The Avengers Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1998

The cult television series "The Avengers" first aired in 1961, giving British viewers a sneak peek into the travails of two secret agents, the dapper John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and his doctor-turned-detective partner David Keel (Ian Hendry). However, after a year, Hendry left the series to pursue a movie career, and was replaced by the vigorously athletic Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman), who brought the fledgling series to new heights in popularity. However, two seasons later, Blackman left the series and Steed was given his most memorable partner, the enchanting Emma Peel (Diana Rigg). Despite the increasingly bizarre storylines and the campy atmosphere of the series in general, the adventures of Steed and Peel gained quite a following, eventually catching the eye of the ABC network in the United States, which introduced the pair to American audiences. And now, the adventures of this mismatched crime-fighting duo have finally hit the big screen in "The Avengers", with Ralph Fiennes ("The English Patient") as Steed, and the sultry Uma Thurman ("Gattaca") as Peel.

Do you always obey orders?
Yes, except when I don't.

When you see and review numerous films in the course of a year, every once in a while, a unique film will come along and unleash a passion, stirring within you a torrent of emotions that you thought were long-buried beneath the background noise of the cookie-cutter multiplex offerings. "The Avengers" is such a film. I have never, in such a long time, been filled with so much vitriol and spite that I feel compelled to publicly voice my displeasure. I wish I had something to good to say about this movie, but I don't-- it's way beyond that now. This testament to shoddy filmmaking has absolutely no redeeming qualities, and is so wretchedly disagreeable that it defies the 'so bad it's good' maxim. In other words, THIS MOVIE SUCKS (pardon my French)!

Play by the rules or the game means nothing.

The debonair John Steed is pressed into service by Her Majesty's government following a break-in at a secret facility affiliated with the hush-hush Prospero Project. This secret government project somehow uses antimatter and a lot of technobabble to artificially create weather conditions on the fly. Steed is partnered with Emma Peel, who not only knows kung-fu, but was is also the scientist that headed up the Prospero Project. Peel also has a very personal stake in uncovering the individuals behind the break-in, as surveillance tapes show her, or someone who looks just like her, attacking the facility's guards. After much banter sprinkled with double-entendres, they somehow uncover a plot by Sir August de Wynter (Sean Connery) to hold the world hostage by unleashing a torrent of bad weather. But at this point of the movie, you have probably already lost interest.

We don't get many trespassers here.
Why not?
Because we shoot them.

It is admirable that director Jeremiah Chechik ("Benny & Joon") and screenwriter Don MacPherson ("Absolute Beginners") tried to capture the campy irreverence of the original series, but unfortunately, their attempts at quirky humor and absurd plotting are just 'so not working'. This movie is bogged down by painfully-slow pacing (I've seen obscure and dialogue-less arthouse films that moved faster than this!), blatantly contrived plotting (I've seen ninja-kickboxer-type movies that were more believable!), flat dialogue (I've seen slasher films that had more vibrant exchanges!), and numerous lame misfires at humor, many of which attempted to parody the polite and proper British demeanor. "The Avengers" was so bad that I saw something that I had never seen before-- the audience in the theater actually 'booing' the screen after the final fade-out. A display of pent-up emotion being released in a vociferous act of exasperation.

A man with an umbrella is always praying for rain.
And a man without one is a fool.

This lackluster blockbuster is a waste of time-- it's not even worth renting when it comes out on video. Not surprisingly, the execs at Warner Bros. decided not to offer any sneak preview screenings to the press for this movie, which should have set my alarm bells ringing. But if you've already seen the trailers for this movie, you've seen more than enough-- "The Avengers" is one movie you can judge by its trailer. I think we have a strong contender for the worst movie of the year!

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

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