The Avengers (1998 film)

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The Avengers
TheAvengers.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJeremiah S. Chechik
Screenplay byDon Macpherson
Jeremiah S. Chechik
Story byDon Macpherson
Based onThe Avengers
by Sydney Newman
Produced byJerry Weintraub
Starring
CinematographyRoger Pratt
Edited byMick Audsley
Music byJoel McNeely
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
August 14, 1998 (1998-08-14)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$60 million
Box office$54.7 million[1]

The Avengers is a 1998 American spy action film directed by Jeremiah Chechik, an adaptation of the 1961–1969 British television series of the same name. 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. Patrick Macnee, Steed in the original series, makes a vocal cameo as the voice of Invisible Jones.

The film was a box office bomb, only grossing $55 million against its $60 million budget. It was universally panned by critics, with some considering it one of the worst films ever made.

Plot[edit]

Secret agent John Steed and meteorologist Dr. Emma Peel are summoned to The Ministry. They meet the spymaster, codenamed Mother, who informs them that the Prospero project — an attempt to influence the weather — was apparently sabotaged by Peel. Dr. Peel claims she is innocent, but she is sent to work alongside Steed to find the real culprit. Mother's second-in-command, Father, claims that Peel suffers from a mental disease. The duo visits Sir August de Wynter, a former Ministry scientist. He takes an instant liking to 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 organization, led by de Wynter, all don teddy bear suits to disguise their identities. One of them, however, looks exactly like Peel. Steed arrives in time to save Peel, as the double jumps off a roof and disappears.

Steed and Emma go off to visit de Wynter at his mansion, but are attacked by mechanical bees. An elderly Ministry agent, Alice, helps them to flee; nevertheless, de Wynter captures and hypnotizes Emma. When de Wynter is later distracted, Emma tries to escape but feels faint and finds herself trapped due to the mansion's ever-changing floor plan. Becoming desperate, she smashes her way through the wall where Steed then finds her unconscious and rescues her. Back at Steed's apartment, Emma wakes up and is given boots by Steed. However, Emma is arrested by Father, while Steed visits Invisible Jones, a man inside The Ministry, to investigate the meaning of a map found at Wonderland Weather.

After viewing photos of failed genetic experiments including cloning (revealing that the other Emma Peel is a clone), Steed determines Father is working alongside de Wynter. Father and the Emma clone gas Peel unconscious, but are confronted by Mother, who they incapacitate. de Wynter, controlling the weather using Prospero, confronts the world leaders, boasting that he controls the weather and they will have to buy the weather from him at great expense. He gives them a midnight ultimatum.

Father and the clone take Peel to a hot air balloon, where she regains consciousness and escapes during a snowstorm. Father and the clone perish when the balloon collides with the Wonderland Weather sign. Once reunited, Steed and Peel share a kiss. Jones determines de Wynter is using the Prospero instruments on a secret island, and Peel and Steed travel there to stop him. Peel defuses the Prospero device just as a hurricane forms over London. Steed duels de Wynter and impales him with his own cane, causing de Wynter to get disintegrated by a powerful bolt of lightning. The duo escapes just as the base self-destructs, and rendezvous with Mother on the roof of a building.

Cast[edit]

Release[edit]

Warner Bros., the film's distributor, refused to allow any early press-screenings for movie reviewers that most releases attempt to generate interest in; 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 June 1998 but was pushed back until August, often referred to as the "dumping ground" for films that are not felt to be strong enough to open on the more lucrative holiday weekends in early summer.[2] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

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 Bros., the decision was made to vastly cut down the running time after test screenings, reducing the 115-minute film to 89 minutes, sacrificing much coherence and continuity in the process. Key scenes removed included the opening sequence in which Mrs. Peel's evil clone 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; these words are later used in the film when Steed and Peel use them to enter de Wynter's island fortress in another telephone box. 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 cut has yet to surface; Warner Bros. has no plans to release a director's cut or special edition in any form, despite the fact that director Jeremiah Chechik has offered to recut the film free.

The rock band Radiohead recorded a version of their song "Man of War" for the Avengers soundtrack, but abandoned it after a failed studio session.[5]

Reception[edit]

The film ranked third in its opening weekend, with $10,305,957. It ultimately grossed $23,384,939 in the United States and Canada[6] and $31,300,000 internationally for a worldwide total of $54.7 million.[1] With a $60 million budget, it was a box office flop.

