Charlie's Angels (2019)

What Does Charlie’s Angels (2019) Bring To The Franchise?

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What series comes with brilliant women, kick-ass action, and theatrical explosions? Charlie’s Angels! With so many franchises getting reboots in the past few years, Charlie’s Angels was definitely due for a reemergence. Originally starting out as a TV show in 1976, it was then rebooted in the early 2000s with a new cast. Now, in 2019, these badass women are coming back swinging. What does the latest iteration in the Charlie’s Angels franchise bring to the table?

Let me just start by saying that I love Charlie’s Angels (2019). Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart), Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott), and Jane Kano (Ella Balinska) are an amazing group of women, and they did a great job bringing the Charlie’s Angels franchise into the present day. Sabina was hilarious and quirky, Elena was fun and inquisitive, and Jane was tough and kick ass. They played off of each other’s characters really well. With the whole series having a focus on teamwork and sisterhood, this team of three really made a great addition to the Charlie’s Angels team.

Good Morning Charlie

The 2019 Charlie’s Angels has a lot of similarities with the 2000’s movies. They still operate in teams of three angels, and they still have a Bosley looking out for them and keeping them safe. The angels still always have a hot outfit for every covert occasion, and change appearances to suit their needs and environment. Also, like always, they only communicate with the mysterious Charlie through a speaker box, never in person. Once again, what starts out as a pretty typical case for the Angels goes awry when they are seemingly betrayed by someone within the agency.

Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott star in Charlie's Angels.
Charlie’s Angels, Columbia Pictures, 2019.

Whereas in Charlie’s Angels (2000) it was their client and in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) it was a previous angel, in this version it is actually a retired Bosley looking to destroy the angels and commit various crimes. Regardless of who the villain is, the Charlie’s Angels format remains virtually the same. They have a client, then they do some work to recover something (or someone) that’s missing. Then, when things begin to look wrapped up, they are betrayed. Finally, the angels must work together with Bosley to take down the ultimate bad guy. The formula doesn’t really change, but it’s a style that works well and is entertaining, so there’s no need to mess with this overall structure.

Blood Angel

One thing that was jarring to see in Charlie’s Angels (2019) was the amount of actual death involved. While the 2000s movies were certainly no strangers to violence, not a lot of people actually died in them. Since those angels didn’t use guns, most of the violence was to incapacitate, not to kill. The only deaths I can even think of from both of those movies were the final bad guys, and two others in the second movie. Even then, those deaths occurred mostly either off-screen or in a dramatic and inexplicit way – for example, by blowing up in a helicopter or falling into a pit of fire.

The angels together.
Charlie’s Angels, Columbia Pictures, 2019.

This is not the case with 2019’s Charlie’s Angels. There’s not too much death, but the death we see is pretty gruesome. Firstly, Elena causes the security guard where she works to have a massive stroke and die due to the device she created and programmed. Then, at the showdown in the factory, Sabina’s opponent falls into a machine that crushes rocks into gravel, and it’s not pretty. Finally, and perhaps most horrifically, is when Jane is fighting the assassin-for-hire and throws him over a balcony in the final fight. His body gets impaled by an ice sculpture, and it’s pretty horrific to look at.

I can’t say why there is a sudden increase in the explicit violence caused by the angels in this iteration. It’s possible it’s meant to show the audience more of a dark side, and that in those sorts of life-or-death situations, they have to do what they can to survive. These instances definitely mark their work as so-called angels. Luckily, all three of them have an instance like this, which does at least even out the murdering a little bit.

Angels International

Working out of 2019, however, some aspects of the story needed to change from the older iterations to fit with the current times. The biggest way Charlie’s Angels (2019) did this was by expanding the reach of the agency. Before, the angels all worked out of Los Angeles, and there was only ever one active team of angels at a time. In this world, the Townsend Agency is an international organization, having grown from the original Los Angeles office to have branches all around the globe.

Though the focus of the story is still on our one team of angels, it’s clear that there are angels working all over to protect people and catch criminals. Nothing makes me happier than to think of a whole organization of powerful women watching over everyone. I love this expansion of the universe, because instead of being a complete reboot on the original Charlie’s Angels, it’s more of a continuation.

Who Runs The World?

Additionally, it’s not just expanding the universe that’s got me feeling the female power. There’s also an increase in female presence throughout the story. For one thing, the story really highlights the other women who appear on their mission. From the receptionist working with Elena to the little girl they meet after getting the crap kicked out of them and losing Bosley, Charlie’s Angels (2019) keeps women always at the forefront.

I can’t speak to the original TV show, but I know the 2000s Charlie’s Angels had these incredible, confident and fierce women, but then surrounded them completely by men for almost all other major and minor roles. Even in Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle (2003), where the main bad guy is Madison Lee (Demi Moore), we spend a rather pathetic amount of time actually focused on her. Instead, the movie shifts attention to the other, male, villains.

Bosley, played by Elizabeth Banks.
Charlie’s Angels, Columbia Pictures 2019.

That’s where Charlie’s Angels (2019) makes a difference. Even with the main roles outside of the angels themselves, women show their stuff. The Bosley of our team, played by Elizabeth Banks, is an incredible woman and previous angel. Even more shockingly, this Charlie is also female. Considering how long it’s been since the original series came out, they needed to show a transition of power from one Charlie to the next and decided (rightly so) that having a female Charlie running the Townsend Agency would really push the girl power into maximum overdrive.

