The 2019 revival of “Charlie’s Angels,” based on the 1976 television series and the 1999 movie, opened with a disappointing box office weekend. Though the film falters in its writing and directing, the message of female empowerment exemplified through the kick-ass stunts of the Angels is clear.
The characters were the shining light in the dim box office returns. Kristen Stewart steers clear of her normal brooding and angsty persona as Sabina, a bubbly and comedic character, making all of us gays fall in love with her all over again. Ella Balinska plays Jane, an ex-MI6 agent who is smart, tough and highly trained in combat. Naomi Scott plays a computer genius whose corrupt bosses want to use her alternative energy device as an assassination weapon. Scott’s character enlists the help of Jane and Sabina, led by their new boss Bosley (Elizabeth Banks), taking the namesake of the original character. The Angels and Bosley work to track down the traffickers of this new weapon in an exciting, albeit poorly-written adventure. Viewers are blessed with fight scene upon fight scene in which Kristen Stewart and Ella Balinska expertly neutralize bad guys. However, quips like “when you’re baking a cake, you can’t be afraid to break a couple of eggs” and responses like “If you’re going to compare dead people to eggs, at least say the expression right” did slightly detract from believability of the plot. Furthermore, Sabina and Jane infiltrate a billionaire’s party and, for literally no reason at all, break out into a choreographed dance number for about two minutes before continuing to walk through the party like nothing happened. The randomness of the plot continued throughout the entire film. At one point, the plot was so confusing that we turned to each other and wondered “are we just stupid?” Although that may very well be the explanation for our confusion, the sheer amount of plot twists combined with insufficient character exposition make for a roundabout plotline that had no clear end goal.
Now, of course making a well-directed and well-written piece of art wasn’t really the goal of director Elizabeth Banks — at least not as much as creating a movie for female empowerment. The whole fun of “Charlie’s Angels” as a genre film is to push back against the stereotypical male domination in action films. Despite the gender exclusion this goal perpetuates, omitting nonbinary genders, this intention for the movie is clear. For instance, the movie begins with Kristen Stewart in a long, blonde wig flirting with a billionaire suspected of criminal embezzlement in order to distract him. While performing acrobatics to tie him up, she says, “Did you know it takes people seven extra seconds to perceive a woman as a threat?” Although on the surface this scene seems like an objectification of Kristen Stewart’s character, it is actually a witty use of the male gaze as a weapon. Sabina recognizes that she can manipulate her mark because of his willingness to objectify her, instead of viewing her as a woman capable of violence. The character of Saint, played by Luis Gerrardo Mendéz, is also a jab at a common spy trope. Saint plays the holistic healer, masseuse, nutritionist, counselor and chiropractor that waits on the Angels. Instead of a beautiful woman that supports the James Bond character through his gruelling and difficult work, Saint is a man that actively supports the Angels.
The message that “women can do anything” is clear throughout the film. Although this theme is not quite an ideal message of gender equality, it is inspiring and supportive for girls. We see Sabina maintain a bubbly and light-hearted attitude, Jane as a tough and hardened warrior, who is still in touch with her emotions, and Elena as a quickly adapting genius who is no stranger to self-advocating. These characters come together and successfully attempt to show the validity and strength of all types of women.