A quick look at Charlie’s Angels (2019) from Spy Movie Navigator
Spy Movie Navigator recently published a podcast discussing the 2019 movie Charlie’s Angels. You can get that podcast here (Link) This article is a synopsis of that podcast..
At Spy Movie Navigator, we’re releasing these Cracking the Code of Spy Movies Quick-Fire episodes shortly after we see a new spy movie. We’ll still focus on the interrelationships that happened between the new film and prior movies as well as real-life events. So, let’s look at the November 2019 release of the movie Charlie’s Angels.
This one’s a bit interesting for us as we wouldn’t have examined the Charlie’s Angels movies from the early 2000s because they advertise themselves as a detective movie. The marketing around this version in 2019 was heavily around calling these women’s spies.
The beginning of this movie hammers home a girl-power theme. This was written, produced, directed and acted by Elizabeth Banks. She really took this towards this whole girl-power thing. That might be a potential reason why the box office for the opening weekend was considered a flop. We’re going to talk more about the box office a little bit later, but this girl power thing runs throughout the movie.
Similarities to other Spy Movies or Real-World Events
Our goal at Spy Movie Navigator and our Cracking the Code of Spy Movies podcasts is to highlight the interrelationships of a spy movie with other spy movies or real-world events. So, let’s look at those with Charlie’s Angels.
There is a pre-title sequence of course because it’s popular and in other spy movies. And quite frankly our opinion is if you’ve seen other spy movies, you’ve seen this movie anyway. There is a pre-title sequence where they show how strong these women are and how they could just beat the hell out of evil men, which is important in this movie.
The Movie’s Plot
The plot of the movie involves an energy system called Calisto that can bring clean energy to the world. But Elena, the key programmer for this program, thinks there’s a flaw in the programming. She believes Calisto could be weaponized and used to assassinate people by disrupting the neural network of a person’s body and that it could be triggered remotely. This theme really reminds us of Mission: Impossible II. In that movie, you had the Chimera virus. The Chimera virus was created to create a virus so that the antidote that they had already created, Bellerophon, could be sold. This virus would take over people and end up eventually killing them. They had the antidote and there were people trying to stop the antidote from happening.
There are a lot of things in this film that you have seen in other spy films or from other real-life things like the main adversary’s name. At the beginning of the movie, the main adversary is the boss. His name is Peter Fleming. Ian Fleming’s brother was named Peter Fleming. So, is that a little homage to our great friend Ian Fleming? Tom’s thinking is yes. Dan thought it was just a cheap ploy.
Bosley’s Retirement Party
If you’re familiar with the TV show or from prior Charlie’s Angels movies, you have the angels or the three main characters and you’ve got a character named Bosley who’s kind of like the Angel’s boss, and then there’s somebody named Charlie who actually controls everything. Patrick Stewart plays one of the Bosley, John Bosley, and he’s going to retire and so they have a retirement party for him. This scene kind of reminds us of a scene in the movie Kingsman: The Secret Service. When an agent dies in Kingsman, all the agents get together. There are holograms and they all toast.
In Charlie’s Angels, instead of holograms, they had video clips of other Bosleys (there are supposedly multiple Bosleys in different areas of the world). Each of these Bosleys toasts the retiring John Bosley and wish him farewell. So once again, it’s a slight twist on something you’ve seen in another spy movie. They show all these images and clips from the past as they did in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. If we remember in that movie, when they were introducing George Lazenby as the new Bond, we saw images, through the martini glass, with scenes from Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice.
It is important to point that if you didn’t know those other movies, it wouldn’t have affected your viewing of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. If you didn’t know the other Charlie’s Angel movies or television show, seeing those things wouldn’t necessarily impact your viewing of it. So, if you saw the TV series you may have a different feel than somebody who may not have. Our point is that this stuff’s been done before. You’ll hear this theme from us throughout this article.
