The Avengers (12)

Directed by Jeremiah Chechik
Starring Ralp Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery

It must have seemed like such a good idea at the time. Take a cult classic tv show, renowned for its style and sexiness and give it the good ol' 90s big screen treatment! Sadly this film is destined to be an enormous flop and it is well deserved.

Fiennes is John Steed, Thurman is Emma Peel. Sounds OK so far, a quintessential Englishman, suave and cool? Yeah Finnes can do that. Skin tight leather cat suit, stylish and sexy. Thurman can struggle with the accent for that. The baddie? Well Connery is always reliable.

Plot? Oh dear, lets not bother with that. Well, all right, its to do with the weather, after all the British are obsessed with the weather, and we can get some cheap laughs out of it. Connery is madmad August DeWinter(geddit!?) who can control it and wants the world to pay him to supply it. Steed and Mrs Peel are going to save the world because they work for Mother(Jim Broadbent) and Father(Fiona Shaw) and this secret organisation. There are a couple of trendy bad guys- comedian Eddie Izzard and Black Grape singer Shaun Ryder, and some flashy special effects. An important feature is trying to capture The Avengers world. A bit of a 1960s time warp land where everyone who appears is a goodie or a baddie and everything is done tongue in cheek.

All the elements ware there yet the film is a huge dud. Why? Well because just about everything is done badly. Fiennes is cold and expressionless. He gives an extremely mannered performance that totlally fails to engage. Thurman is stuck with a stinker of a role. Mrs Peel gets to do little but pout- which she does prettily enough- but she is also stuck with that awful old "evil double" cliche too. She manages the accent barely but looks highly uncomfortable throughout. Connery was clearly thinking of the paycheque. He is WAY over the top and even he can't salvage the lamest of lame scripts. The constant "tea anyone?" comments are ridiculous, and the British stereotypes are not accurately affectionate like the tv show, but forced and false. Worst of all, there is absolutely NO chemistry between Fiennes and Thurman- despite a kiss at the end. The pair create no spark and the teasing flirtatious relationship that made the tv series fun is no where to be seen. The plot is so bad you have to wonder who gave this film the green light. It goes no where and for almost the first time ever in a film, I was so bored I just couldn't be bothered to try and follow why they were blowing things up and fighting at the end.

However, if I am trying to be positive, there were a few good things. Undoubtedly, the film looks good. The people are pretty and the sets are stylish. The best scene is one where the evil Connery is having a conference with his partners in crime, and they are all dressed as giant teddy bears to disguise themselves. This absurdity is the sort of thing that caaptures the style of the show, but it is about the only time this happens. Also worth a mention is a wonderful chase scene where hundreds of mechanical remote contorl bugs armed with guns chase Steed and Mrs Peel's car. Well filmed and exciting. It was also nice to see Broadbent and Shaw- two excellent British actors, however, they are both completely wasted. I think Fiona Shaw should fire her US agent. Remember her awful character in 3 Men and a Little Lady?
It was an interesting decision to have Eddie Izzard and Shaun Ryder. I am not an Izzard fan, and he wasn't terribly threatening as a baddie. Besides, I kept waiting for him to swap make up tips with Uma Thurman! He said nothing- and Shaun Ryder didn't sing either.

Director Chechik has to carry a lot of the blame. His track record is pretty poor so far. Benny and Joon(OK and helped Johnny Depp) , Diabolique(slated heavily- although I rather liked it), and now this. Will he work again? Probably. The other big mistake the producers carry the can for is with holding the film from any press screenings. This immediately gives the message that it is so bad they don't want to be slated. Better by far to show it, as someone will probably like it, rather than create a "It must be awful as they won't let the press see it". Even before it opened the word was that the film was bad, and probably the best word to describe it - Diabolique! 3/10

August 1998

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