We all know rebooting iconic franchises has a high failure rate, with nostalgia as likely to draw audiences in as it is to result in all caps tirades about retroactively ruined childhoods.
But in an era where movies focused on women and people of colour don’t even need to drop a trailer before sections of the internet devolve into rage tantrums, rebooting a majority-female led franchise with one of the most maligned actresses of her generation in a lead role sounds like a recipe for disaster.
And yet, it works.
‘Charlie’s Angels’ has a lot less of the faux-ditzy, ass-spanking, hypersexualised ‘girl power’ than the Barrymore-era version. It’s sexy without feeling like a masterclass in catering to the male gaze, with a great balance between plot and comedy. The sexiness of the new-gen Angels feels less obligatory than it is subversive, helped along by the fact this movie isn’t about an established team so much as the potential for a team to develop.
Of course, there are hat-tips to the original show, and the previous movie iterations, but those new to the franchise don’t need to plan a movie marathon to keep up with the storyline. In fact, there’s some weird retconning of the previous franchise, with Patrick Stewart somewhat creepily photoshopped over pictures of Bill Murray and Bernie Mac to tie him to the previous movies, made even more baffling by the idea that Bosley isn’t a name so much as a rank within the organisation.
Some are unimpressed at the inclusion of Kristen Stewart as Angel Sabina Wilson, and the rather wooden expression on the posters really doesn’t help. If you’ve only known Kristen as Bella Swan, it’s easy to think wooden is the peak of her skill set – unfortunate, given the ‘Twilight’ character was (in both book and movie versions) bland enough that you could replace her with a barely functional lamp without audiences noticing. I’m still not convinced she wasn’t switched out with cardboard pictures at random points in ‘Twilight’. But, give Kristen a role where she’s allowed to emote, and the actress steals the show regularly. As the comic relief she balances the character’s professionalism and personality masterfully, and I can’t imagine the movie working as well without her.
In fact, each actress on her own is amazing, but together, it’s impossible to look away. Ella Balinska is stunning as the no-nonsense Jane Kano, walking the tightrope between strong professional woman and vulnerable, relatable character spectacularly. Naomi Scott gives a stunning performance as Elena Houghlin, a woman trying to figure out her place in the world, and how far she’ll go to do the right thing. Each individual story is compelling, but blend them together, and magic is made.
If you’re looking for the extra cheesy, sexed up stylings of the previous franchise, you might be disappointed. But if you like your action flicks smart, sexy, and engaging as hell, you’re probably going to love ‘Charlie’s Angels’.