The Avengers (1998)
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This is the kind of movie making that really has you wonder if you should ever visit a theater again, when you consider the waste of millions of dollars on sets, special effects and high-powered actors that could have been used for such better causes (such as, oh, say a big-screen version of "My Mother the Car").
At any rate, the film got what it deserved by being universally panned by critics and bombing at the box office. It was then rushed out of theaters with the bad-film strategy that relative obscurity would result in more bread at the video stores.
Considering that Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List, Englsh Patient) and Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction, etc.) were at the top of their box-office draw potential, and with the addition of the always popular Sean Connery in a unique role as a villain, one would think that this movie would have been a sure hit. However, the potential went lightning fast down the tubes, greased by a stinky script, second-guessed editing and incompetent direction.
The best elements of the original series, namely, its charm and style, are absent. A lot of the charm came from the relationship between Steed and Peel. But Fiennes' Steed is aloof and Thurman's Mrs. Peel is cold as ice. The two appear to be sleepwalking through their respective roles, with visions of fat paychecks dancing in their heads.
Ironically, an imprudent element of the TV series that was indicative of its downhill slide after the departure of Diana Rigg (the original Mrs. Peel), namely, the introduction of the silly character of "Mother," IS included in the film. Go figure.
Connery 's performance as a mastermind who can manipulate the world's weather falls flat. Like Fiennes and Thurman, he appears to be going through the motions of a script he has no faith in.
Quirky aspects of the original series that were cute and amusing have been replaced with gimmicks that are just unfunny strange and head-scratchingly bizarre. For example: the requisite cameo of an actor from the original series features only the voice of Patrick Macnee in the role of an invisible man behind a desk. What this character has to do with anything, other than adding to an already disjointed script, is anybody's guess.
On a website competently dedicated to the series it has been speculated that the director never saw a single episode of the TV Avengers. If you were any kind of fan, you will immediately observe that there is a good reason to believe this. Jeremiah Chechik's direction seems to lack any instinct for the flavor of the original series.
At any rate, with this brand of TV series-inspired movie making, you may find yourself yearning for "Return to Gilligan's Island." Originally hyped as a summer blockbuster, the cinematic version of "The Avengers" is only spectacular in its capacity to disappoint.
Ironically, though, it isn't that bad a movie. Not great, but certainly not the despicable mess that most others seem to think.
It's been called ridiculous, slow, talky, surreal. Well, what a shock, so was the original series. I've recently viewed the entire 1967 season (bought all four boxed sets), and the show is all those things at times. It is slow, generally, at a very langorous pace throughout most stories. It is talky, since most of the charm of the original was in the dialogue between characters. It was surreal, even ridiculous (The Winged Avenger, anyone? Eeee-urp.)
Uma Thurman does a passable job as Emma--she's no Diana Rigg, but who is? She plays the character smart enough, although she doesn't quite capture Rigg's regal command of situation. Ralph Fiennes, however, misses the character of Steed quite a bit, playing him as reserved, without any of Steed's charisma. Steed always had a quality about him that made you feel as if he woke up every morning feeling absolutely smashing--Fiennes seems to miss that.
The problem the film faces is twofold: Those of us who have seen the original will always compare the two, and a copy can't hope to compare. Those who haven't seen the series have no grounds to assess it on--(see some of the above user comments which begin 'I never saw the original series...')and since I think this series is not exactly vividly-remembered by the majority of the population (particularly the 18 and under movie-goers, who don't have much grasp of the nuances The Avengers operated on). Frankly, The Avengers was probably just a bad choice to try to remake
(--LIKE ALL OLD TV SHOWS. Tell me one old-TV remake that has ever spawned a sequel (which Hollywood is always sure to do when something is a success)-- only THE BRADY BUNCH...point proven?)
The failing Sean Connery isn't really the villain in this movie, the true villains are a director who thought he could "improve" on the original, and an editor who really shouldn't have been let out of film school.
Fiennes and Thurman do an adquate job with what they were given, which wasn't much, and then the editor took half of that away.
