"Frozen in Time"
They say you can’t relive the past, but that doesn’t stop the powers-that-be in Hollywood. Another famous TV show gets the big screen treatment with THE AVENGERS, a Warner Bros. movie based on the hit 1960s TV show from England starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. Expectations were high on the movie, until the studio decided not to show the finished film to critics after a preview screening revealed that, once again, Hollywood has failed to recapture the magic of a pop culture event from the past.
Reportedly, a lot of money went into the sets and special effects for this movie, which opens with dapper British spy John Steed going through a training exercise that shows off his fighting skills using an umbrella and a bowler hat. Played by Ralph Fiennes, Steed is teamed up with Dr. Emma Peel, played by Uma Thurman, to investigate an explosion at a top-secret lab doing research on influencing the weather. The investigation has a personal stake in it for Dr. Peel, because a woman looking like her was seen invading the lab before it exploded.
Steed and Peel determine that the prime suspect in the explosion is Sir August De Wynter. Played by Sean Connery, De Wynter is a brilliant but crazy scientist who once worked for the government. Steed and Peel visit Sir August, and a dangerous, sometimes confusing, game of cat and mouse begins that ends in a secret underground hideout on an innocent-looking island in the Thames River. There, Sir August is manipulating the weather to blackmail the world’s leaders.
Production values are high in THE AVENGERS, but the movie not only fails to capture the warmth, humanity and ingenuity that Macnee and Rigg had in the original series, it also fails to make much sense in the way its story is shot and presented. The movie jumps from location to location, with little dramatic buildup. Weird, and sometimes stupidly goofy, characters and events simply happen, with little rhyme or reason. This is the same flaw that director Jeremiah Chechik seemed to bring to one of his earlier movies, TALL TALE: THE UNBELIEVABLE ADVENTURES OF PECOS BILL.
It probably is impossible for any actor to generate any audience identification in such a context, especially when the villain and the villain’s evil schemes seem so silly and uninteresting, but Fiennes and Thurman as Steed and Peel bring little style and substance to their roles. In the original series, Steed and Peel were cool characters, but here they are just frozen. Fiennes and Thurman are just too cold and mechanical in their performances. Making matters worse is the fact that Fiennes and Thurman don’t have the screen presence and voice timbre to become the kind of movie star needed to bring the dialogue in this movie to life. Unlike Macnee and Rigg, they aren’t quite believable in this movie. As for Sean Connery, his talents are completely wasted.
Finally, it should be noted that the original AVENGERS series went markedly downhill when the makers started having the heroes actually meet with a silly superspy boss code-named “Mother.” This took away from the mystery and adventure in the heroes’ lives and made the series appear too cartoony, a fate worse than death for a concept that already was a little far out. True fans of the series would have realized this problem and avoided it like the plague. Not so with the creators behind this movie.
Thus, THE AVENGERS lacks the wit, charm and excitement of its earlier incarnation. The movie also has some mild action violence, two exclamatory obscenities and partial but brief rear male nudity.
(B, L, VV, N, A, D, M) Mildly moral worldview of good versus evil; 2 obscenities, including one exclamatory use of the "f" word; mild action violence such as fisticuffs, martial arts kicking & flipping, swordplay, giant mechanical bees attack people in car, woman machine-guns bad guy, balloon explodes, man shoots two men with poison darts, man hits post & falls to his death, & man impaled by lightning rod & struck by lightning; partial rear male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, blackmail, treason & man kisses woman whose husband is missing in the Amazon but presumed dead.