The Avengers (1998 film)

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The Avengers
TheAvengers.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik
Produced by Jerry Weintraub
Written by Don Macpherson
Based on TV Series 
by Sydney Newman
Starring Ralph Fiennes
Uma Thurman
Sean Connery
Jim Broadbent
Fiona Shaw
Eddie Izzard
Music by Joel McNeely
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Edited by Mick Audsley
Production
  company
JW Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s) August 14, 1998 (1998-08-14)
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60 million
Box office $48,585,416[1]

The Avengers is a 1998 American action spy film adaptation of the British television series of the same name from the 1960s.

The film was directed by Jeremiah Chechik. It stars Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman as secret agents John Steed and Emma Peel, and Sean Connery as Sir August de Wynter, a mad scientist bent on controlling the world's weather and blackmailing various governments for sun or rain. Patrick Macnee, who played John Steed on the original series, makes a vocal cameo as the voice of Invisible Jones.

Plot[edit]

The film opens with John Steed (Ralph Fiennes), agent of The Ministry, in a training course, which he finishes successfully. Next, we see Dr. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) at home, where she receives a phone call telling her to go to a gentlemen's club - no women allowed - where she meets Steed for the first time. The two head off to the Ministry to meet Mother (Jim Broadbent), who informs them that the Prospero project - an attempt to influence the weather - was sabotaged apparently by Emma Peel. Mrs. Peel claims she is innocent, but she is sent to work alongside Steed to find the real culprit. Mother's off-sider, Father (Fiona Shaw), claims Mrs Peel suffers from a mental disease. They go off to visit Sir August De Wynter (Sean Connery), an old ally of The Ministry. He takes an instant liking to Mrs Peel, as they both share a love of weather.

Steed and Emma follow a lead to Wonderland Weather - a business that artificially creates heat or rain with a special machine - where they discover two dead men in teddy bear suits. The members of a secret organisation—led by De Wynter—all wear teddy bear suits to disguise their identities. One of them, however, is a clone of Emma Peel. Steed arrives in time to save Mrs Peel, as the double jumps off a roof, but disappears. Steed and Emma go off to visit De Wynter at his mansion - but are attacked by mechanical bees. They manage to flee, helped out by Alice (Eileen Atkins), a Ministry agent. Emma is captured by De Wynter, and tries to escape, but finds herself perplexed by the mansion's ever-changing floor plan. She smashes her way through a window, and Steed rescues her. Back at Steed's apartment, however, Mrs Peel is arrested by Father, as Steed visits Invisible Jones (Patrick MacNee), a man inside The Ministry, to investigate the meaning of a map Steed found at Wonderland Weather. Steed determines Father is working with De Wynter after viewing some photos of failed genetic experiments. Father and the Mrs. Peel's clone capture Mrs. Peel, but are confronted by Mother, who is incapacitated. De Wynter - controlling Prospero and the weather - confronts the world's leaders, boasting that he controls the weather and they will buy the weather from him, they will pay a lot for it, and they have until midnight to pay.

Father and Mrs. Peel's clone take Emma to a high-altitude balloon, where Emma escapes during a snowstorm. Father and the clone perish when the balloon crashes and explodes. Invisible Jones determines De Wynter is using the Prospero instruments on a secret island, and Emma and Steed arrive at the island to stop him. Emma defuses the Prospero device just as a hurricane forms over London. Steed duels De Wynter and eventually gains the upper hand by impaling him with his own cane, causing De Wynter to be struck by a bolt of lightning. Emma and Steed escape just as the base self-destructs, and share champagne on the roof of a building with Mother.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Release[edit]

Warner Bros., the film's distributor, refused to allow any early press-screenings for movie reviewers that most releases use to generate interest; such a decision is often made when a studio and/or distributor knows a film will not be received well and pre-release reviews would only be negative.[2][3][4] The film was originally scheduled to open earlier in the summer, June 1998, but was pushed back until August, often referred to as the late-summer "dumping ground" for films that are not felt to be strong or worthy enough to open on the more lucrative holiday weekends in early summer.[2] The film was a notable failure at the box office, grossing only $48 million worldwide, compared to its budget of $60 million. Mick LaSalle, of the San Francisco Chronicle, warned against poor editing and direction, explaining,

