Firstly I feel I ought to say that this film isn't quite as bad as some people make out. Don't get me wrong, relative to the series this film is an outrage not so much failing to capture the magic of the original as dancing on its grave. What could have been a whole series of campy-surreal Avengers flicks produces instead only this choppy mess. There are some fun moments - none involving Sean Connery - the sets look fabulous, the soundtrack is excellent and it's always lovely to see Fiona Shaw and Eileen Atkins whatever they are doing. That this movie is such an appalling mish-mash with only a very few scenes indicating the original intention to make a decent movie is I believe entirely down to the terrifyingly bad judgement shown by the film's director Jeremiah Chechik, perhaps (indeed for his sake hopefully) under duress from Warner Bros.
The selection of Chechik himself to handle such a big project given his relatively undistinguished career seems eccentric, perhaps it was felt that as a Canadian he might have an inside track on a series whose distinctive British quality might have made the suits uneasy. However like Lee Tamahori he shows very little understanding of the way the series actually works and his directing of Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman is hamfisted enough to ruin the film on its own. Steed, supposed to be witty, urbane, charming and warm is reduced to a man who emotes less than the furniture in his chic London pad. Mrs. Peel is simply a mess - with no real explanation given for her behaviour in the script Uma Thurman's performance lurches to different extremes from scene to scene like a drunk playing hopscotch.
The real villain here, however, is Sean Connery. Not, I'm afraid to say in the film, in which he delivers one the worst performances of his already one-note career but in the effect that his casting had on the script. In early drafts the character of Sir August Merryweather (as he is called) was a harmless old buffer, the real villain being someone else entirely and the plot hingeing on the death of Mrs Peel's husband thus giving her some sort of motivation and explaining why at the start of the film she is no longer running the Prospero Weather Programme.
The studio executives, salivating at the fact that Connery was interested in the script ripped it to shreds to find a role to accommodate him. When the film was screened before test audiences they reacted badly to its eccentricity, the lousy direction of the two leads, the fact that Connery was terrible and the new plot involving him incoherent. The studio's solution was another celluloid massacre performing big cuts making the already messy film a total disaster.
What I find most disappointing in this movie is that there are just enough moments in it to realise that what you are actually watching is the corpse of a good film and that a splendid opportunity to revive a bit of British telly history has been comprehensively ruined. The cut footage may have made things better but really, aside from a good early draft of a script, there is nothing here for anyone involved to be proud of. What a shame. Sixty million dollars of shame in fact.
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