Gabby: It is my turn once more, this time I went for another film to torture the boys (not on purpose of course) and chose…
Brett: Charlie’s Angels. A tossed salad of things that were cool in or around 2000.
Jeremy: Yeah. If you like movies with women in tight clothing kicking people… this is one of them.
Brett: The thing is, this lands in a bad spot for me. I was about 23 when this came out and it was a time and place where the Nuevo Camp thing couldn’t die fast enough for me.
Gabby: Can you explain that Brett?
Brett: There was an attempt at bringing camp back in the late ’90s. From about 1995 to around 2001, there were a few really campy things made. We had decided to try to be light and silly, but cynically so, because we had just come off the ’80s. Not just Charlie’s Angels or Batman and Robin. Camp or the recreation of things that had been campy was a thing. With lots of postmodern, pre-hipster irony. “Holy rusted metal, Batman!” And the joke at the start of Charlie’s Angels about another movie based on a TV show.
Jeremy: I hated that joke. If this wasn’t another crappy movie based on a TV show, I might feel differently.
I’m with Brett. Besides a few bright spots, the mid-to-late ’90s were a dark time for sci-fi/fantasy and action movies. Schumacher’s Batman. Lost in Space. That Godzilla remake. The Phantom Menace. There are fun blockbusters from this period, but they’re usually soft, campy, safe… even by Hollywood’s standards.
Brett: A lot of the Nuevo Camp has aged badly. You basically have the Batman TV show and a few movies here and there. And then, after 9/11, everything went super serious. To a degree that I have argued it just became another kind of camp. Dark Camp if you will.
Jeremy: You can’t make camp that plays to the lowest common denominator. It’s too forced, too pandering.
Gabby: Camp is misunderstood I feel. Basically there are types of camp. The most commonly seen doesn’t always hold up.
Brett: Yeah. Good camp always avoids the actual wink at the audience as well. Adam West knows you’re aware how silly it is that he’s dressed like this in broad daylight. He doesn’t need to wink at you. He just needs to say “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.”
All that being said, I’m not actually prepared to write this movie off entirely.
Gabby: I am glad.
Jeremy: I’m not willing to write off the actors, who got to have fun and be silly. That’s about it.
Brett: I actually think it had a few moments. Hang on, let me get you a quote for the poster…
“I would watch again… maybe.” – Greyweirdo (The Indefensibles)
Gabby: I agree. I like the fact the three of them get these character beats. Some action movies have none of that.
Brett: The Kung Fu was problematic. Hollywood’s fascination with post-Matrix wire-fu hurts my soul.
Jeremy: It’s not great. It’s not the playground scene in Daredevil, either.
Brett: Nothing is the playground scene in Daredevil.
Gabby: I like the stuff without the wires though. I can’t remember that scene in Daredevil…
Jeremy: I’m sure we can find it on YouTube for this article, Gabby. You won’t not regret it.
Brett: DON’T YOU DO IT!
Brett: He did it.
Jeremy: When did everyone else see this for the first time? I have a distinct memory of NOT seeing this in theaters, which I’ll mention in a minute.
Gabby: I bought it probably soon after its release on DVD. I mentioned really enjoying this film as a teenager a few times on Twitter. I remember seeing the second one in the cinema. Technically I was not a teenager when the first one came out. So I might have fibbed a bit about that. Still it was post-Kate Winslet discovery. Which launched my many big crushes on actresses. Drew Barrymore was another. I was 13 though when the second one came out. With the pictures I have added here I wanted to share what I feel is a line of coding. As a nearing teenager I ate that stuff up. I mean look at that hat…
The stuff she wears is definitely coded a certain way. And well, her manner is always such of a non- straight anyway.
I mean, obviously crushing on Drew isn’t the only reason why young me liked this movie. But re-watching it yesterday, I could see why it might have played a part in it. I was also very into the female power movies also, however bad. I loved girls kicking ass. Particularly smart or fun ones. Ones that are given characteristics. And particularly, ones that are the leads of the film. To compare, one of my, still, favourites was Josie and the Pussycats. As I could recognize that was actually a great movie on top of being a female centered one.
Jeremy: This came out when I was in college. My roommate and I took a long weekend and drove back to our mutual hometown. Some of our friends who still lived there wanted to see Charlie’s Angels. They wanted to see attractive women in tight clothes kicking people – like I said before.
My friend and I, less tempted by our baser instincts, were basically like, “Yeah, that’s not for us.” While they went to see Charlie’s Angels, we drove across town to the theater that played art films to see Dancer in the Dark.
Gabby: I never want to see that again. I mean, I am glad I saw it… just never again.
Jeremy: Saw it once. Never again. We watched a better movie that day. They had a better time.
Brett: Okay, so, here’s a problem for me. It would be better if they weren’t so overly sexualized all the time. Have you guys ever read Hark! A Vagrant?
Jeremy: Haven’t heard of it.