There's.......some business involving a dead ringer for Emma going around causing trouble, and there's some mention of the word "cloning." Then all talk of that is dropped. Everything is dropped. After a slow opening, the 90-minute movie jolts into climax mode. What happened to the middle? Clearly, this wasn't just edited but gutted. No doubt they did us all a favor, but it doesn't help. Instead of just being a bad picture, the missing middle makes The Avengers a bad and weird and strangely off picture. One example: There's never a moment when Emma and Steed realize who the villain is. At first, they don't know. Next they're in a titanic battle to the death. At one point Emma is shackled and floating around in a hot-air balloon. I don't know how she got there. I must have blinked.[4]

Due to internal wrangling at Warner Brothers, the decision was made to vastly cut down the running time after test screenings, reducing the 115-minute film to 87 minutes, sacrificing much coherence and continuity in the process. Key scenes removed included the opening sequence in which "Mrs. Peel" infiltrates and destroys the Prospero science installation; early trailers included the scene where she says the words "How now brown cow" in a false telephone box to gain admittance. The movie was originally scored by composer Michael Kamen, who included the original Avengers theme; however he was unable to re-score the film after the radical editing, so was forced to drop out. The recut version of the film was scored by Joel McNeely. The original shooting script was used for the film's novelisation and includes all the material shot and then removed from the film. The original cut has yet to surface; Warners are apparently not interested in releasing a director's cut or special edition in any form, even though director Jeremiah Chechik has offered to recut the film for nothing.

Critical response[edit]

The film was panned by critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 5% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 82 reviews.[5] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 12 out of 100, based on 19 reviews.[6] The purists disliked it for its disrespect to the original series (particularly the introduction of a romance between Steed and Peel—a carefully ambiguous subject in the series), and the newcomers were lost by all of the misfired attempts to capture the mood of the original. Rod Dreher in the New York Post called the film "a big fat gob of maximum crapulosity, the kind of shallow, stupid, big-budget cowpile that smells of Joel Schumacher[citation needed]", referencing the previous summer's likewise poorly received Batman & Robin, which also starred Uma Thurman.

The Avengers was nominated for that year's Razzie Award for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actor (Sean Connery), Worst Actress (Uma Thurman), Worst Actor (Ralph Fiennes), Worst Screen Couple (Fiennes and Thurman), and Worst Original Song ("Storm"), winning only one trophy for Worst Remake or Sequel. Several critics, especially in the UK, noted that the American production team fatally misunderstood the symbols of 'Britishness' central to The Avengers series, such as the inclusion of an inexplicable gadget on the dashboard of Steed's Bentley which appeared to dispense tea, with milk already added.[7]

Commenting on the truncated released cut of the film, New York Times's Janet Maslin noted "At a pared-down, barely rational 100 minutes, "The Avengers" is short but not short enough."[3]

Awards[edit]

Award Category Nominee Result
Razzie Award Worst Picture Jerry Weintraub Nominated
Worst Director Jeremiah S. Chechik Nominated
Worst Screenplay Don Macpherson Nominated
Worst Actor Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Worst Screen Couple Nominated
Uma Thurman Nominated
Worst Actress Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Sean Connery Nominated
Worst Original Song Storm Nominated
Worst Remake or Sequel Jerry Weintraub Won
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards[8] Worst Picture Nominated
Worst Director Jeremiah S. Chechik Won
Worst Actor Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Worst On-Screen Couple Nominated
Uma Thurman Nominated
Worst Actress Nominated
Most Annoying Fake Accent Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Sean Connery Nominated
Worst Resurrection of a TV Show Jerry Weintraub Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Avengers - Box Office Data, DVD Sales, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Godfrey Cheshire, The Avengers - Sputtering Spies: Steed and Peel Lack Appeal, Variety, August 17, 1998. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Janet Maslin, 'The Avengers': Shh! They're Trying Not to Be Noticed, The New York Times, August 15, 1998. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Mick LaSalle, 'Avengers' Is a Crime, San Francisco Chronicle, August 15, 1998. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  5. ^ "The Avengers Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Avengers, The (1998): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  7. ^ "THE AVENGERS (1998)". Thehotspotonline.com. Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  8. ^ "1998 21st Hastings Bad Cinema Society Stinkers Awards". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 30, 2013. 

External links[edit]