Originally a successful television series that ran from 1976 to 198, the latest cinematic re-boot in the Charlie’s Angels universe has been a long time coming, considering the previous two renditions, Charlie’s Angels and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, were made in 2000 and 2003 respectively.
And, for the first time, an Angels film has actually been directed by a woman —Elizabeth Banks, who is also one of the stars of the new Charlie’s Angels— after the two previous outings were both helmed by the very male McG. You’d have thought that a franchise that’s all about female empowerment would have had a woman behind the camera before now but it seems it took the 'Me Too' movement for Hollywood to figure out that movies about women can be directed by them too. To be fair though, Banks has a form in the all-female lead role arena already, having been a producer on the Pitch Perfect series and directing Pitch Perfect 2, the highest-grossing musical comedy movie thus far.
Set mainly in Berlin and Istanbul, the story develops when a young scientist, Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott, last seen as Jasmine in Aladdin), who’s been working on a sustainable energy source named the Calisto project, becomes concerned about the possibility of it becoming weaponized. She tries to convince her boss, Peter Fleming (Nat Faxon), not to launch it on the global market until this glitch is rectified but is over-ruled and this provides the impetus for the entry of a new generation of Charlie’s Angels.
This time the crime-fighting team consists of ex-MI-6 agent Jane (Ella Balinska) and rebellious wild-child Sabina (Kristen Stewart) who, like all the Angels who preceded them, work for The Townsend Agency, which has now gone global but is still run and financed by the mysterious millionaire called Charlie, whose identity we never learn.
In a side-story, the previous boss of the agency, John Bosley (Patrick Stewart), is retiring and his successor, Susan Bosley (Elizabeth Banks), is now keeping track of the Angels’ encounters. Under her command, the team joins forces with programming whiz-kid Elena in an attempt to stop the Calisto device from falling into the wrong hands. This involves much mayhem and death-defying stunts while dressed in an ever-changing array of wigs and a glitzy wardrobe collection that is almost as hysterical as the action on the screen.
Banks wanted to make a movie that celebrated women at work, she felt like the DNA of Charlie’s Angels is about sisterhood, working together, camaraderie, believing women, supporting women,”. And she’s done it, as there is definitely a strong feminist flavor to the script of this popcorn spectacular. This tone is set by Sabina’s conversation to ‘Aussie’ Jonny (Melbourne-born actor Chris Pang) in the film’s opening scene.
The women are all fabulous and exhibit the requisite air of independence and toughness under the usual extraordinary circumstances and Stewart shows a previously hidden flair for comedy, even if some of her lines could be funnier. Faxon and the other villainous counterparts, including Sam Clafin as a corrupt industrialist and Jonathan Tucker as a silent assassin, provide enough malevolence to keeps the girls on their toes. The always dependable Patrick Stewart plays the retiring Bosley with a merry twinkle in his eye.
You don’t have to be a Charlie’s Angels fan to enjoy this frenetic, all-girl romp, because it is what it is. Banks keeps it light, kind of like a female-driven Mission: Impossible movie with a dash of ‘Jane’ Bond. It’s a fun ride that might leave you wondering what the heck it was all about but, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. Much like popcorn, it’s delicious at the time but you’ve forgotten the taste by the time you hit the exit.