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"I expected to hate the new Charlie's Angels, now I'm emotionally shaken by how good it was."

Despite its iconic title, 2019’s Charlie’s Angels very much had the deck stacked against it.

The new action film, which was written and directed by Pitch Perfect mastermind Elizabeth Banks, is a continuation of the 1970s TV series and the hit early noughties movies of the same name that starred Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu (there are a few direct nods to both of these past iterations of Angels in the film) rather than a reboot of the franchise.

Yet it was still a film in danger of suffering from the recent wave of reboot fatigue, an apprehension that had moviegoers asking each other prior to the film’s release, ‘do we even need this new movie in our lives?’

But the answer is yes, yes we freaking do because this new Charlie’s Angels is a complete joy to watch.

The key to the movie’s success lies in the casting of the new trio of glamorous crime fighters who lead the film.

Listen to Kee Reece and Laura Brodnik explain what led to Charlie’s Angels becoming one of the best movies of the year, along with the other top pop culture stories of the day on Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast The Spill. 

In this new Charlie’s Angels world, Ella Balinska plays Jane Kano, a former MI-6 agent who defected to become an Angel with the Townsend Agency. As a bit of a lone wolf, Jane is the straight shooter of the group and Balinska, in her first big-screen leading lady role, does a perfect job of bringing her to life with dry wit and some savage fight sequences.

Naomi Scott, fresh from portraying Princess Jasmine in the live-action adaption of Aladdin, plays Elena Houghlin, a scientist who becomes accidentally caught up in the Angels’ world after creating a new form of technology that has the potential to turn deadly when used by the wrong people.

Rounding out the trio is the real wild card of this whole thing,  which is Kristen Stewart as Sabina Wilson, a reckless Angel from a wealthy background who was recruited from a reform school to join the agency.

Having reached global fandom in the soppy Twilight franchise and then retreated from the spotlight to focus on smaller independent movies, Kristen Stewart’s presence and comedic timing as the off-kilter Sabina is a completely unexpected highlight of the movie, which is why Elizabeth Banks so cleverly wrote the part especially for her.

It’s also clear to see that the movie has been shot through a completely feminist lens, carefully selling its empowerment message via everything from the costume choices to the dialogue and the absence of a central love story, yet it never comes across as tiresome or preachy.

It’s actually impressive how a franchise that has been around since the 70s has been able to reinvent itself into a cinematic offering that feels so fresh, so beguiling and is a perfect representation of where pop-culture should be headed.

Ella Balinska, Naomi Scott and Kristen Stewart in Charlie's Angels. Source: Sony Pictures.
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It's also a task that has yielded less desirable results in the past.

After all, there was much fanfare and excitement back in 2011 when Drew Barrymore announced a new high concept TV reboot of the franchise, this time starring Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh and Rachael Taylor as the namesake Angels. Despite all the hype, the series crashed and burned, with dismal ratings leading to its cancellation after just four (very expensive) episodes.

What makes this new iteration of Charlie's Angels feel less like a retread and more like a new franchise offering is that the world of these characters has been vastly expanded.

For instance, the Townsend Agency, which has always been the centre of the franchise, is no longer just a three-woman show with the lone voice of "Charlie" only ever issuing orders via a speaker.

Now, it is a vast international agency with too many Angels to count and more than a dozen "Bosleys" (a lieutenant-type rank within the agency) leading specialised teams across the world.

What makes this movie immensely watchable, however, besides the brilliant chemistry between the leading ladies, is that the stakes of the action actually feel very high.

The grouping of Jane, Sabina and Elena is not a natural fit at first and watching them come together as a team actually feels like an earned win in the moments they hustle to pull it off.

Suspicions also run rife throughout the movie with multiple characters (including some of their very own Bosleys) well-placed to be revealed as the real big bads behind the scenes.

This is also the first Charlie's Angels movie in which death is a real player and it is used for both comedic relief (got to love that dark humour) and in some highly emotional character moments.

From the very beginning, the audience is made aware that this is not a blockbuster in which all characters will walk away unscathed from the seemingly impossible action sequences, and these particular Angels aren't afraid to get their hands bloody.

I feel now as if I owe 2019's Charlie's Angels a formal apology, as I, too, was one of those viewers who questioned its need to exist before I had watched the movie's plot unfold.

Now my only question is, can we please have a sequel?

Charlie's Angels is in cinemas now. It is rated M.


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