Where does the movie open up? It opens up in Rio de Janeiro, but where do the angels travel? Exotic places? They go to Istanbul. Who else went to Istanbul? Well, for one, James Bond goes there in From Russia With Love. There is a lot of stuff in Istanbul. Where else did they go? Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Hamburg, and Berlin. They’re not in Chicago. They’re not in Peoria, Illinois. No, they are going to exotic places just like every other spy movie.
Another thing that is a tie back to the TV series is you a speakerphone and or a box, the speakerphone, and you’ve got Charlie’s voice coming out of it. Remember that the angels report to Bosley, Bosley reports to Charlie, and you never see Charlie’s face. It’s only a voice that’s coming out of the speaker-phone. Now there’s a twist at the end around the girl power stuff. I’m not going to give that away, but that’s another tie back to the original show.
In the original television show, they also had some pretty cheesy dialogue. They replicated that concept in this movie. For instance, there is a scene where somebody is getting chased and there’s gunfire. One of the characters says, “Oh my God, you’re not a waitress” and “is that a tank?”, “they’re shooting at us?”. They leave a restaurant where one of the angels was playing a waitress and then this chase happens with this really bad dialogue. Right. The one that just really was cringe-worthy was this gem: “you had a person in my Louis the 14th what is wrong with you?” That doesn’t sound like a quip kind of a thing you’d get out of some of the other spy movies. That sounded like a Bobcat Goldthwait line. Their quips failed miserably, and they were actually, they weren’t delivered all that well either. They’re written poorly and delivered poorly in many cases.
Of course, there’s the mandatory car chase scene. The bad guy’s car has a mounted machine gun. It looks like a Tommy Gun: Not exactly as much finesse as Q’s stuff for Bond. But of course, they had to have this built-in machine-gun thing chasing them. Dan didn’t like this, but Tom thought it was kind of cool. He unloads a thousand rounds; he finally hits a window of the car. Remember, he’s not aiming, he’s driving. The same stuff happens in Bond movies too. So, we’ll let that go.
In these car chase scenes first, they’ve got some pretty high-powered cars. They’ve got some high-end Audi’s. They’ve also got a Lamborghini which ends up in the river. Let’s see, where did we just see that? The car chase scene that ends in the river. Maybe we’re thinking of Spectre. This is another thing we’ve seen in other movies, but that’s okay.
Another concept spy movies tend to have are gadgets. And the first gadget we see is this camera lens mounted to a cell phone. Sabina, who was the character played by Kristen Stewart has this thing on her mobile phone. These lenses actually exist. You can get those today. So that’s not a really high-tech gadget, but it’s the first one we see in this movie.
When you think about gadgets in Mission: Impossible, you had Jack as the Q-type character from the Bond movies. You’ve got the person who kind of introduces the gadgets to the spies. And in this case, it’s a guy they call the Saint. And this guy does more than just the gadgets. He rubs their back. He has a lot of talents. He cooks. He’s a Q-type guy, and he’s everything for these women.
The gadgets in this movie aren’t numerous though. There are only a few of them that they use. There’s the gun that we just talked about in the car chase scene. There is a gadget they use to put men to sleep. They press it on the guy’s neck, and it puts him out.
We then have one scene where Sabina uses peel-off fingerprints. Now again, this isn’t unique. Where have we seen this before? Think back to Diamond’s Are Forever from 1971. So, 48 years later they get an idea: Hey, let’s use peel-off fingerprints, that would be new.
Now to be fair, if you go to a museum-like SPYSCAPE in New York, you’ll find some things being used now that were being used 50 years ago. Part of what we do in our examinations of movies is to look at things that have been “borrowed” from other spy movies. Almost all spy movies do this do some degree. However, this movie seems to have borrowed almost everything in the movie. In our opinion, if you’ve seen a few spy movies, you’ve seen this one already.
The Gadget Room
For those of you who saw Kingsman: The Secret Service there is a dressing room with a closet. It’s the room where they go and get their suits, shoes, and accessories. There is a door that they open up and all the guns and ammunition and the gadgets are in this room.
