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The Avengers (1998)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

THE AVENGERS (1998)

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery, Jim Broadbent, Patrick Macnee

Written By: Don MacPherson

Directed By: Jeremiah Chechik

The Shot

While there’s no explicit proof that The Avengers was made to deliberately destroy the hopes and dreams of any audience unfortunate enough to encounter it, there’s no explicit proof that it wasn’t, either.  I know where my suspicions lie.


The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

SHREDDED.

Like my dreams of seeing Sean Connery as an awesome James Bond villain.


Pairs Well With...

MAD DOG 20/20.

It smells horrible and leaves a wretched aftertaste that no amount of mouthwash can remove.

“Now is the winter of your discontent!”


Once upon a time – pretty much from 1983 on through to 1998, to be exact – I had a dream.  It was the dream of a James Bond movie fan who knew after seeing Never Say Never Again that Sean Connery was not ever going to be coming back to the role that made him a star, but who also knew that even though the old boy had aged himself past the point of properly playing 007, there was still more than enough spark there to make for an awesome James Bond villain.  Of course I knew the scenario to be unlikely, but that’s why they’re called dreams, right?

And then came hope.

No, neither Cubby Broccoli nor his daughter had come around and asked Mr. Connery to take up residence in a volcano fort, but the people behind another venerable British espionage franchise had.  Turns out that someone had finally decided to make a movie out of the classic “Avengers” television series, and they thought that the original 007 would be the perfect choice to play their inaugural big screen villain.  As “next best things” go, I was certainly not going to complain.

Not until I actually saw the damn thing, anyway.

Regardless of what direction on approaches The Avengers from, the same core truth emerges.  This movie isn’t just bad; it’s an abomination.  The abomination begins with the name and characters of a beloved television classic being taken in vain, and it ends… oh, who am I kidding?  It never ends.

Let’s start where I did: with the villain, Sir August DeWynter, whose evil plot as the head of BROLLY – yeah, the dastardly organization in The Avengers is called BROLLY – involves eternally extorting the governments of the world under threat of using his weather control machine to clobber any nation that doesn’t pay up.  (You know: on demand hurricanes to flood Mongolia, blizzards in Egypt, that sort of thing.)  Sean Connery delivers exactly the performance that a character like DeWynter deserves: namely, the worst of his career, and I’m pretty sure that it’s being done on purpose.  His voice drips with contempt over every line, and his face is stuck in a permanent mask of disgust.  He knows how bad this movie is, and he has very obviously decided that he’s not going to carry it on his back to make it better.  Disappointing and dream dashing though the results may be for me as a fan, I can’t say that I don’t understand the point of view.

Meanwhile, Uma Thurman positively throws herself into the role of our heroine (any red herrings suggesting otherwise are obvious and get really damned annoying after the second and third attempts to peddle them), hamming it up for all she’s worth with a gusto that might be commendable in a better film of a different stripe but which comes across as just plain sad here.  (Indeed, there are times when it feels like she’s playing a one woman show without the slightest regard for her surroundings, and others wherein it appears that she’s having Batman & Robin flashbacks.)  It doesn’t help that the people behind the camera appear to have been more interested in finding Thurman a belt buckle large enough to serve as a cargo strap for a C-130 transport plane than they were in coaching her to keep her horrendous British accent from one moment to the next, either.

And then there’s the matter of (future “M”) Ralph Fiennes, who does a decent enough job playing the role of hero John Steed as written… and that’s the problem, for the character of Steed personifies much of what is awful about The Avengers.  He (and the film as a whole) is obviously going for the “dry British humor” vive, but only the “dry” shows up without so much as an atom of actual “funny.”  Whenever anything stupid or otherwise dreadful happens, he ignores it and carries on like nothing occurred, much like pretty much everyone behind the scenes appears to have done with regard to pretty much everything that occurs in the movie.  There’s only so much “okay, let’s just pretend that dumb shit that just happened didn’t happen, shall we?” that a person can stand, you know?

Because honestly, there’s just no coming back from the conference table full of bad guys dressed in multicolored teddy bear suits.

Had the Powers That Be stepped back, taken a reasonable look at their godawful script with its cringe-inducing dialogue and admitted what a total disaster they had on their hands, perhaps The Avengers could have been saved as a spoof.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen – the film takes itself far too seriously, and again, nothing is actually funny – and so the audience is left with a half-baked mess that loads up on all of the stupid and none of the entertainment.  Blame who you will behind the camera, but the screenplay’s sins are multiplied by the top-billed cast in front of it: the two leads play things in such a dry and self-absorbed fashion that they might as well be on another planet, and our villain appears to hate each and every second of his time on camera, with an aim to punish the audience for daring to witness those hated seconds.

All right, Mr. Connery; you win.  I’m very, very sorry that I bore witness (thrice!)  to this awful movie that you somehow got talked into making.  I promise that I’ll never do it again.

I suggest that the rest of you don’t, either.  Ever.  There really is no reason to sit through The Avengers.  None at all.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, August, 2015


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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