Saturday, November 16, 2019

Charlie's Angels (2019)


When engineer and programmer Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) discovers a problem with an energy conservation device that she helped invent, she makes sure to inform her bosses at once to ensure that nobody will get hurt. The problem is that the higher-ups in her company are more interested in money rather than quality issues and safety. Her cry for help reaches Charles Townsend’s agency where two angels, rebel Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) and ex MI-6 Jane Kano (Ella Balinska) are sent to her aid and are forced to work together despite the polar differences in their respective personalities. Soon enough, outsiders begin to make their presence felt by wanting a piece of the invention for weaponization and profit, effectively putting a price on the head of anyone who tries to get in their way.

I saw this film twice, not in a movie theater but rather on a long-haul flight. Having seen it twice in a row could only mean that it proved to be entertaining enough to ward off long-haul boredom, but that seems to be the very problem with this movie. It’s okay to watch it more than once for free, for lack of better and newer options. That’s about it, and perhaps it’s that lack of box office appeal that led it to flop. Releasing it on a streaming platform would have been a different story.

You can see the effort, though, what with the inclusion of popular Netflix actors like Noah Centineo and Luis Gerardo Méndez making it to the casting list. The project felt like an attempt to reboot a 70’s classic that is just a bit out of touch with the social movements prevalent in modern day Hollywood. Nostalgia works if there is a clamor from the older generation for a reboot or a sequel. For Charlie’s Angels, there was none, which left them to target a younger audience who were either unaware or just not interested.

Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu were at the peak of their careers when a reboot was launched in the early 2000’s. That star power coupled with nostalgia for a 70’s hit that people wanted to see on the big screen made the franchise tolerable as a cinematic offering, despite its obvious faults. Nowadays, a film needs to be a cultural event of sorts for people to go to theaters and pay an admission ticket for it. Otherwise, there are many streaming options online. It’s in that regard that this reboot fails.

Only Stewart is recognizable in this 2019 version and is arguably the best part of the cast because you can see that she’s just having loads of fun. Balinska is believably kick-ass but a relative Hollywood unknown. Coming on the heels of her recent turn as Jasmine in Disney’s live action version of Aladdin, Scott has the potential to be a box office draw, but maybe not this early in her career. With more prominent names like Elizabeth Banks and Patrick Stewart pushed to the sidelines, this film just didn’t have much going on for it to succeed at the tills.

It also doesn’t help that everything feels more like a big SJW cinematic project being shoved down your throat. Charlie’s Angels has always been a strange material as far as female empowerment is concerned, given how it was created by men for the entertainment of men yet in so doing led to what was, perhaps, the unintentional empowerment of the female populace through their very objectification. The formula is a delicate balancing act that usually works. In the 2019 version, that balance is tipped more towards agenda, in a way that is not so subtle at all, ending up with a product that feels just too preachy for its own good.

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