Not surprisingly, they have something almost identical in Charlie’s Angels. Instead of the nice suits, the closet is filled with very stylish women’s clothing. This really feels like a cheap rip-off of the Kingsman scene, not an homage. Been there, done that.
There is an assassin in this movie named Hodak. He’s played by Jonathan Tucker. To me, he had an eerie resemblance to T1000 in Terminator 2, the character played by Robert Patrick. He was tatted up in Charlie’s Angels, but in Terminator 2 he wasn’t. But he had the same kind of expression and the same kind of drive as T1000. Every time we saw him, I kept thinking back to that character in Terminator 2.
Some type of affair
I love the scene where there are six prototypes of the Calista thing in the vault, in their safe. They have to get in there somehow and get these out. We’re not going to tell you everything that happened in the movie. Go see the movie if you want.
However, when the three angels go in there with Elena we get another “Hmm. I wonder where they got that idea” scene. The three women are dressed identically. They’ve got on the same wig. The security guards are watching on camera,It is interesting that their skin tones are different, but the guards don’t pick up on that. I kind of thought it was a little humorous that they didn’t catch them. Now, they do show a lot of them from the back. But the security guys are trying to figure out which one is this Elena character and they don’t know that it’s not the same one. But all of a sudden Elena is on floor five then she’s on floor two and, and it’s like how is she doing this? And it’s, they’re seeing this thing where it looks like it’s the same person in all these different places, which I thought was unique.
No, no one has ever done this kind of thing except, oh wait, maybe The Thomas Crown Affair with Pierce Brosnan. They do the same thing in that movie as well. It was done actually really well in The Thomas Crown Affair but in Charlie’s Angels, it seemed like a low budget version of it.
The Bathroom Fight Scene
Another thing that was kind of coincidental was the fight scene in the bathroom stall. Where have we seen bathroom fight scenes in spy movies before? This is unique stuff they’re coming up with here. Hmm. Let see: Mission: Impossible – Fallout had an amazing one. Although that uses more of the bathrooms, not just the stall. This was interesting because it was just a stall. There’s an Austin Powers where there’s as scene kind of like that. Casino Royale has a big bathroom scene there. But this one was just a stall. So that part was unique. And then you’ve got, I mean, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li in 2009. You’ve got True Lies, The Matrix, Man from Nowhere, Terminator 3, and even Bee Movie (that 2007 animated movie) all have a fight scene in the bathroom. I guess Charlie’s Angels twist is that it was only in the stall.
Other Fight Scenes
There are a bunch of fight scenes in this movie. However, some of them mimic fight scenes that we’ve seen before.
You’ve got them running on top of equipment and jumping from a piece of equipment to a piece of equipment outside. They were in a stone quarry, and they’re jumping from one scaffolding kind of thing or crane kind of thing to another. Geez. I don’t know. I had to really think hard on this one. There might’ve been a Bond movie with that scene in 2006. Then they’re on a conveyor. They’re fighting on a conveyor belt that delivers rocks that are going to get crunched up cruncher into a crusher. Oh, and then boom, they’re falling. Of course, they fall into the crusher. And where have we seen something like that? Oh, wait, this is how Dario dies in Licence to Kill. That was 1989. So, again: been there, done that. Seen it before.
Getting the Point
We see a death where somebody gets impaled on an ice sculpture. Here, not only are they taking scenes from other movies…
This guy gets thrown off a balcony and he lands on a table with ice sculpture things one of them was a big kind of horn or pointy thing. He gets impaled on that. And wait a minute, what’s the line? She says, “he got the point”. Oh, like in Thunderball. (typed with as much sarcasm as possible) I was thinking this was unique. In Thunderball when Bond shoots Vargas with the speargun. Bond says, “I think he got the point”. Yeah, so it’s not even just the scenes, but the dialogs are getting” paid homage” to.
It wasn’t all bad
At the end of the movie, they’re training Elena to become an angel. They have some cameos in there that I actually kind of liked. They had very strong women. Real-life women in cameo roles teaching Elena how to do things. So, look quickly, we won’t spoil it for you yet, but they’re in there. And that I actually thought that that was kind of a fun, powerful message.
