01 May 2015

THE AVENGERS

THE AVENGERS

German Title:
Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone

USA, 1998
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik

3/10








American film producer Jerry Weintraub ("Karate Kid") is (was?) a lifelong fan of the British 'spy-fi' TV series "The Avengers" (1961-1969) and always dreamed of making an Avengers-movie. When he teamed up with Warner Bros. in the 90s, he knew the time was finally right. He approached the studio with his idea, and surprisingly they gave him the green light.

From there, things got awkward.


They recruited director Jeremiah S. Chechik, a once very promising director ("Christmas Vacation", "Benny & Joon") who, at that time, just tried to recover from two massive box office bombs: the Disney-produced fantasy-western "Tall Tale" and the remake of "Diabolique". They gave him a budget of $60 million and a script by British screenwriter Don MacPherson (whose only 'hit' was the 80s musical "Absolute Beginners"), loosely based on the Avengers episode "A Surfeit of H20" (S4 E8, 1965), following secret agents John Steed and Emma Peel trying to stop a mad scientist from destroying the world with a weather-controlling/changing machine.

From there, things quickly deteriorated.


According to Peter Bart's book "The Gross", the finished film was first shown to a test screening audience that largely consisted of Spanish-speaing working-class people who hated the film so much, Warner Bros. panicked and forced Chechik to vastly cut down the 115-minute-film to mere 87 minutes. The result: a disjointed and incoherent mess of a movie, packed with gaping plot-holes and scenes that just don't make any sense - and also, a poorly directed movie, badly written, badly paced and badly scored. Originally, it was scored by Michael Kamen ("Die Hard 1-2"), but after the radical re-editing, he was unable to re-score the re-cut, and so he was replaced by Joel McNeely ("Virus") whose new score is just lame.


Although the movie's not exactly boring, it definitely drags on and on and on, due to many, many bland and horribly uninteresting scenes, an absurd plot that gets sillier and sillier with every minute, and the absolutely atrocious non-chemistry between Ralph Fiennes (usually a great actor, but here, he's shockingly weak) and Uma Thurman (a horribly overrated actress who's only good when Tarantino directs her) who are both so unbelievably miscast, it's ludicrous. The supposed-to-be-funny dialogue came off as flat, dull and completely unfunny, and supposed-to-be-original stuff such as the teddybear costumes or the invisible ministry worker just don't work at all.

What I enjoyed: the performances of Sean Connery (fun!) and Eileen Attkins (quite hilarious!), the mechanical killer bees, the cool scene with Thurman walking down a Penrose stairway, and a few tea-jokes. Everything else about it
is just bad, bad, bad.



  "The Avengers" bombed horribly, grossing only $48 million worldwide. Chechik fled to TV land and never got the chance to direct another big budget feature, and screenwriter MacPherson's only feature script that was adapted after "The Avengers" was this year's box office bomb "The Gunman". Well done.

Wiki ~ Imdb

6 comments:

  1. We used to enjoy watching Avengers (reruns on PBS) when were young... even had a "crush" on Diana Riggs as a young teen....
    And really like the cars that Steed drove (Miss Peel drove only "modern" sporty style cars)

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    1. Well, the original series was clearly awesome - the movie was just terrible. They could have done so much better if they at least would have tried...

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  2. Damn, now I really want to see the original cut, with Michael Kamen's score still in place. It's probably still a pretty bad movie, but it would be interesting to compare it with the version that came to the cinema, in order to see if it really was ruined by the studio, or if it was already rotten at the core.

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    1. I have a feeling it would be still rotten, though maybe a little bit more bearable. Chechik offered to do a re-cut for a new director's cut DVD free of charge, but the studios aren't interested.

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  3. Good gosh, what an awful film this was. I can't imagine it being any better if it was longer--in fact, I imagine it would be worse. It was going for kind of a kooky, weird spy show concept, but just...didn't work. It can't be taken seriously, but it also isn't particularly funny or interesting.

    About the only thing that I enjoyed in the film was Connery's performance, and that I enjoyed the same way I enjoyed his performance in Highlander II: He clearly recognizes that the film sucks, but he's Sean Connery so it's not going to damage his career at all, so he's just having a good time. It's a terrible role and I can't call his performance good, but the film is a lot more fun whenever he's on screen just because it seems like he's in on a joke that the rest of the film doesn't realize even exists.

    It is far from the worst movie I've ever seen, obviously, given the company I keep, but...it's very bad.

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    1. Im sure an extended version wouldn't be much better, though I think it would at least make more sense, be more coherent.

      Connery was really fun. Like you said, he was cleary aware of the fact that the movie was crap, but he gave a crap about it and just tried to have a good time. His character sucks, but his performance is enjoyable.

      Indeed, it's not exactly bottom PT level, but... well, it's just a waste of time.

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