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November 23 , 2019. By Christian Tesfaye( Christian Tesfaye was Fortune’s Op-Ed Editor and currently works as a researcher. He can be reached at [email protected] )
It might have seemed that making a film worse than the 2000s’ Charlie’s Angels and its 2003 sequel would have been hard. By remaking the film, Elizabeth Banks proves everyone wrong. Christian Tesfaye awards 3 out of 10 stars.
There are few words in the English language to explain the utter inanity of the Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu starring remake of the 1970s TV show of the same name, Charlie’s Angels.
The film and its 2003 sequel are the movie versions of salty, deeply fried, fatty snacks that are unhealthy for the brain instead of the body.
“Of course it’s terrible – but did it have to be this bad?” wrote Manohla Dargis, film critic for the New York Times, about the first remake. Roger Ebert said that the movie is, “eye candy for the blind … this movie is a dead zone in [the actors’] lives, and mine.”
Elizabeth Banks must have seen the criticisms leveled at the remakes for their unbridled effort at brainlessness and said, “Hold my beer. I will do you one worse.”
She does not succeed. But she comes painfully close. What we have on our hands is not a movie but a cocktail of all the pea-brained ideas that can possibly go into making an action movie. It is not so much an assault on the senses but a full frontal attack on everything that is supposed to be good about cinema.
The movie stars Christen Stewart as Sabina, the funny one of the group, Naomi Scott as Elena, the smart one of the trio, and Ella Balinskaas Jane, the Captain America of the group, which is to mean that she has no unique identifying character.
The plotline is in the vein of the previous remakes, except that Elena is not initially a member of the Angels, the group of private crime-fighting women employed by a secretive person known only as Charlie Townsend. Instead, she is working for a tech firm that successfully develops an energy conserving device. Just to save everybody’s time, the device could have just been named McGuffin.
The device can revolutionise the energy industry, but it has a flaw in its design. The flaw can be exploited to allow hackers to use the device to generate electromagnetic shocks that can kill people from great distances. Elena tries to communicate this to her immediate boss but is shot down. So she does the next logical thing, which is not to get the authorities involved but to bring the matter to the attention of the Angels.
Astronomical coincidence, however, makes it so that there is a party within the Angels’ network interested in the device. Following an assassination attempt on Elena, Sabina, Jane and their handler, Bosley (Banks), have to depend on their ingenuity to protect her while also keeping the device safe from the wrong hands.
Charlie’s Angles is about much more than its plot. It also has a message: women are smart, independent and could pull off any stunt Jason Bourne could. One only hopes that such themes are not screamed into audience ears but delivered subtly. By the third-act, it is evident that the filmmakers are not just making feminist statements. They are stating that they are making feminist statements.
Perhaps, the bigger insult is that a movie that brags to show the strength of women stars no actresses known for their strength in acting. Neither Stewart, Scott nor Balinska exist in this movie because of talent but rather due to smooth skin, lean bodies and photogenic faces aside from a whole lot of luck, nepotism or both.
Indeed, it is not new for an action movie to have no good acting, thematic depth, unique storyline and three dimensional characters. But it is rare to find movies of this genre without a single redeeming action sequence. Through the use of fast cutting in a poor attempt to conceal poor fight choreography, terrible camerawork and the excessive use of stunts, Banks renders every single action sequence unwatchable.
I could imagine a much better Charlie’s Angels movie. It would star Ronda Rousey, Cynthia Erivo and Mackenzie Davis as the three Angels and Sigourney Weaver as Bosley. The film would be directed by Kathryn Bigelow and have had an R-rating in the style of recent action movie breakouts.
It could have been a gritty and unapologetic showpiece of the violence women are exposed to in their professional lives and the battles they have to fight to succeed in any field. True, the movie might lose the lightness and optimism of the original TV series. But that may have been for the better for the cheerful outlook of the show was actually only a product of testosterone-fueled male fantasies than a lighter representation of professional women.
What is unfortunate is that the remake was not offered to a filmmaker with a unique vision. It was offered to Banks. And she delivers a movie that only astounds in its shamelessness to bank on movements that attempt to shine a light on gender roles and intersectionality.
PUBLISHED ON Nov 23,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1021]
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