Following the recent trend of rebooting or continuing classic franchises with women-led casts, such as in Ghostbusters (2016) and Ocean’s 8 (2018), Charlie’s Angels is the latest series to undergo a makeover. Unlike the others, it has always been led by women. But with a female director and a new, more diverse cast in tow, this time it feels different.
Helmed by quadruple threat Elizabeth Banks, who directed, wrote, produced and starred in the film, this continuation of the series is both familiar and fresh. Engineer Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) catches the attention of the now-international Townsend Agency when she tries to expose the flaws of Calisto, a dangerous energy device being sold by her employer Alexander Brock (Sam Claflin). Elena is introduced to two of the agency’s Angels, Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska), and senior operative Rebekah (Banks) tasks them with recovering Calisto before it’s too late.
With a cast including Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou and Noah Centineo in supporting roles, the film features a familiar face at every turn, but its greatest asset is the three leads. Undoubtedly more diverse than its predecessors, this new team of Angels is modern, cool, and a breath of fresh air. They are much more distinguishable from one another in terms of personality and appearance, which makes the evolution of their relationship enjoyable to watch. Sabina is a former prisoner with a two-tone crop of hair, cracking jokes and riding a motorbike while serious ex-MI6 agent Jane fires guns like nobody’s business. When intelligent but innocent honorary Angel Elena is thrown into the mix without a clue as to what’s going on, it makes for an amusing dynamic.
Although the Charlie’s Angels films have always been defined by their mix of action and comedy, this instalment succeeds more at executing the former than the latter. The action sequences are exciting and well-directed, and Banks rightly doesn’t hold back on the violence. The humour, however, doesn’t always work and is stilted at times despite the cast’s best efforts. Banks’ first screenwriting effort is commendable, but the script might have been sharper and funnier had she not taken on quite so many roles.
The film’s 118-minute runtime would have equally benefitted from being tightened up. Some of the purely comedic scenes are not quite funny enough to justify being kept in, so it feels like it’s dragging at certain points.
Nevertheless, the tone of the film is consistently youthful and fun, and nowhere is this better reflected than in the soundtrack. No Charlie’s Angels track could ever compare to Destiny’s Child’s masterpiece ‘Independent Women, Pt. 1’, but with the likes of Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Lana Del Rey on the track listing, the new pop soundtrack is pitch-perfect for its audience of young adults.
It’s unsurprising that aspects of the first Charlie’s Angels film made in 2000 haven’t aged well, so Banks’ contemporary take on the franchise is refreshing and certainly welcome. In spite of its flaws, it’s a positive reflection of how much has changed for women, both on and off camera, since the Angels first set foot on the big screen. It isn’t a game-changer, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks
Written by: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Clafin, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Noah Centineo