Connery got one half-choked off rant, (all of which you see in the trailer) and then hid in the leftover set for the power supply from the floating city in "The Empire Strikes Out" (Er -- "Back"). A pathetic effort from a formerly stellar actor.
Eileen Atkins was rather fun as Alice, Steed's minder, and the guest appearance by Patrick Macnee was somewhat amusing.
As for the writing, well.... I think (despite the credits) they actually gave the job to a couple of public school lads who rather thought that they were being clever.
Overall, not worth the money spent to make it, nor the $6 I paid to see it. One star, mostly for some rather nice, if somewhat generic, cinematography.
"The Avengers", which, at best, is a second rate version of the original "Batman" has all the features of your top blockbuster: A Big name or two, a plethora of explosions, and enough special-effects to put "Godzilla" to shame. The Plot follows the exploits of the legendary secret agents John Steed (Ralph Fiennes) and Emma Peel (Uma Thurman), as they do battle with a maniacal meteorologist (Sean Connery) who has intentions on controlling the world's weather. Simple enough. Or so one would have thought. It would appear that some 25 minutes (!) was excised from the film as a result of poor test screenings. As history has told, no good comes from test screenings. As a result, the film becomes so utterly confusing that the viewer would sooner give up, rather than be insulted by a film that insists on staying one step ahead of you at all times. Only potentially good films are butchered in an attempt to make the film more appealing to youngster's attention spans. But make no mistake about it, this film is certainly not for children. Perhaps the last half hour will provide enough enjoyable action (and it does, believe me!) to distract them, but up until then the film consists of awkward dialogue, inane action (Gigantic teddy bears, anyone?), and an uncomfortable overdose of strangeness.
The cast, at one time, might have been game, but only once in a while does Ralph Fiennes even crack a smile. Thurman has apparently got the English accent down perfectly, but the only problem lies in the fact that she forgets to give a performance worth remembering. And last, but certainly not least, Sean Connery. Sadly, he doesn't even look like he wants to take over the world. Only once, in a mumbled rant, does he evoke some feelings of evil. That being said, "The Avengers" is a technical masterpiece. Providing the viewer with a universe of dazzling sets (that should at least be nominated for an oscar), imaginative visual effects, and beautiful costumes, one almost forgets that England doesn't look like this anymore. Unless of course, you live there. The score, composed by Joel McNeely proves to be one of the coolest scores ever produced. Inducing excitement, tension, and a little smoothness, provided by some nifty jazz notes. All of which the film is unable to do itself. For those who won't enjoy this film, it is mercifully brief. So brief to the point that it's strange. It jumps from a one hour section of the beginning to a half hour of climactic action that the viewer blinks and the movie might just be rolling into the credits. One can only hope for an improvement with a director's cut. Until then, this film should gain cult status before it makes it's way to video. Which I'm sure will be soon.
Out Of Four - **
No matter. As a longtime fan of The Avengers (since childhood), I will say, right off the bat, that this movie did not fail on all levels. If nothing else, the makers of this film understood, at least, what The Avengers was about. This puts them head and shoulders above, say, the makers of The Wild Wild West movie, who had only the most rudimentary (and faulty) knowledge of what made that series an icon of popular American culture.
They might not have been successful in the execution, but they did understand what made The Avengers tick, and if the studio heads hadn't ordered extreme and desperate editing, we might have been able to see more of what the filmmakers imagined.
Two scenes stand out as perfect examples of this understanding: When Mrs. Peel tries to escape by running endlessly down an Escher-like staircase, and when Steed and Mrs. Peel walk on water in giant bubbles. Sean Connery's eccentric megalomaniac (so much more interesting than a serious, conservative megalomaniac) fit right in with the The Avenger's roster of enemies.
Whatever sense of fun the movie had (and The Avengers tv series never seemed to take itself too seriously; does anyone remember Steed being shrunk to the size of a mouse and jabbing a villain in the ankle with a fountain pen?) was destroyed when the nut jobs at the studio fell for the old "edit out what the test audience didn't like" trick, and put a botched film on the screen. Too bad these studio honchos have such weak nerves and such short memories; will they never learn?