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

Something different for Charlie’s Angels movies, but not for the genre in general, did throw me off quite a bit. In Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), Alex Munday(Lucy Liu), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore), and Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz) are a well-oiled fighting machine. Even in the first movie, they clearly have been working together for a long time, so their actions are always done as a team, with each of their strengths and weaknesses in mind.

This was not the case for our 2019 angels. Our team — Sabina, Elena, and Jane — has not worked together before. Sabina and Jane are long-standing angels whose previous mission together ended with Jane pushing Sabina off a building, and Elena is a civilian dragged into the world of the Townsend Agency. None of them know quite how to work with one another, and it shows in the early action of the movie.

Moving To The Mundane

Now, the idea of having a new member join an elite and secret organization is not new for agents or action films. Many others, like Men In Black, Men In Black International, and Kingsman, play with that same situation. They take a new recruit or innocent passerby and show them trying to navigate the complex world of the secret agency. This can be pretty cool, as it lets viewers see behind the curtain of a place like the Townsend Agency. On the flip side, however, it can also be a bit much.

 Charlie's Angels, Columbia Pictures, 2000.
Charlie’s Angels, Columbia Pictures, 2000.

One of the best things about the 2000s Charlie’s Angels movies was their cohesiveness. We didn’t have to stop and think about every little thing they were doing, so we could just enjoy it. Charlie’s Angels (2019) doesn’t let us do that. Every decision and every piece of tech was pulled out of the moment by Elena’s constant questioning. The only time it gave us some new insight that we couldn’t get from context clues was right in the beginning, when she asks about why both Idris Elba and Elizabeth Banks’ characters are named “Bosley.” From then on, all it serves to do is provide unneeded explanation.

Don’t Call Me Angel

Despite that one disappointment, there were other great aspects of the Charlie’s Angels franchise that this 2019 version took up really well. For one thing, the costuming and characters stayed hot as ever without being overly sexualized. In Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Alex, Dylan, and Natalie all go to a strip club to do some recon, and Natalie ends up temporarily naked. This was the most obvious of several scenes throughout the two movies that were just a little too much and didn’t really need to happen.

Charlie's Angel (2019) power pose.
Charlie’s Angels, Columbia Pictures, 2019.

Our new angels bring the heat with some pretty hot outfits, but there’s never a moment that makes the costumes seem overly sexual, or as if they’re working as an elaborate attempt to catch the attentions of male viewers. Women don’t need to be naked to be sexy, and these angels really prove that.

Charlie’s Angels (2019) Up To Date

Probably the best thing to come from this story taking place in the present day was the improved technology both on and off-screen. Secret agents have all sorts of cool gadgets, and action films like these are known for having tons of special effects. Charlie’s Angels (2019) brings the Townsend Agency and the franchise into the future.

Special Effects

Anyone familiar with past Charlie’s Angels features is familiar with how awkward or downright silly some of the fighting effects can be. From moments where Dylan slow-motion kicks two bad guys in the head simultaneously to the way the whole team gets thrown during an explosion, these moments can’t help but pull an audience out of the story to marvel at the ridiculousness of it all. It just doesn’t look realistic in the slightest. There’s a particularly memorable scene for me in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle where Madison Lee grabs Dylan’s foot and just tosses her into the air. It looks so funny that I can’t help but laugh, despite the tense situation that’s actually meant to be happening on screen.

 Charlie's Angels, Columbia Pictures, 2000.
Charlie’s Angels, Columbia Pictures, 2000.

Thankfully for viewers, we’ve come a long way with special effects and CGI since 2003. Fights in the new Charlie’s Angels are more believable, and their reactions to being thrown or blown up seem consistent to how you’d expect someone to react at that time. From now on, no one will be thrown through the air after a fiery explosion.

Spy Gear

Additionally, the tech on-screen shows a significant boost too. With tracking devices, tranquilizer mints, and tattooed “wings” for communication, the days of angels using bird calls to track down a missing person are over. Now, some modern-day adaptations of spy movies tend to make the mistake of going too far in the other direction, making all sorts of futuristic technology that doesn’t seem possible. For the most part, Charlie’s Angels (2019) avoids that pitfall.

One thing they did that seemed highly unlikely and that is rather bizarre to me were the tattoos. The idea is that after each recruit passes training, they earn their “wings” which are these tattoos. The weird thing about these tattoos, and the thing that’s hard to wrap my head around, is that they are also used for communication. That’s right, instead of units in the ears, or even the “molar mics” of the 2000s, these girls have tattoos that somehow enable them to hear and talk to one another.

Charlie's Angels, Columbia Pictures, 2019.
Charlie’s Angels, Columbia Pictures, 2019.

No matter how hard I think about it, I can’t seem to figure out how something like that would actually work in the real world. Maybe that shows my ignorance towards technology, but I don’t get how it’s convenient to have communications in your neck or wrist or collar bone. How do you program it to connect to the right angels? How does it avoid hearing all angels at once? I don’t really get it, and, to me at least, the “molar mics” or just regular earpiece communicators would have made more sense.

Good Morning Angels

Despite the ways in which Charlie’s Angels (2019) is different from its predecessors, it’s still a great continuation of the series. With the same overall premise and a new team of phenomenal angels, I’m already impatiently waiting for the next one.

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