Saturday, 20 February 2010

No.10 : The Avengers



If The Avengers was any good, and given that it’s about the weather, it’s tag line could have been ‘Brolly Good Fun’. Sadly it’s not, so it isn’t and it has to make do with ‘Pure Pish’ instead.

As you probably know the film is based on the 1960’s TV show of the same name and the slightly less good re-hash ‘The New Avengers staring Gareth ‘rhyming slang’ Hunt. The film opens with Ralph Fiennes in a slightly too large bowler hat walking down a street and doing battle with a copper, the milkman etc. Don’t worry his John Steed isn’t on an ASBO he’s doing a test for ‘The Ministry’ and of course passes with flying colours.

He is soon briefed by ‘Mother’ his handler who explains that the Prospero project has been blown up. This is a net that covers the country and protects it from unspecified attacks. We also meet Mrs Peel (Uma Thurman) who has knowledge of the project and is also the prime suspect for the attack given that she’s shown doing it on CCTV. Showing some unbelievable good faith Mother sends them out into the field to crack the case.

Their first, and to be honest only, port of call is the palatial home of Sir August De Wynter a weather expert who is a bit nutty and who has a grudge against the government. Not much detecting needed here! De Wynter is played with OTT enthusiasm by Sean Connery and his hair weave and he offers little in the way of menace as do his henchmen Eddie Izzard and Shaun Ryder out of ‘The Happy Mondays’ - honestly I’m not making this up!

De Wynter wastes no time in black mailing the country with his crappy weather - looks like he won the war in Scotland years ago! Our two heroes have to take on the ageing meteorologist and diffuse his big bomb or it’ll rain for ages. It really is that serious.

This was a real box office bomb when it came out and it’s not hard to see why. For a start loads of it makes no sense and the continuity is all over the place. I’ve read that it was practically cut in half after stinky test screenings and it shows, especially when characters changes clothes mid scene and refer to events that never happened.

The two leads struggle badly with their terrible parts and it’s hard to see how we were ever expected to like or empathise with Fiennes’ John Steed who comes across as a tit constantly on the look out for a cup of tea. Thurman is slightly better with her twin roles as Mrs Peel and her clone but her constant verbal sparring with Steed is really tiresome especially as they’re duelling with wit as blunt as a herring.

Connery must have cried into his pay cheque when he saw the results of his efforts that include him running a meeting of bad guys whilst wearing a teddy bear suit. The scene from ‘Goldfinger’ is played out with the dissenting collaborators quickly executed - it did lose some of it’s resonance when it was two big brightly coloured bears that slumped forward. Elsewhere Eddie Izzard got away with only one line in the whole mess “Ok fuck” - one I’m sure he repeats every time someone reminds him of this project.

You do get the sense that the film’s slinkiness was spotted early on as the special effects are clearly scaled back as the movie progresses, with the Ministry’s secret HQ becoming a bus and London being reduced to some cardboard boxes as the storm of the century puffs in.

It does have some slight moments of enjoyment such as the original theme flirting in and out and Patrick Macnee showing up in voice only in an invisible man cameo but these serve only to highlight what a waste of the material this mess was.

THE Tag Line : The Avengers Tragedy 34%

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