The new Charlie’s Angels
movie sounds like it fell off the end of a production line for film success in 2019. It's an action movie, written and directed by a woman, starring women of three different ethnic backgrounds, about women defying all odds. In a #MeToo world where movies are actively boycotted if the cast isn't diverse enough, this reboot of the 2000s original should have raked in the cash.
Except it didn't. In fact, it would appear that practically no-one saw it. Despite its $48 million budget, Charlie's Angels
earned a pathetic $8.6 million over its US opening weekend. Before the film even hit theatres, its director, Elizabeth Banks, seemed to predict its failure to an Australian newspaper: 'If this movie doesn't make money, it reinforces a stereotype in Hollywood that men don't go to see women action movies'.
Implying that poor box office sales are the result of sexism seems like quite an inflammatory comment, but Banks might have a point. The 2016 all-female Ghostbusters
remake was touted to be a box office smash, but made an estimated $70 million loss. Come to think of it, there's been a few female-led action films which have flopped recently. Despite its A-list cast, the 2018 heist comedy film Ocean's 8
received mixed reviews from critics and has a disappointedly low audience score of 45% on Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe Banks is right. Maybe we do eschew women-led action films, and these lacklustre ticket sales reveal something much more indicative about our societal biases.
And yet, there have been some success stories. Earlier this year Captain Marvel
, starring Brie Larson, grossed over $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office, more than any of the male-led Captain America
movies. Wonder Woman
also raked in an impressive sum, ending its summer 2017 run to the tune of $821 million worldwide, making Banks's comments sound like the sore sulking of a bad loser.
Could it be, perhaps, that Charlie's Angels
flopped because it was, simply, really awful? At risk of sounding crass, everything about the film just looks tacky. From the hot pink, glittery-font posters to the vacuous marketing campaign littered with buzzwords like 'girl power' and 'style', the whole thing just reeks of a forced agenda. It has pitched itself as the film to accompany the #NastyWoman movement, but its ham-handed marketing campaign and social justice pandering seem to have isolated its primary audience. Whether or not the movie is any good seems almost immaterial after you condescend your target audience with all the tact and aesthetic appeal of a Claire's Accessories window display.
It's easy to blame knuckle-dragging men when feminist projects fail, but it's a difficult claim to sustain when there are films with diverse, female-driven casts doing incredibly well. Earlier this year, for example, Jennifer Lopez scored major Oscar buzz after her standout performance in Hustlers
, a film about strippers scamming Wall Street bankers after the financial crash of 2007. Despite having a total production budget of $20 million, it made an estimated $33 million at the North American box office in its opening weekend. Like Charlie's Angels
, it too was driven by a sisters-doing-it-for-themselves message of female empowerment, but it did so with slick humour and, even if they didn't always pay off, a few risks.
If anything, the failure of Banks's reboot feels less indicative of misogyny and more of Hollywood's unsophisticated and opportunistic sense of entitlement. It would appear that big execs and producers think it's perfectly acceptable to churn out remakes of old classics, slap the word 'feminism' on the cover and expect that progressive audiences will turn out in their masses to support the good fight.
Despite its soaring ambitions, this cult classic remake has fallen to the floor with an embarrassing thud. Hollywood, and the rest of the world, is still frustratingly sexist, but that's not why this film bombed. Charlie's Angels
was a flop because the marketing was atrocious, the plot line was tired, and, most importantly, it claimed to be something it wasn't.