Another movie. Another year designation to make sure we know that it’s not the movie that actually came out decades ago. Nostalgia is the name of the game, folks. If you ain’t seen it before, then why bother making a movie? Despite that cynicism, though, I had a really good time watching this incarnation of Charlie’s Angels — and it mostly owes to one person.
In 2008, people hated that one person. I remained indifferent. In 2019, I now consider myself a Kristen Stewart super-fan. She carries this movie on her shoulders with her deadpan wit, full understanding of her role, and a gleeful insanity that propels the whole mediocre plot forward. She’s practically in every scene and with good reason; the movie would be possibly unwatchable without her.
The other Angels are fine. Ella Balinska is imposing as former MI-6 agent, Jane. And former Jasmine, Naomi Scott manages to pull off the wide-eyed shenanigans asked of her well enough. Patrick Stewart (who I have declared a UNESCO World Heritage Person) is always a delight, and Elizabeth Banks pulls triple duty as director, writer, and actor in the film. A better writer than director, I think, Banks sometimes struggles to keep the movie as exciting as its premise promises.
For Charlie’s Angels lore nerds (if that’s a thing), the script does some interesting things with the universe that could really open up the franchise, should this one warrant a follow-up. I appreciated the effort they put into this, and I’m hopeful that we do get more. Maybe keeping only Kristen Stewart and finding her some better counterparts to play against.
The movie also does really well at cashing in on the topic of female empowerment, managing to make it neither patronizing nor overwrought. These are women kicking butt, and they make no apology about it. From subtle choices with character arcs, to more direct soliloquies about the male/female divide, the movie definitely has feminism on its mind — in a good way.
But the movie shines most when Stewart is on-screen. If it’s not her deadpan one-liners, then it’s her entertaining expressions and completely improvised fighting style. Every time she’s front and center, the action feels tighter, the plot feels smoother, and the world feels more real. And, because of this effort, the movie ends up being really fun. Uneven. But fun.
If you’re the type of person who watches just a handful of movies a year, then there are certainly better movies for you to choose. But, if you’re like me and you watch closer to thirty, then this deserves to be on your list somewhere. If for no other reason than to reset your beliefs on how talented Kristen Stewart is. Did I mention that I really like Kristen Stewart in this movie?
Rating: B-Tier (up from C-Tier because of Stewart alone)
Should you watch it? If you really like action, female empowerment, or just watch a lot of movies
Should you take your kids? Probably not; they’d be more bored than anything. Also, it’s pretty violent (but not above it’s PG-13 punching weight)
What you should watch first: Having some familiarity with the Charlie’s Angels universe, either through the original series or the early 2000s Drew Barrymore franchise, will pay dividends