's a good chance that maybe the project shouldn't have been made in the first place.
When Banks could've carried the energy and wit of the Pitch Perfect films to her next project and make a film that felt daring, seeing her reclaim and rebrand a seventies relic that was once a cornerstone of "Jiggle TV," for its heavy sexualization of women — especially when the outcome is this poor — seems like a serious waste of time.
The plot distills down to a generic spy formula with instances of girl power interjected into the script to compensate for the lack of scenes of scantily clad women functioning within the male gaze. On paper, that sounds effective enough, since the TV show and the two previous films were terribly shallow glimpses into a prepubescent male's masturbatory fantasies. Then the film gets going. There are a gaggle of Angels that are initially mere acquaintances working under the umbrella of a covert agency, but eventually, the rebellious Sabina (Kristen Stewart), the efficient Jane (Ella Balinska), and the comparatively inexperienced but ambitious Elena (Naomi Scott) form the marquee trio. As opposed to one Bosley, as stated, there are several, as it's now more of a ranking. This includes Patrick Stewart as a veteran Bosley and Banks as the one with whom the Angels work closely. In one scene, Banks craves cheese and when questioned about it, she justifies her appetite by saying that she is a single 40-year-old women and a "cheese-sized hole" exists in her soul. Indeed. Slay queen, or whatever.
At the center of the plot is a powerful energy conservation doohickey that Elena programmed. The device is at risk of falling into the hands of billionaires (Chris Pang, Sam Claflin) who have unsavory plans for its use, prompting the Angels to embark on an international trip to foil their plans. Along the way, they make stops in Istanbul to infiltrate a horse-racing event, one of the better scenes in a film desperately lacking many of them, because there's a twinkle of what made Charlie's Angels even remotely memorable beyond its egregious TnA. Seeing the Angels disguise and subsequently insert themselves in a given setting to accomplish a task related to a larger mission was part of the appeal. Too often, Banks gets lost in a tangled web of genre cliches and misgivings, which isn't very fun.
What also isn't fun are the Angels. While I struggle to remember many personality details of the characters from McG's features, Banks' Angels almost entirely lack defining qualities. They are shockingly uncharismatic, with the exception being a fearless Kristen Stewart, who looks to be the only one who knew how to take the beats of the source material and converge it with the sensibilities of the contemporary, independent woman. Balinska and Scott are as faceless as most women in male-dominated spy movies are, to the point where they're frustratingly aloof. Although it might inspire claps and perhaps resounding cheers from audiences in an impulsive instance of relatability, a character rolling her eyes at a man telling her to remember to smile is not a personality trait. Nor does it ignite a film desperately looking for a spark.
The cinematography is as glossy and sterile as a state-of-the-art hospital. The shiny corporate sheen of skyscrapers and technology with incomprehensible parameters dilutes the pulpy nature of Charlie's Angels while not inspiring anything but the begrudging that you've seen this movie in the past. Banks and editor Alan Baumgarten also butcher most of the action, rendering it a mess of rapid-fire cuts and shaky closeups that obscure the spatial awareness, let alone coherence, of what is unfolding on-screen.
Charlie's Angels is a maddening bore that inspires more questions than it does laughs or bouts of intrigue. There have been a plethora of great films that boast female-driven stories and characters that do their part to inform and empower, without coming off as annoyingly "woke," for lack of a better term. This is yet another sad case where we must take a long hard look at a product where representation is at the forefront and demand quality from that representation as opposed to praising its very existence and withholding the right to criticize. We can and should do better than to resort to another adaptation of Charlie's Angels.
NOTE: My review of Charlie's Angels, the film from 2000: stevethemovieman.proboards.com/thread/6343/charlies-angels-2000
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, Naomi Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Nat Faxon, Sam Claflin, Chris Pang, Djimon Hounsou, Noan Centineo, and Patrick Stewart. Directed by: Elizabeth Banks.