Brett: There is a bit Kate Beaton does with the “Strong Female Protagonists” that skewers this pretty well. It’s that sort of ’90s feminism where, we’ll let you have a little empowerment, but you still need to conform to the male gaze standard. In a post-Furiosa world, this drove my wife nuts the whole movie.
Jeremy: Right there with her.
Gabby: I think that is the point to be honest. Their sexualisation is part of why they can get away with being spies. I think the people around them sexualise them and then ignore what else they are doing. So it is a kind of smart way of playing with that.
Brett: But that’s female empowerment all through the ’90s. You can kick some butt, however we will need you to do it in 7-inch heels and wear this low cut top. All moments of empowerment will still be subject to the Male Gaze. It’s not just this movie, it was pretty much across the board. Oh, and my first viewing was last night. So I was given this with Rey and Furiosa on my heart.
Gabby: I get what you are saying. Josie and the Pussycats has none of that and came out in 2001 rather than this, which came out in 2000. I would want to say that was a sign of progress. But it is a rare film in too many ways. Women are objectified all the time. Whether it is being an action star or a rom com. It is such that we all get very excited when this isn’t the case for the leads. Regardless of whether it happens to a smaller character or not. Rey and Furiosa are hopefully are a sign of things to come. Rey is so awesome and cutely geeky. Furiosa is great and tough At least we can describe the three Angels in the film by more than what they do and their appearance. Also it passes the Bechdel test, which is more than can be said if that hideous monstrosity The Other Woman. Charlie’s Angels allows the charm and intelligence these three women have to come through. Cutting out any relationship between the three of them would be a Hollywood move that is all too common. With it there, at least we get a sense of the fun and the relationship between the actors.
I am not saying it makes it a wonderful movie. But I think it has more to like than many action comedies. Especially due to the fact that they are often awful to women. That doesn’t make it right. That should be the norm. Not be awful. And yet it isn’t. So you get to a point where you’re grateful of women being shown to be competent and funny and smart. Despite the fact that they are oversexualised and the movie isn’t that good.
Jeremy: The oversexualizaiton is pretty gross. It’s why I didn’t want to see it in 2000. It’s why I feel the way I do about it now. If you take all that stuff way, you don’t have much left – but what’s there is fine. Nothing special, but fine. It’s tapping into a basic fantasy that defies gender, sexual orientation, or anything else – most of us would like to kick ass and look good doing it. The fact that there’s nothing underneath all the gross stuff is as frustrating as the gross stuff itself.
Gabby: The gross stuff is very gross, but it is slightly better than the gross stuff in some Fast and Furious or Bond films. I guess that was my point. And the fact they are leads and given things to do/have a bit of character. It doesn’t make the gross stuff less gross though, which is a massive problem. I wish this was directed by a woman.
Brett: Me too.
Gabby: I have no idea why it wasn’t… Oh wait…
Brett: Actually, beyond Hollywood bullshit, why wasn’t it directed by a woman? Speaking of Bond, I have found I can no longer watch Thunderball. The bit in the spa with the nurse just put me off finishing the movie.
Gabby: Hollywood stinks… Oh god. So much rape text in Bond. Text. Not Subtext Exactly, Hollywood bullshit is the only reason.
Brett: Yeah, the bit in Thunderball was just straight up rape and I had to turn the movie off at that point. Goldfinger, bit with Ms. Galore too. For all the talk about Moore being Grandpa rapey, I have some serious issues watching Connery these days.
Jeremy: Yeah, I’m a lifelong Bond fan. The only films I enjoy now are the ones with strong – or at least stronger – female roles…
* It’s at this point, dear reader, that the Indefensibles crew goes way off track talking about Bond movies – Diana Rigg, Michelle Yeoh, Eva Green, etc…
Brett: Okay, so…
Cameron Diaz can’t do the fighting, but Drew Barrymore kind of can. I honestly didn’t notice if Lucy Lui could do the moves or not. Cameron Diaz’s fights had to be put together in the editing room, rather than on set. I was very distracted by how bad the fights with Cameron looked. And then I was a little distracted by how bad Drew’s big fight was directed. She was fighting like five generic looking guys, and she’s dressed a lot like they are. And the room doesn’t have a lot of geography to be able to really tell who is where. There is some, but not enough. And if you’re going to call your shots, then it should be clear she’s doing exactly what she said she was going to do. I found it unclear and kind of mucky. That’s McG’s fault. Barrymore clearly learned the moves and could do them. Rule of thumb, the more moves someone can do in a single shot, the better they were at doing it.
The way Crispin Glover used that sword hurt my heart. Mostly because he was also able to do the things they asked of him. It’s just what they asked him to do was painfully stupid. However, they had a Hong Kong choreographer and told him they wanted that Hong Kong fighting style. And that’s how the fight with swords in Hong Kong Movies. So… you know… points for consistency. Negative points because that’s not how you fight with a rapier.
This is where my complaint about the Desert Eagle pistol during the live tweet came from. They are a big, heavy gun that has probably been fired more times on movie sets than it has in real life. It looks cool, but arguably has no real world application. That’s the problem I have with a lot of the action here. It’s just done to look neat, but often it doesn’t even do that very well.