Critical response[edit]

The Avengers was near universally panned. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes shows a 5% score, based on 82 reviews, with an average rating of 2.93/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "A TV spinoff that lacks enough energy to spin, The Avengers is an ineptly written, woefully miscast disaster."[7] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 12 out of 100, based on 19 reviews, indicating "overwhelming dislike".[8] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D" on an A+ to F scale.[9]

Fans disliked the film for its disrespect to the series (particularly the introduction of a romance between Steed and Peel — previously a carefully ambiguous subject). Newcomers were lost by all of the misfired attempts to capture the mood of the original.[10] Rod Dreher in the New York Post called the film "a big fat gob of maximum crapulosity, the kind of shallow, stupid, big-budget cow pile that smells of Joel Schumacher", referencing the previous summer's likewise poorly received Batman & Robin, also starring Thurman. David Bianculli stated: "This Avengers film is so horrendously, painfully, and thoroughly awful that it gives other cinematic clunkers like Ishtar and Howard the Duck a good name."[10] Jay Boyer in the Orlando Sentinel said "The Avengers is, without a doubt, the worst movie of the summer".[11] Reception in Britain was equally hostile. The Birmingham Post wrote "The Avengers is being slated by critics as the worst film ever made - such a turkey, says one, that the makers should have handed distribution to (mass turkey producer) Bernard Matthews".[12] Alan Jones in The Radio Times said "the cult 1960s TV series gets royally shafted by Hollywood in this stunningly designed blockbuster that's stunningly awful in every other department... Terrible special effects and zero chemistry between Fiennes and Thurman make this notorious disaster a total waste of everyone's time and energy".[13]

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.[14]

Commenting on the truncated released cut, The New York Times's Janet Maslin noted: "At a pared-down, barely rational 90 minutes, The Avengers is short but not short enough".[3] In 2003, Total Film magazine voted Fiennes and Thurman in The Avengers as "The Worst Movie Double Act Of All Time".[15]

Accolades[edit]

The Avengers was nominated for nine Razzies at the 19th Golden Raspberry Awards: Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Connery), Actress (Thurman), Actor (Fiennes), Screen Couple (Fiennes and Thurman) and Original Song ("Storm"), winning only one for Worst Remake or Sequel.[16]

Award Category Nominee Result Refs
Razzie Award Worst Picture The Avengers Nominated [16]
Worst Director Jeremiah Chechik Nominated
Worst Screenplay Don Macpherson Nominated
Worst Actor Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Worst Actress Uma Thurman Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Sean Connery Nominated
Worst Screen Couple Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman Nominated
Worst Original Song "Storm" by Grace Jones Nominated
Worst Remake or Sequel The Avengers Won
Stinker Award Worst Picture The Avengers Nominated [17]
Worst Director Jeremiah Chechik Nominated
Worst Actor Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Worst Actress Uma Thurman Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Sean Connery Nominated
Worst On-Screen Couple Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman Nominated
Most Annoying Fake Accent Uma Thurman Nominated
Worst Resurrection of a TV Show The Avengers Won

Novelisation[edit]

The original script was used for the film's novelization (written by Julie Kaewert) and included all the material which was first shot and then removed from the film.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Klady, Leonard (January 25, 1999). "The Top 125 Worldwide". Variety. p. 36.
  2. ^ a b Cheshire III, Godfrey (August 17, 1998). "The Avengers - Sputtering Spies: Steed and Peel Lack Appeal". Variety. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (August 15, 1998). "'The Avengers': Shh! They're Trying Not to Be Noticed". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 15, 2006. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  4. ^ a b LaSalle, Mick (August 15, 1998). "'Avengers' Is a Crime". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 11, 2008. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  5. ^ "Radiohead's 'Man of War': Everything You Need to Know About the 'OK Computer' Bonus Tracks". Diffuser.fm. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  6. ^ The Avengers at Box Office Mojo
  7. ^ "The Avengers (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on May 18, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  8. ^ "The Avengers (1998) reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on December 3, 2005. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  9. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Bianculli, David (August 18, 1998). "Not So Excellent Avengers". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on January 28, 2015. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  11. ^ Boyar, Jay (August 15, 1998). "'The Avengers' Review". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on June 24, 2015. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  12. ^ "Film-The Avengers". The Birmingham Post. August 19, 1998.
  13. ^ Jones, Alan. "Review: The Avengers". Radio Times. Archived from the original on January 28, 2015. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  14. ^ "THE AVENGERS (1998)". Thehotspotonline.com. Archived from the original on March 4, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  15. ^ "Double disasters make it to top of the flops". The Western Mail. Cardiff. December 1, 2003. Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman have been named the worst movie double act of all time by film experts. The pair starred together in the monumental flop The Avengers...Writers at Total Film magazine say the normally acclaimed stars are the most gruesome twosome to grace the big screen, calling Fiennes "stiff as MDF" and Thurman "robotic".
  16. ^ a b "Topic Closed1998 RAZZIE® Nominees & "Winners"". Archived from the original on August 31, 2012. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  17. ^ "1998 21st Hastings Bad Cinema Society Stinkers Awards". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 3, 2007. Retrieved March 30, 2013.

External links[edit]