Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Writer: Don MacPherson
Time: 89 min.
Genre: Action / Adventure
Can you say that a film is an honorable failure ? This big-budget adaptation of the cult 60s British TV show barely makes sense, but you gotta praise the effort. First, the art direction and the general look of the movie are awesome. Each scene is crafted with style, the sets are outrageous, and so are the clothes. Even the characters and situations are original. Unfortunately, it doesn’t add up to a pile of beans, as Rick would say. Like Batman and its sequels, this film is so busy looking good that it doesn’t bother with storytelling and coherence. Too much is like not enough.
It all starts out with this dude John Steed, an English gentleman who never parts from his umbrella and bowler hat. He’s a Secret Agent for the Ministry, a bit like James Bond, only more playful. He’s played by Ralph Fiennes, an obviously gifted actor best known for serious films like Schindler’s List and The English Patient. Here, he shows a lighter side. He’s amusing for a while, but his character is one-dimensional and gets boring as the film advances. Steed is paired with the sexy Emma Peel, a doctor specialized in meteorology who happens to also be a top fighter. Uma Thurman sure is a babe, and you can really get lost in her groovy curves. But like her Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin, this performance is more about tight suits than acting. Thurman just utters inane dialogue in a phony British accent. I do like the idea of Uma playing an evil clone of herself, but that doesn’t lead to much, and it’s never explained why the duo faces the second Emma Peel.
Of course, you need a villain, and that’s where Sir August de Winter comes in. August is a recluse godzillionaire scientist who can control the weather. He threatens to wipe out the world if nation leaders don’t pay him billions and billions of dollars. Now it’s getting stupid, and even Sean Connery can’t save this ridiculous character, nor the film. I have nothing against dumb stuff, but it has to fit in some kind of pattern. There is a lot of stupid stuff in Austin Powers, but it’s hilarious and consistent. The Avengers throws tons of wild things at you, but there’s absolutely no logic to it. Peel and Steed work for a wheelchair-bound guy named Mother and an androgen chick named Father, and they’re helped with a machine gun-totting old lady and an invisible archivist. Okay… They face giant metal bees armed with machine guns, they wander through a labyrinth, they walk on water in plastic bubbles… And then there’s Sir August, who hosts meeting where everyone is wearing teddy bear suits… And… Fuck, it ain’t even worth pointing out every weird thing. Like I said, I have nothing against director Jeremiah Chechik trying to do something different. My problem is that all these interesting ideas are half-baked and that they’re built around a braindead story and unexciting scenes.
There also is something wrong with the tone of the film. It’s obviously not a serious film, but it ain’t quite a comedy either. It’s just an endless series of puns about weather, double-entendres and silly dialogue, and if it’s sometimes amusing, there’s not even one really funny moment in the film, besides maybe the teddy bear bit. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be dry British humor, but it falls flat. As for the action scenes, they’re well made and the special FX are cool, but they’re generally pretty boring. Basically, this is just a film that doesn’t work. Separately, the ingredients are great, but there are some serious problems with the cooking. So the film is a failure, but an honorable one. I enjoyed watching most of it, but I could have done without it.