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.
This isn't the greatest movie ever, no, but bottom 100? Anyone who doesn't need their entertainment delivered with a sledge-hammer ought to at least rent it.
PS For some reason I adored the scene with our heroes walking across the lake in the transparent spheres. Strange old world..
Ralph Fiennes is a good actor, but he was simply miscast. He is much too meek and lacking in panache for a Secret Agent (in the movies, anyway). The special effects at the end are fairly well done, even though most of what we see is a model.
The two leads are excellent, and contrary to what has been claimed, do indeed have a wonderful chemistry between them. I would argue that Ralph Fiennes is incapable of giving a bad performance, and Uma Thurman is rather wonderful too. Their dialogue is very well written with quips a-plenty. Sean Connery is hilarious, and obviously relished his role as the baddie, and Jim Broadbent is equally amusing. The plot is wafer thin and zips along splendidly. I wasn't aware until I read other comments here that the film was butchered by studio executives. If that is indeed the case, I add my vote for a Director's Cut. 90 minutes was definitely too short.
The initial failure of this film at the box office was undoubtedly due to its subtlety. Understatement and tongue-in-cheek humour have never been a premium on the other side of the pond, and I imagine that in Blighty the TV series is seen through such thick lensed rose-coloured spectacles that any movie version was bound to be heretical.
Which is funny - granted that Diana Rigg played the sexiest TV character in history and that Patrick McNee was perfect as John Steed, but anyone who actually watches these old episodes will be aware of their surrealness and complete inability to take themselves seriously (hats off to the writers). These are exactly the elements that the movie version captures so well. Hats off to Mr Chechik, the director (and Canadian - significant?) After so many turgid and gloomy blockbusters (Bourne trilogy, new Bond - entertaining but not exactly a barrel of laughs) it was fantastic to discover this lost classic. Watch it!
It was quite odd and in many ways ve-he-ry funny. Now I am of course not talking about poor Ralph nor Thurman, I'm of course relating to HILARIOUS SEAN CONNERY!
I laughed my head off at his quotes: "Peel... Emma Peel", and "you all know who I am". Since this is an agent film, and he is the king of agent... well you know.
I'd give THE AVENGERS 6/10 and I really don't understand what's so bad about it. It sure is ten times better than many, many other movies.
Well, as Eminem should have said, if you don't like my taste...sue me!
I'm too young to remember the original series all that well, but I do recall watching it in reruns when I was a little guy. And let me ask you, what young kid, on the cusp of manhood, wouldn't have dropped their jaws at the original Emma Peel?
Unfortunaly, I don't think that many other people my age feel the same way I do about the series, so I can understand why this bombed in theatrical release. But thanks to video, I hope this film will catch on as a cult hit.
What did I like about it? Well, I thought the campy tone fit the silly feel of the original series quite well; Also, the idea of an unbrella as a weapon of destruction just seems cool to me; Plus, Uma Thurman certinaly isin't Diana Rigg, but she's not exactly hard on the eyes either.
Please don't listen to the critics on this one. If you like Austin Powers or are just discovering the joys of the old spy flicks, you'll enjoy this one.
Just remember to try to find episodes of the original series as well.
This movie is, quite simply, fun. Fans of the hit series will be reminded of the smug attitude of Steed, although no one will be able to catch the magic between the original actors. However, the movie does well for what it is, and is quite enjoyable.
Unfortunately, it caters to a narrow range of people. Those who have never seen The Avengers might think the acting is bad or dialog poorly written. This is not the case. They are merely mimicking the style of the TV show.
Of the other hand, those who are fanatical fans will hate it because it's not as good as the TV show, and makes many changes.
But those who enjoy the show and aren't nitpicky will find this a thoroughly enjoyable movie.
And a mess it is, with unexplained ventures into the absurd and a less-than-steady plot pace. But the stars put forth effort and give truly noteworthy attempts with a flagging script. The plot may be wretched, but the dialogue is clever and engaging. If nothing else, perhaps this is what makes watching The Avengers a lot like getting a visit from an witty-if-awkward friend.
If you're into the series, don't expect the polish given to that British classic, but don't be too afraid, either. John Steed still gives evil the fine, English-leather boot.
Even the dialogue in the film reminded me of going to an art museum.
"How real do you feel Mrs. Peel?" There is a lot of hate behind this film, a 3.7 rating on IMDb and trolls complaining that Thor and Iron Man weren't in a movie based on a television series that had nothing to do with the comic books.
Ignore the hate, this is a movie that people walked into expecting a summer blockbuster and walked out disappointed because they got a thematic action movie art film.
It doesn't appeal to the masses, but made the mistake of thinking that it did. Because of that it was a flop.
