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The Avengers Review

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John Steed (Fiennes) and Mrs. Peel are brought together for the first time in a plot which pits them against a madman out to control the weather, Sir August De Wynter (Connery).

★★★★★

Remember the episode in which Diana Rigg's Emma Peel found herself in a country house built like an M.C. Escher drawing, with identical corridors that kept leading back to the same landing? Well, that sequence is included here - only this time we're sort of supposed to think it's a drug-induced hallucination and Uma Thurman's Mrs. Peel gets out of the trap by simply smashing a window. That's pretty typical of The Avengers movie, which resurrects the wonderful trappings of the original TV series but handles them with the sort of clumsiness you, perhaps, should expect from director Chechik, the man who remade French classic Les Diaboliques with Sharon Stone.

Clocking in at a brisk hour-and-a-half, which suggests whole chunks of plot were pared away after previews, the film sets out to bring together John Steed (Fiennes) and Mrs. Peel for the first time in a plot which pits them against a madman out to control the weather, Sir August De Wynter (Connery). For a while, there's an attempt to suggest Mrs. P. is playing for both teams, though it's obvious from the outset that there's an evil clone in the mix, paving the way for the attraction between the two to go further than it ever did on TV just so the idiots in the audience can't fail to get the message.

A bunch of stooges - the crippled Mother (Fiona Shaw), the blind Father (Jim Broadbent), a silent thug (an unconvincing Eddie Izzard), even Patrick Macnee as an Invisible Man - remind you that the TV series only relied on eccentrics when Linda Thorson had to be surrounded by interesting people while she learned to act.

Fiennes and Thurman look fine in the familiar outfits, but aren't very good at banter, adventure or romance: Fiennes seems uncomfortable and on the point of tears throughout (not an incredibly alluring trait on an unflappable hero); Thurman's waxy face and voice-coached English vowels just don't cut it. And Connery, in a kilt or a teddy bear suit, is disastrous, the sort of baddie even Adam West would sneer at.

There are neat sets, cool cars and nice costumes, but this Molotov champagne cocktail fizzles and goes flat very swiftly. It's not in the Batman And Robin ghastliness league, but it is more disappointing than hashes like Godzilla and Lost In Space. After all, they weren't based on anything as good as The Avengers used to be. This is a major missed opportunity. Diana Rigg, you're needed.

The Avengers resurrects the wonderful trappings of the original TV series but handles them with the sort of clumsiness you, perhaps, should expect from director Chechik.