The Avengers Reviews
"The Avengers" is a 1998 American action spy film adaptation of the British television series of the same name that ran between 1961-1969. 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. The film was originally scheduled to open earlier in 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. 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. 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 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 script was used for the film's novelization and included all the material which were first shot and then removed from the film. 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 that director Jeremiah Chechik has offered to recut the film for free. The film was panned by critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes consensus reads, "A TV spinoff that lacks enough energy to spin, The Avengers is an ineptly written, woefully miscast disaster." 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). 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 cow pile that smells of Joel Schumacher", referencing the previous summer's likewise poorly received Batman & Robin, which also starred Uma 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." Jay Boyer in the Orlando Sentinel said "The Avengers is, without a doubt, the worst movie of the summer". Reception in Britain was equally hostile. The Birmingham Post stated "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". Alan Jones in The Radio Times stated "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." Commenting on the truncated released cut of the film, New York Times's Janet Maslin noted, "At a pared-down, barely rational 90 minutes, "The Avengers" is short but not short enough."
I did not grow up with the original "The Avengers" (1961-1969) but I know of the show, the main characters and the actors. This is yet another example of a film that was slaughtered in the editing room when they reduced the 115-minute film to 87 minutes, sacrificing much coherence and continuity in the process. Everything in the film feels random, campy, poor and as said there´s no coherence nor continuity which gives us a very confusing film. With A-list stars like Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman and Sean Connery you´d think there would be potential, but the end result is far from it. All three seems to have no idea what´s going on due to mediocre direction. I reckon charm, style and fun was the main pillars of the tv-show, but with the film all of that is not in place. It´s a weird and strange unfunny film in many ways and you really struggle to find anything that is good about it. The effects are shoddy and the script silly in an Austin Powers way. Once the colourful teddybears appears in the film you realise that this film will never recover.
Trivia: Peter Bart's book "The Gross" covered the film's unfolding disaster in great detail. Among other facts: Warner Brothers greenlit the film largely on the strength of a star-packed cast and their appreciation of Jeremiah Chechik's work on Diabolique (1996) and were horrified when seeing what the first cut was like. The first screening took place in front of a "largely Spanish-speaking, working class" audience in Phoenix, Arizona, who hated the film; the studio then forced Chechik to cut many of his favorite scenes, and conduct reshoots; and the final cut went from 115 to 89 minutes, and was completely incoherent. The studio even refused to hold further test screenings, or to have an official premiere before the film's August 1998 release. Ralph Fiennes said of the film, "I think it's a badge of honor to have a real flop on your resumé".