I saw "The Avengers" in the 90's and did not like this movie. Today I have just seen it again on DVD and I found again a silly and boring movie that wastes cast and budget. It is hard to believe that Sean Connery accepted to work in this turkey. My vote is three.
Title (Brazil): "Os Vingadores" ("The Avengers")
At the time of release I decided to give this film a miss as I felt I had heard too much of the critics having a field day to really be able to view it with a clear eye. Years later though I decided to give it a go on the basis that each year will see a blockbuster getting a kicking from all critics sometimes deserved but at other time it is just a poor film that critics jump on it. However by the time I had reached the point where Sean Connery reveals his plan to a bunch of partners dressed as day-glow teddy bears I realised that things were not going to go well. Up till this point I had felt that the film was developing a nice little sense of humour that spoofs the idea of the typically English gentleman spy; however tongue-in-cheek humour is hard to do right and it is very easy to turn the film into a very silly affair that is not so much funny as it is embarrassing.
And so it was with The Avengers, a film that has some reasonable moments but is generally an unengaging and rather silly mess that can only be enjoyed as such. The problem is, this is a very expensive film for one that is just meant to be silly and it really needed to be fun, exciting and enjoyable as well, not just feature some silly points. For me the bear costumes were silly but enjoyable (it is such a weird sight that it stayed with me) but the majority of the rest of the film were just plain silly. The weather plot was poorly done and it never engaged me once.
The cast look good on paper but they are lost in the material and can do little with it. Of course in the case of Connery, it may have helped a little bit if he'd even tried, but he is poor throughout and just looks like a man getting paid. Fiennes is well cast and he is very English, it would have been a good performance had the rest of the film got the tone even half right. Thurman is not an actress I really rate and she has turned in too many average performances recently and here is no exception. Fans may appreciate her squeezed into tight costumes but for me that doesn't come close to covering a very poor performance where she gets it all wrong. Support from Broadbent, Izzard and Macnee sounds like a good prospect but really they have nothing to do and are pretty pointless in reality.
Overall this is not a laughingly terrible film, it is just lacking in any real, consistent value. Some bits are amusing but mostly it is all misjudged with the humour being too silly to work and damaging any dramatic value the film may have had. The actors are mostly poor, thanks to the material and an apparent uncertainty about what they are meant to be doing. It isn't the child of Satan or anything but I would be hard pressed to give you one reason why you should watch this.
I think a lot of people are unaware this is a complete comedy. This being the case it's not surprising people think it's bad, but that's their problem. The comedy style is not a popular one, it's a particular style of generally British humour, best described as complete and utter nonsense. If you have no appreciation for absurdity, then you will NOT like this film.
Nothing in The Avengers should be taken at face value, it's all a load of s***. Steed and Peel are full of s***, that's the point. No one acts the way they do, they are both constantly trying to out cocky each other. The world of The Avengers is a place where "small things are taken with the utmost seriousness and important things are not taken seriously at all".
The Avengers purposely doesn't explain things, it's not supposed to make sense, that would ruin it. It's the little things in The Avengers that make it shine. Small asides from left-field that seem to go over most peoples heads.
Fiennes and Thurman are different than Macnee and Rigg, but I'm not sure they're much worse. Fiennes could perhaps have been a bit more cheerful. Thurmans whole screen presence is so vastly different from Riggs that it's impossible to compare, but I did enjoy Thurmans version of the infalable Peel. Connery going nuts was fun to see too. BTW Eddie Izzard not talking was the point of him being there, get it. Having Eddie Izzard in your movie and not having him say anything is to my mind very funny.
It's very hard to explain to people who flock to films like The Waterboy, why a film like The Avengers is so funny. Most people I guess will just never get it. I got it, and I'm glad that there ARE plenty of other people who did too. Congrats to the makers for daring to be different and convincing the studio into letting you spend $70 million.