The Avengers (1998)

Woof!  Could Ralph Finnes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery bring any 
*less* to a movie than they do in this eye-pleasing-but-empty up-
date of the British television series?  The killer cast couldn't 
*look* better if they tried-- Finnes fine in his bowler cap, Ms. 
Thurman slinking about in a catsuit, and the Scotsman in Scots at-
tire, making blustery demands to a parliament of world leaders.  
(He plays a mad-scientist-turned-megalomaniac who's invented a way 
to fool Mother Nature.)  Connery has that one good scene-- for his 
other thirty or so minutes of screen time, he's an absolute and ut-
ter loss.  Not that Finnes nor Thurman are any better, mind you.  
The script gives them a bounty of bouncy repartee, but they don't 
have a detectable ounce of chemistry between them.  At least they 
look good, as does the whole of the film.  With its splendid Bond-
meets-Batman production design-- by Stuart Craig, who dressed THE 
ENGLISH PATIENT-- this one's a veritable feast for the eyes.  (So 
many wonderful colors and textures and Escher-inspired sets...)  

The wit's dry, the locales are authentic, and director Jeremiah 
Chechik (DIABOLIQUE, BENNY & JOON) pulls off a couple good action 
sequences.  (And tea.  Lots and lots of tea.)  As an extra-special 
bonus, there's even a parlor game included with the price of admis-
sion:  Spot the Missing Scene(tm).   (Non sci-fi fans get to play 
the young-adult version, What the Hell is Going on Here[tm]?)  If 
you've seen the trailers, you'll wonder what happened to a sequence 
with Uma answering a pay phone out in the middle of nowhere.  Or  
that aerial shot of a nuclear blast-style explosion.  The seemingly 
missing footage, combined with several abrupt scene transitions (to 
say the least!), suggest serious scissoring way late in the game.  
Poor test screenings, perhaps, from us dumb Americans?  The shame 
of it, really, is that if a longer (and more coherent) cut ever 
surfaces, we'll still have to suffer through these three terribly 
tepid performances.  With Jim Broadbent, Fiona Shaw, Eddie Izzard, 
Eileen Atkins, John Wood, and original Avenger Patrick McNee in an 
amusing cameo as an invisible man.  (Rated "PG-13"/90 min.)

Grade: C-

Copyright 1998 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: August 16, 1998

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