The Avengers (1998)

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery, Patrick Macnee
Two British agents (John Steed and Emma Peel) team up to stop Sir August De Wynter from destroying the world with a weather changing machine.
  • Warner Bros. Pictures Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 14 Aug 1998 Released:
  • 03 Jul 2001 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Sydney Newman (television series The Avengers), Do Writer:
  • Jeremiah S. Chechik Director:
  • N/A Website:

Trailer:

Please!1/10
I love the Avengers. Emma Peel was a hero of my childhood. I was ridiculously excited for the arrival of this film and had nauseated all my friends when the project was first announced about who was to be our two spies. I was thrilled with the selection of Fiennes -- but Thurman? I was hesitant. Then Diana Rigg passed on being in the film. Another bad sign. Then, the television trailers, yet a third omen but I told myself the movie could not possibly be that bad. IT was worse than my wildest nightmares -- and I have an excellent imagination. Thurman was as bad as I thought, Fiennes had nothing to play to. Macnee, oh, how it could have improved if we'd seen him. I think this movie is terrible because they didn't get the joke. The Avengers is cheeky, campy, fun, and never without some form of the double entendre somewhere. Apparently, the script writes never actually saw the series and didn't get the joke. I beg, some British filmmaker somewhere give it a chance. Make your own version. Give some dignity back.
A wasted opportunity3/10
Is The Avengers a good film? No. Is it the worst film ever made? No. I first saw the movie at the cinema upon its release and, at that time, I did think that it was one of the worst films I'd seen up to that point. I've watched it 2 or 3 times since then and my opinion of it has improved, well, very slightly at any rate. Apart from a pervading incoherence, I think the film's major problem is its slightness; it's only an hour and a half long and the plot is very simplistic to say the least. It's not hard to imagine audiences feeling a bit short-changed when it first came out, especially as the film was a big-budget, would-be summer blockbuster. Another big problem is the casting of Uma Thurman as Emma Peel. Thurman has shown herself to be a fine actress in movies such as Pulp Fiction but she just looks out of her depth here (I never believed in her as a top-level scientist for a second) and her English accent doesn't sound natural. Nicole Kidman, to whom the role was first offered, would surely have been better, in particular, she's displayed flawless English accents in films such as The Others and The Hours. An English actress I also think would have made a great Peel is Joely Richardson but the studio would probably have vetoed such a choice on the grounds of her not being a big enough name. Ralph Fiennes was a real enigma in this film - there was nothing wrong in principle in casting him as Steed but he looks ill at ease throughout the movie as if he'd rather be elsewhere. I can only assume he'd already twigged that the film was going to be a turkey. What's worse, Fiennes and Thurman have absolutely no chemistry between them, which wastes the snappy dialogue they have with each other throughout the film. The supporting cast fare a bit better with seasoned pros such as Sean Connery, Jim Broadbent and Fiona Shaw making the most of their underdeveloped parts. The retro-chic world of the original TV series is nicely recreated and there's no shortage of nice cars, costumes and locations but what's good about the film is easily drowned out by what's bad; The Avengers is ultimately a shallow, rushed and messy affair, severely hampered by the performances of its two leads. Handled properly, the film could have been a wonderful success for all concerned, the first chapter of an entertaining and lucrative franchise, stretching well beyond the 1990s; instead it's one of the most embarrassing flops of that decade. The original cut of the film was apparently two and a half hours long but, following negative reactions from audiences at test screenings, the studio hacked the film down to its present one and a half hour length. This doesn't actually come as much of a surprise as there is a lack of proper narrative flow to the film suggestive of chunks of explanatory scenes having been cut out. Just one example: towards the end of the film, just before they enter Sir August's underwater lair, Steed and Peel enter a phone box and Peel says "how now brown cow?" down the phone. The phrase seems to be a password to enter the premises but how does Peel know it? There's been talk here and there of the possibility of Warners releasing a director's cut or special edition DVD, restoring the original two and a half hour version. I think this would be a good idea and I'd definitely be interested in watching the full version of the film. It's highly unlikely to be any kind of masterpiece but it's difficult to imagine that it wouldn't improve upon the movie as it stands. At the very least you'd have to assume that it would be more coherent. Sadly I don't think the chances of Warners going down this line are high; I have the feeling that this is a movie the studio would rather forget about than draw attention to.
Not great, but not the horror everyone else describes5/10

Frankly, when THE AVENGERS was released, I wanted it to bomb--I wanted Hollywood to finally get the idea that ripping off old TV shows is IMBECILIC and almost never successful. Thus, I was happy that the movie did poorly and closed quickly. (I also took a trip to London just as the movie was released, and if you think it was ill-received here, the British took it times TEN.)

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?)
Who let the air out?5/10

Uma Thurman's catsuits aside, "The Avengers" is one of the flattest movies to come down the pike in a long time.

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.
Not worth weathering1/10
This movie based on the popular British TV series is such a flop it doesn't really deserve comment, but here are a few nonetheless.

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.