Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Avengers



THE AVENGERS (1998)

Directed by: Jeremiah Chechik
Screenplay: Don MacPherson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman & Sean Connery

Universally panned and seemingly hated big screen adaptation of the cult British TV show, The Avengers may be far from good but it’s by no means the train wreck many will have you believe. Yes, it’s not great, has odd pacing and coherency problems and certainly suffers from being cut down from its original 2 hour run time to just over 80 minutes. The cast also often looked bemused as to what is going on (the plot having something to with crazy super villain Sean Connery controlling the weather and threatening to keep Britain under six feet of snow: oh yeah, exciting stuff!) and the overall feel of the film struggles with attempting to fuse a quirky old school British TV show with blockbuster action and spectacle.

I’m sure there are those who will tell how much it deviates from the original show but I’m not one as I’ve never really watched The Avengers TV show (caught an odd episode here and there) which, I suppose, is fair enough as many a favourite TV show (especially during the blockbusting 1990s) has been ripped apart by the Hollywood machine. It’s as if the makers weren’t quite sure what they had when they adapted The Avengers for the big screen, obviously wanting to keep the eccentricity of the show but add in star power and some big action scenes to make it a summer blockbuster. But having gutted the film and trimmed its running time considerably have made it even more incomprehensible than it would have been before and diluted the offbeat fun The Avengers could have been. The main cast isn’t bad (or not as bad as you may have read elsewhere) but do seem to be struggling with getting the right tone, trying to balance the lighter moments with the darker ones, the eccentric with the spectacle. Others such as Jim Broadbent, Eddie Izzard and Eileen Atkins are completely wasted, their parts obviously victims of the major slicing and dicing.



But as any film that has a lot of hype around it, concerning how great it is or going to be, the same can be said about films that have incredible reputations for being, well, shit. Yeah, The Avengers isn’t that good and is on some levels, shit, but it’s not all that bad. The groovy styling and look, merging hi-tech with old time London, is pretty impressive (the Hollywood budget showing its benefits) and for all the weirdness, quirkiness and general off-beatness that doesn’t work, there is just as much that does. There is a neat pursuit sequence where the heroes are chased by a swarm of mechanical bees and there is the novel and outright mad sequence of Sean Connery and a bunch of other extras dressed as giant teddy bears. Yep, quirky indeed and not something you see in your everyday Hollywood blockbuster.

Unfortunately the rest of action (when it finally arrives), despite being quite big in spectacle, doesn’t really hold up often over too quickly or shot and cut too tightly to really appreciate it. Which is surprising since stunt and action duty was handled by the great Vic Armstrong (Indiana Jones, James Bond). So, overall a bit of a disaster but a bit of a curious offering and still worth a watch to either see a slightly off the beaten track blockbuster or confirm to yourself it really is a pile of crap.

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