But for those of us that don't cringe in horror over the thought of going to an art museum, the movie is beautiful and done in a way that most of the artist-directors out there can only dream of.
It looks brilliant, it looks like moving art on the screen and the dialogue fits perfectly into that mold. It is the surreal film that puts so many others to shame.
The only fault it has is the marketing. It was marketed for the Rambo crowd that want nothing more to see the blood and carnage, the over-the-top science fiction special effects that has aliens blow up the White House.
Instead you get Surrealist special effects and killer teddy bears. They hit the mark well, but only for those of you that real enjoy that sort of thing.
If you walk into The Avengers expecting a lowbrow action movie, you are going to walk out of it in the first few minutes. Think of it more as an action sci-fi art-house film and you'll love it.
Still, despite its well-documented flaws, this movie doesn't quite deserve the peasants-with-pitchforks-and-torches reception that it got from fans of the 1960s British TV series.
For those who come to it with no expectations, well, your expectations won't necessarily be exceeded, but there are some fun bits. The movie version is as mindless as typical Hollywood summer action fare, but no worse.
First, the good news: screenwriter Don MacPherson does draw on a wealth of wacky plot points from the series; like that show, the movie does have stylish fashions and sets; it doesn't take itself too seriously.
But the heart of the show was the rapport between Patrick Macnee, playing suave agent John Steed, and his various leading ladies. In Cathy Gale, the brisk, buxom Honor Blackman created a leather-clad woman warrior who was still a feeling person. With her fashion-model figure and classical theater background, Diana Rigg made Emma Peel the ultimate in intelligence and charm. Voluptuous Linda Thorson was perhaps too young, but she brought a combination of physicality and bubbliness to Tara King.
Macnee provided graceful support to these three very different actresses, and the show arguably reached its height during the black-and-white Diana Rigg season. While Rigg made an arch, androgynous Emma Peel, her chemistry with Macnee produced role models for female-male relations.
It's a difficult formula to emulate, and there may have been worse choices that Ralph Fiennes as the movie Steed. The Rock comes to mind. But while Fiennes is attractive and seems kindly off-screen, on-screen he generates all the warmth and charm of week-old bath water.
And while Macnee did as few stunts as possible _ as even a cursory glance at a TV episode clearly shows _ he at least looked formidable. Fiennes looks like a gust of wind would blow him away _ unfortunate, considering the film's weather-related plot.
In contrast, the athletic Uma Thurman creates her own special effect as Emma Peel. Her dangerous curves seem to defy the laws of physics, filling catsuits in ways that the underendowed Diana Rigg couldn't imagine, much less match.
And Thurman's Emma starts out well, with her early scenes providing much of Rigg's breezy playfulness. Alas, the more time she spends with Fiennes, the more she mimics his mumbling, diffident performance. As the scenes jump around almost at random, Thurman's version of Emma becomes equally fractured.
Sean Connery gives a one-note performance, and one wishes that only dogs could hear him. Of course, the choppy editing doesn't give him a chance at grace notes. The megalomaniacs on TV episodes were often eccentrics in a script filled with eccentrics, with highly personal grievances and plots.
The movie lacks those charming supporting characters, and in this underpopulated movie, Connery is the obvious bad guy right from the start. Still, even if the cast is adrift, there is some genuine feeling between the Steed and Peel characters. It's a pale copy of the Macnee-Rigg pairing, but one suspects there was a better movie here that got derailed on the Hollywood assembly line.
This movie's tag-line is 'Saving the world in style' and that's precisely what it does. The Avengers is not a rough-and-tumble James Bond or Mission Impossible type action-adventure but a retro-stylish tongue-in-cheek jaunt through the marvelously preposterous diabolical schemes of an over-the-top madman. The tongue-in-cheek humour grates on most viewers but it is essential to this particular film in that it honours the source material wonderfully.
The casting of Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman is spot on, the overt double entendres between them is light and playful and they handle it with aplomb. The supporting cast is filled with wonderful character actors from Britan and Ireland including the likable Jim Broadbent and the delicious Fiona Shaw. Original TV series star Patrick Macnee makes an inventive cameo appearance.
If the film falls short in any way it is with Sean Connery. He is never presented with enough material to chew upon, and my only guess is that (seeing as it is a relatively short film) some of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.
That said, I think the film delivers precisely what it set out to do. That audiences stayed away and fans balked is a shame as it is a gloriously retro, stylish yet restrained romp. The opening title sequence is superb, the music fits perfectly and scenes such as the climactic inflatable ball river-walkers could have been iconic.
Worth a look, in the right mood. I suggest watching some of the original episodes first. This is no action movie clone... Makes you wish it had been a success to see where they would have gone with a sequel.