Jeremy: The fights washed over me. It’s not the nadir of The Matrix chasers. (See above YouTube clip.) They all missed the point of what made The Matrix so special: those characters found a way to defy the laws of nature, which was a struggle. You can feel the characters in The Matrix pushing back against those forces. In movies like this, they’re just flying around for no reason.
I get that’s actually true of most Hong Kong wire-fu movies. They’re usually so impressive you don’t care. Anyway, it’s here because it was the style at the time. And it’s not great. Movies are basically X number of camera setups with Y number of edits to create the illusion of sequential action. Few movies shattered that illusion for me like this one – especially in the fight scenes.
The actors are trying. They’re just asked to do a lot of things by a novice director. I’m not a McG fan by any means, but he gets better. Terminator: Salvation and 3 Days to Kill are both terribly blah, but they’re at least competently made.
Gabby: It is basically the actors that make it anyway interesting. If there was a director involved that actually realised that and gave them more of a chance to shine, it would have been really enjoyable. But we only get bits here and there. For example, the relationship between Lucy Liu and Matt LeBlanc is really sweet and they could have done more with that as a replacement for that weird car racing scene.
Brett: I will agree.
Gabby: Another example is that Drew Barrymore’s character loves scrabble, we should have that in there more. Let her play weird word games to solve clues. They all show themselves to be a bit nerdy in one area or another. I really wish the character beats that are there, were used and developed more.
Gabby: Like the fact she is a terrible cook and tries to make him that … cake? And it deflates. Have more of that, Drew do some more word nerdage stuff and Cameron do some more animal nerdage stuff. That stuff is where the movie is at. Those three women are so charming. Use it! Like imagine cutting all the slow motion shots with them wearing something revealing… or wearing anything and swapping it with things like that. I guess I am asking this movie to be more like The Heat, which it will never be. What do we think of the use of Bosley / Bill Murray?
I want to mention that Drew was able to do the fight choreography. Like she really seems good at it. She was very dedicated to the training process and I think she kept it up as a hobby. She also broke her tailbone training to do the moves. They could do without the wires on her. I think they take advantage of it sometimes but not enough. If we compared this to the Powerpuff Girls, she would be Buttercup. Buttercup is always more heavily used in the kick-ass sections of the episodes. Like with Whip It she actually does Rollerderby. Which I really want to go watch sometime. It looks so cool. In the second movie they do have more with Lucy and Matt… This is the place folks where you can see someone compare Powerpuff Girls to Charlie’s Angels.
Brett: I never saw the show, so I don’t know if Bosley is any different there. Murray doesn’t seem to hate life quite as much here, but he could have just been stoned. Uppers were coming back into vogue during the early 2000s.
Jeremy: He’s surprisingly lively. It’s like he knew he was on a sinking ship and decided to let his brand play on.
Gabby: The campiness of it must have been a carryover from the TV show. It is interesting when comparing it to the second one, which is more of revenge movie. I think that gives it more of a focus than random bad guy it is someone from one of the Angels past and another, related to the members in a different way. You guys definitely wouldn’t enjoy yourselves. But I kind of like it. It is a mess, but kind of fun. On a side note, why wasn’t someone like Deborah Kaplan involved in this? Compared to McG. What the fuck kind of name is that for a director anyway?
Brett: Is it even more McG-y? Geee… MCg-ish? Fuck Great job McG G.
Gabby: I wish had gone away and Drew then directed it.
Brett: We must remember, no matter what we thought of this, it was a big hit. So was the sequel. They made $260 million and $250 million. In 2000 dollars.
Jeremy: The crazy thing is the guy’s sticking with McG. We all have youthful indiscretions of an artistic nature, but I can’t imagine being over 40 and still having that on your business card. It’s not calling yourself “The Edge”, but still…
Brett: Serious question now, if we’re going to complain this doesn’t work very well, it is possible that this was a no-win situation for us to begin with? How often do action/comedies actually work? Do they work at all?
Jeremy: They certainly can work. Usually as middle-of-the-road, disposable entertainment.
Brett: I guess. Am I right in thinking McG was a music video director before this?
Gabby: Yeah. I think a lot of problems come from him directing this like a music video.
Jeremy: Final thoughts, everyone?
Brett: I didn’t hate the movie. I just didn’t love it. It’s kind of a salad of hip ideas from this time period.
Jeremy: It didn’t work for me. At all. It’s a lot of bits strung together. It is a salad, and none of the ingredients are great – the jokes, the story, the fights, and yes, the sexiness. The movie doesn’t excel at any of them, and the combination together doesn’t save it. Admittedly, I am absolutely the wrong audience for this movie. So what do I know?
Gabby: I was the right age for this when it came out. I wanted ladies who could kick butt. And there are a few character beats and charming leads. There is an enjoyable vibe from the cast with a sense of teamwork and friendship between them. I am sad it didn’t have a different director. Particularly that it wasn’t a female one. But I do find it fun. I am aware that subjecting it to others comes with warnings. And girl, I do see those flaws.