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Warner Bros. fantasies have always had a certain memorable flare.
Dating back to films like "Superman" and "Blade Runner", a viewer could
always be guaranteed at least a ticket into another world. "The Avengers"
would have been that next "big" thing for Warner Bros. had it not been so
shoddily edited at the last minute.
It should be duly noted, however, that this film had all the signs of
thanksgiving turkey: It's release date, which was moved from late June to
the dog days of August. Then the fact that no press screenings have been
allowed for critics. No good can come of these prophecies.
"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 - **
Oh, wait, that's from Get Smart, not The Avengers.
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?
John Steed is an agent for the Ministry; he is trained to perfection
and one of the best despite his belief that the enemies of the past are
no longer relevant. When a research laboratory into a weather-based
defence system is blown up the main suspect is one Dr Emma Peel,
although Dr Peel is adamant that she is innocent. With her being their
only lead into the bomb, the Ministry assign Steed to work alongside
her and use her to get to the bottom of the mystery well, after tea
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.
Well I don't know how this one slipped through the studio system but I'm
very glad it did. When I heard about an Avengers movie I assumed we'd be
getting a bastardised Hollywood formula movie, and it would resemble some of
the recent Bond films more than the original series. But I was thrilled to
find the film had the same wonderful sense of absurdity as the show.
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.
There are really only three good things about this movie: the opening
credits, which are a psychedelic masterpiece; seeing Uma Thurman in a
bright red "cat-suit"; and the radio-controlled dive-bombing attack
hornets (or whatever they are). If "The Avengers" is a spoof, it isn't
as funny or self-mocking as spoofs should be (e.g. "Austin Powers", or
the first "Casino Royale"). If it isn't a spoof, it is pretty inane.
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.
In London, the agent of the Ministry John Steed (Ralph Fiennes) and Dr.
Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) are summoned by the Mother (Jim Broadbent), who
shows a footage where the Prospero Project that controls the weather is
damaged by Dr. Peel. They head to meet Sir August de Wynter (Sean
Connery), who is a weather specialist, but soon they discover that he
wants to rule the world, using his machine that controls the weather.
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")
I think people who couldn't stand this movie expected either James Bond
or Austin Powers. Just like the delightfully stupid TV series (killer
plant from space?!?), this movie is an often-witty tongue-in-cheek
gentleman-spy (gentleman, not shag master, even if campy) adventure --
everyone has charming and polite conversations over tea or combat.
Steed's smugness is entertaining, instead of oily like 007. Despite
both having scenes in steamy bathhouses, The Avengers doesn't go for
Austin Powers' fart-joke market.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I know this has been universally slated by the critics, but that was
bound to happen when they got prevented from seeing it before hoi
poloi. Their noses got put out of joint, and even Schindler's List
would have got a panning under those circumstances. (Not that the
professionals have an exaggerated sense off their own worth, unlike us
enthusiastic amateurs hem, hem.). Even so this is not a good film, but
it really ain't as bad as all that. Sure Uma Thurman is capable of
greater things. Yes Ralph Fiennes looks like a little lad playing at
grownups in his dad's clothes. Yep it is all a bit heavy handed and
lacks a lot of the charm of the television series, and the entire team
makes the mistake of confusing archness with campness . Certainly they
fell into the trap of overdoing the pyrotechnics, which the original TV
series pointedly eschewed. And yet and yet.......... I was about 11
when the TV series first hit the small screen, and about 14 in its
Swinging London heyday. I loved it. And to be fair they have captured
quite a lot of the spirit of the original. Uma smoulders a bit too
obviously, and the tension 'twixt her and Steed is overdone. But the
Emma Peel on television did indeed make the leather catsuit a hot
fashion item, even if it was not accessorised with a belt that looked
quite as much like an unwise purchase from The Batman Shop. And let us
not forget that the original Steed and partner (Kathy Gale aka Honor
Blackman before her role in Goldfinger) did get into the UK Top 20 with
a song called Kinky Boots (I did not make that up!) so the footwear
obsession goes back to its roots.. The character of Mother is a great
deal grubbier than, but still largely faithful to, the original, and
there is a sterling performance here from Jim Broadbent, last seen in
The Borrowers. The Routemaster buses, Steed's Bentley, the red phone
boxes, the mazes, and the surreal deserted and barely recognisable
London streets are faithful reminders of the original (although Emma
Peel's E-type Jag - archetypal 60s motor that it is - was actually a
Lotus Elan in the series). And at least one sequence is lifted
wholesale from the series, when Mrs Peel is lost in the villain's
stately home and keeps returning to the same place no matter which way
she turns. This is a direct crib from an episode called The House That
Jack Built, which at least shows the film makers did some homework.
