With the release of her latest action flick, Wanted, I figured it was high time that I talk about Angelina Jolie, perhaps the biggest female action star of the new millennium. The film opened with $51 million, making it the 7th highest debut for an R-rated film. This would be a great accomplishment at any time of the year, but considering it had to face-off against WALL*E, a G-rated family affair that took in $63 million, it's exceptional. (Wanted actually averaged more per theater than WALL*E, which kind of blows my mind.)
I'm sure some of the audience just wanted another chance to look at James McAvoy. And maybe others just wanted to hear Morgan Freeman drop the F-bomb. Finally, there was probably a contingent that just wanted a good action film, regardless of the stars.
Still, I have to believe that a large part of its success was due to the presence of Jolie. It helps that many consider her the most beautiful movie star in the world, but more importantly is the seriousness she brings to her action roles. People can argue about whether or not she's entirely convincing as an action star, but she never plays it with a wink to the audience, as if to say, "Hey look at all of this cool stuff I"m doing...and, I'm a woman!"
Yes, Jolie has played some girlfriend/wife roles, even recently. But lest we all forget, she also played Lara Croft in two Tomb Raider movies. While the films are largely forgettable, the significance of her embodying this character shouldn't be overlooked. Whether we like it or not, Lara Croft is one of the most recognizable female action characters of all-time. Action films featuring female leads are few and far between to begin with, and Tomb Raider actually had a sequel.
In recent history, the only other character I can think of that might be as famous as Lara is Trinity from The Matrix films. Opening it up to all time periods doesn't add many more characters. Sarah Connor from The Terminator films, obviously, though truth be told she was never really the star, plus she only kicked ass in the second one. And while I wasn't around for the popular "Wonder Woman" or "Bionic Woman" TV shows, from what I've seen they seem to be a little tongue-in-cheek.
This isn't to say that a good action film can't also be humorous. It just has to achieve the perfect tone. I can't call it a great film (mainly because I read an earlier draft of the script that I enjoyed much more), but Mr. & Mrs. Smith mixes action, humor, and pure sexiness quite well. Not a great film, but definitely entertaining.
Whether she makes more films along those lines or decides to try straight action (something similar to the Bourne series, perhaps), I'm game as long as she doesn't wink at me.