WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Charlie's Angels, in theaters now.
Charlie's Angels was written, stars and directed by Elizabeth Banks. It's only her third directorial gig, following her former spot directing Pitch Perfect 2 & 3. This was Banks' first leap to action-films, bringing the Angels into the modern-day - and she succeeded with flair, creating a fun and exciting action/comedy adventure.
In fact, Charlie's Angels might be the perfect proof that Banks would be a great fit to direct a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Charlie's Angels is, above all else, an action-film. While it does feature a good deal of comedy (which is natural to expect from a veteran comic actress like Banks) and some effective character moments, it's largely here for the spectacle of throwing the Angels into dangerous situations and seeing them come out the other side. But that's what Banks turns out to excel at, littering the movie with some very fun and creative action sequences. The cold open of the film, which sees Sabina distracting the criminal Jonny Smith and his men while the rest of her team sneaks into position, sets the tone for the film perfectly. The action is choreographed with a solid eye, the stunts are impressive and there's a snarky sense of humor throughout the entire proceeding.
That follows through with the rest of the film as well. A fight in a coffee shop between Jane and the nigh-unstoppable Hodak finds fast creative staging and stakes, as the pair use the environment and items of a coffee shop to try and keep one another from getting to their guns and gaining the upper hand. This builds directly into a car chase sequence that involves plenty of impressive moments like some tricky driving by Bosley and dramatic moments of Jane leaning out of the car door while it's moving to try and shoot out Hodak's tires.
Hodak even escalates the sequence perfectly by, just as the heroes think they have the upper-hand, he reveals a massive chain gun in his car, similar to that of Nick Fury's from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It's a great action beat, and Banks films the whole sequence with a clear sense of location and momentum. When the heroes finally stop to try and catch their breath, that's when they're incapacitated. It's a very well-constructed piece of action filmmaking, which is all the more impressive because this is Banks' first directed movie outside of the Pitch Perfect franchise.
Banks flexes even more muscles during the extended battle at the rock query. Having followed Hodak, Jonny and Elena's boss Flemming to the location of the trade, the three Angels are seemingly abandoned by Bosley and have to fend for themselves. It's a sequence that sees Banks find a solid balance between comedy and action. While Jane gives chase to Hodak and Sabina faces off with a number of guards (both of which are full of individual moments of cool momentum), Elena is forced to take on a goon solo. And although she has enough combat skills to hold her own, she's quickly (and comically) beaten around the room, just barely staying ahead of him by using her surroundings. It produces comedy when the film needs it, just as Sabina is almost killed by the rock crusher and the film actually ratchets up the desperate tension for a moment.
MAKE MINE MARVEL
The entire film proves that as a director, Banks has a defined sense of humor and a keen eye for action. The film is also decidedly good at drawing out character beats. While the script isn't the best aspect of the film, Banks and the other three stars of the film are all charming, compelling and entertaining as a group. Banks has a great handle on the comic back and forth, even during tense moments of action-packed climaxes. All of those are important aspects of a good MCU film, and it seems that Banks naturally has the set of dictatorial skills you'd want in a Marvel Studios director.
In all the ways Charlie's Angels work as a fun popcorn action blockbuster, so too do many of the films of the MCU. There's a self-aware snarky sense of humor that's very similar to Charlie's Angels gags and dialogue tics. The best of the MCU films have found chemistry between the cast, relying on the charm of the characters to speak for themselves. That's exactly how Banks leans into her cast, relying on their easy-going chemistry as a group to ground most of the film even when it gets it's most over-the-top. Most notably, she knows how to juggle an action-sequence with a sense of humor, something key to almost all of Marvel Studios' films. Charlie's Angels largely work on the same principle as the recent MCU films.
Charlie's Angels may be more focused on style over substance, but the style is very well-made. The film also confidently tells a story about female empowerment, suggesting Banks wants to use the lens of action cinema to look at the way gender is seen today. As the MCU continues to grow and include different voices, it'd definitely be worth considering Banks as someone who could easily blend well into the MCU structure with those attributes. Seeing her direct something like Ms. Marvel would be perfect given how well-directed Charlie's Angels is. With any luck, she'll continue in the action genre in some form and keep finding new action beats to sink her teeth into.
Written and directed by Elizabeth Banks, Charlie's Angels, stars Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, Naomi Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Jonathan Tucker, Nat Faxon, Noah Centineo, Sarah Bennani and Robert Maaser. The film is in theaters nationwide.