The Real Mrs. Peel, You’re Needed
[if you’re looking for my review of Marvel’s The Avengers, it’s here]
Ever have one of those bizarre dreams where you’re in your house, but it’s not your house, and your mom is there, but she’s not your mom, and then it morphs into your third-grade classroom and the weird guy you saw at the mall last weekend is there? And when you wake up, you shake your head and mutter to yourself, “What the hell was that all about?”
Well, that’s what The Avengers is like.
Words like “bad” don’t even do The Avengers justice. It’s time to haul out the big guns, like “appalling.” The Avengers is jaw-droppingly appalling. This is quite possibly the worst movie Hollywood has ever produced — worse than Batman and Robin, which ascended to a pinnacle of awfulness I wouldn’t have thought could be surpassed. Without question, it’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen that didn’t appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000 — and some of those MST movies were better. For Pete’s sake, I’d watch a Pauly Shore movie before I’d watch The Avengers again.
I don’t think even the director, Jeremiah Chechik, knew what The Avengers was about. I couldn’t even begin to describe the plot — something to do with an uncomfortable-looking Sean Connery as some kind of supervillain trying to take over something or other by changing the weather. His demands? He wants 10 percent of the GNP of England in exchange for leaving the weather alone. (England? Hasn’t England been in a recession since about WWII?)
Called in to stop the baddie are super secret agent John Steed (Ralph Fiennes), who works for The Ministry, and Dr. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman), who apparently was involved in some kind of weather project. Now, when I alluded above to dreams in which the people you know don’t seem themselves, I wasn’t intending to say that the Steed and Peel characters here can’t compare to the originals — I’ve never even seen the original Avengers series. Steed and Peel in this movie don’t even approach human. There isn’t a single line of dialogue these two exchange that isn’t a quip, a pun, a cliché, a double entendre. There’s no actual real communication between them. Sexual tension? These two are so cold and frozen they could sink the Titanic.
Uma Thurman is such a terrible actress that she fits in perfectly here, but Ralph, Ralph, Ralph! What were you thinking? What on Earth is this wonderful, talented, beautiful man doing in this abomination? I saw Ralph Fiennes do an incredible Hamlet on Broadway a few years ago; he made a mediocre Strange Days much better than it deserved to be; earlier this year he had the glorious Oscar and Lucinda. But now this. How has he sunk to this level?
And another question I’d like someone to answer: What happened to London? The city features prominently in the movie, in mortal peril from the weird weather, and yet the city streets are deserted: no traffic, no mobs of pedestrians, no nothin’. It’s like that British Airways commercial: “Where is everybody?!” I kept expecting to see a tumbleweed roll across the street, hear a dog’s bark echoing through the empty streets. Bizarre.
There’s a cameo by Patrick MacNee, the original John Steed, but if you ignore my pleading to Just Say No to The Avengers and plunk down eight or nine bucks for this thing, you’ll see that MacNee managed to appear in the film without actually showing his face. He at least seems to have had the good graces to be ashamed of this fiasco.