(The original lacked the truly inspired inclusion of the Escher
staircase, and I bet the then production designers are kicking
themselves for missing that trick.) . Stuff like the baddies' choice of
a hot air balloon (with a blind pilot) as a getaway vehicle was exactly
the sort of thing that did happen in the series, as were the attacks by
the village milkman and postman (and the smoking nuns in the next
scene!), the gun toting octogenarian, the swordplay in the gentlemen's
outfitters, the bizarrely magnified plants in the villain's hothouse,
and The Ministry HQ set under the banks of the Thames. Plus it was a
nice touch using Patrick MacNee as the voice for Colonel I Jones, the
invisible archivist ('All going fine in Camouflage until the accident,
then I ended up here' Hahahahaha). I quite liked it despite its many
faults, though I'm not so stupid that I don't recognise this is due at
least in part to the fact that The House That Jack Built was my
favourite episode on television. Don't fret too much if you miss this,
but likewise don't panic if someone gives you tickets to see it. At
least stay long enough to see the early performances from Eddy Izzard
and Shaun Ryder as the hit men in the Union Jack Mini..
PS For some reason I adored the scene with our heroes walking across the lake in the transparent spheres. Strange old world..
In spite of all the negative reviews and the low rating, I have immensely enjoyed this new version of 'The Avengers'. No, it does not replace Patrick MacNee nor Diana Rigg. But it's not supposed to, so that does not count. Yet what positively surprised me is that the film does have the flavour of the original Avengers, that it is full of understatements, and that the acting is in the - difficult - vein of what I'd call 'grotesque underacting'. Uma Thurman delivers a worthy Emma Peel with more than enough man appeal to keep me starry-eyed to the screen for 90 minutes. Mr. Fiennes combines distinction, humour and resolution in a way that is worthy of Mr. John Steed. The plot is original, yet partly predictable - but aren't all of the original 'Avengers' episodes predictable by modern audiences? Isn't a Mozart symphony predictable? Add to this the cinematography that is just delicious, and you have a real audience treat, even for those who consider themselves long-time Avengers fans like me.
I am amazed at how well an American film has captured the matter-of-fact
surrealism which the mathematician Dodgson(Lewis Carroll)gave to his
dream-child, Alice, as also it recalls the more knowing, and oh-so-polite
deconstruction wrought by the media-saavy British children of the 60's upon
the distressed remnants of England's Imperial aplomb!
Of course, as Oscar Wilde may not have said, Satire revisited is only a lukewarm cup of tea. But then nostalgia - especially when the satire was so gentle anyway - has its own charms. And there was, anyway, a hefty dose of nostalgia amidst the cool insouciance of the original. Its very modernity was made to seem almost an expression of polite insistence on whatever surreal manifestation of tradition was encountered. It was the utterly unruffled mien of the original which prevailed over all lapses from reason and good taste. So, at its best, in the new cinema version.
This is indeed a brave try by Hollywood to draw us back into that black-and-white psychedelia of swinging sixties British commercial television. The sheer madness of the enterprise almost works - if the money-men hadn't had cold feet at the last minute, we might have been enjoying a really remarkable fantasy film. As it is, we must content ourselves with a merely very amusing piece of whimsy. Even through the plot-holes left by a nervous editor we can see some wonderfully mad logic at work: The Escher-inspired architecture of the baddy's stately home, in which Mrs Peel at one point loses her way, encapsulates this whole dream-trip of a movie.
And for those who don't 'get it', I can only say, Humour is like that: Very dependent on individual taste.
But even allowing for taste, it is a sad reflection on public taste that 'The Avengers' overwhelmingly offends filmgoers who are probably quite prepared to accept the ever more overblown superheroes of a more violent tradition, such as 'Batman' or 'The Hulk'. Of course, these two are clearly representative of that particularly adolescent taste for the extreme and crude for which the contemporary Hollywood production-line largely exists. (There is every sign that Eddie Izzard's character was originally intended to satirize mega-buck entertainment and mega-buck villains as being really just spoiled brats with their expensive toys.) The genteel quirks of the English-inspired concept of 'The Avengers' are - in their essence, and however silly - just too irritatingly grown-up for such hyperactive youth ever to endure sitting still for!
A pity the film was not left alone upon release to find its own friends - like a stray cat, that will carefully choose whom it will exercise it's feline charm upon. And what more feline than Uma Thurman in Mrs. Peel's cat-suit?!
This is certainly not the sort of film to toss into an auditorium full of baying first-run morons.
But I suspect that it is a film with more than one life ...
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