Other fun scenes
There were a couple of scenes in the movie where it was kind of fun. There’s a scene with a racetrack that was kind of fun. there were a couple of things like that where you thought, okay, it’s kind of fun. And it was amusing for about five minutes. So yeah, we’ll give credit for that.
Maybe we were the wrong audience
Obviously, Charlie’s Angels (2019) was not our favorite movie, but I will also say we weren’t likely the target audience. Dan and Tom are a couple of middle-aged guys that were around and saw the TV show when it was on in the 1970s. At the time they called it jiggle TV.
This movie is trying to pull away from that stigma with these characters. And it actually does that. Elizabeth Banks who wrote this movie said: “if this movie doesn’t make money, it reinforces a stereotype in Hollywood that men don’t go to see women do action movies.” So, that’s kind of her thoughts or her thinking, I think is, you know, I’m not creating this movie for Dan and Tom. So, it’ll be interesting to see if this thing gets legs with the teen to mid-twenties women.
The Box Office
We did a podcast that we called The Spies Who Loathe Me about James Bond (Link). We talked a lot about box office. The headlines in November, when this Charlie’s Angels movie released, are talking about how big a flop it is. This movie costs $48 million to make. So, on opening weekend, in the US it only opened with $8.3 million with the three lead female characters in this thing. Worldwide gross is $27.6 million. Are we too far removed from the TV show that the TV show fans are going to come and see this? Who are the fans of that show? We don’t know.
If we look at more current female-led spy movies and look at the box office. We think they’re trying to capitalize on that. But it’s interesting because Red Joan came out, they released it at film festivals and the opening weekend for that movie was only $38,000. With Anna, which came out in 2019, opening weekend was $3.6 million. This is actually worse than what Charlie’s Angels did. So, you may be Elizabeth has a point, but then we moved to something like Red Sparrow, which had $16.8 million on opening. Atomic Blonde opened with $18.2 million. Those were good movies. The original Charlie’s Angels movies in 2000 and 2003 opened with $40 million gross and $37.6 million gross. So, either something big has happened in the last couple of years with this, putting the female spies in the lead, or this movie is just missing the mark. We think they’re missing the mark.
The Wrap Up
Charlie’s Angels is a fun movie and they do promote strong women in this film, which is great. There are a lot of other similarities that we’re not going to tell you about because some of them are major similarities that will make you think, oh I’ve seen this already. But we’re not going to tell you that in case you want to go see it.
If you’re reading this and you are younger than Dan and Tom, you might not catch all the nuances or the non-nuanced copying that was being done in this film from other movies which would be great for you as you aren’t coming in with biases we have.
If you’ve seen some of the other major spy movies in the last 10 years, you’re likely to say, “Oh yeah” on some things.
However, if we look at either of our daughters, who are in their mid-twenties, they probably don’t have a Charlie’s Angels background. They probably don’t have as thorough of a Bond understanding or Mission: Impossible understanding as we do. So, they may actually appreciate this movie.
Obviously, you can tell Dan and Tom didn’t really love this movie, but if you’re the target audience: Hey, go ahead.
And as we go forward and we continue these Quick-Fire podcasts and articles that we’re creating here, we’ll keep them going. And they’re not going to all be this negative. This is just the first one we happened to see since coming up with this idea and we’re being honest.
We’re showing you where these ideas came from. That’s all. That’s what we do. We’re looking for connections between these movies and how one impacts another. Just not expecting the whole movie to be “borrowed” from other movies. Charlie’s Angels was almost engulfed by everything that happened before it.
So, thanks for joining us as we continue cracking the code of spy movies with our first quick-fire episode. This is Tom Pizzato and Dan Silvestri from SpyMovieNnavigator.com: spy movie podcasts, videos, discussions, and more. Please continue to listen to our podcasts and subscribe to our show or your favorite podcast app.