Thursday, 5 January 2012

The 14 Days of A (2)

The Avengers Movie

Okay, I didn’t post this last night as the wind was playing havoc with my electricity and thus didn’t even settle down to watch the film till stupidly late.  Of course, anything with “stupidly” in the description is probably well suited to The Avengers movie, especially if it’s at the start of the sentence “deciding to put it on in the first place”.  I hadn’t seen it in quite a while, it begins with “A” and well… I had weird memories of actually not finding it too bad at all. As a science fiction fan I really should also have remembered that the memory isn’t always as reliable as you like to think and for 85 minutes last night I found myself playing chicken with the stop button on the remote control.  Would the film force me to hit the button before the end or would I somehow persuade the film to improve as it went along by actually watching it and not turning it off?  I would love to be able to say that, by staying to the end, I’d had some sort of victory but I feel that it was the film that had the last laugh.

It’s one of Hollywood’s more infamous cockups. Take what, by all accounts, could have been quite a good movie, show it to the test audiences and then, when they say it’s too long, hack out the plot and leave the action sequences in place.  And then wonder why no one likes it.  Actually, that’s not the only reason people don’t like it.  There’s the horrendous acting, abysmal music, awful dialogue…  oh and the bitter taste of resentment and disappointment that it leaves in the mouth as well.

The notes that I jotted down during the film were surprisingly short and to the point.  Usually one or two words to categorise what was on the screen and either “yuk” or “no, just no”.  The TV version of the Avengers has one of the most incredible pieces of theme music ever (easily in the top five TV themes of all time).  So the film makers decided that the film should start with rather less than inspiring pop-art style titles played over the top of very bland music.  Once the action started THEN they play in the proper theme music but a rather insipid lacklustre version to accompany a rather neat little fight sequence.  Ralph Fiennes can fight.  He can’t act.  Well, he clearly can in other films but I have no idea what his reference material for playing John Steed was.  Steed was many things through the TV series (and the New Avengers as well) but a rather charmless, upper class business man with a rod up his arse was never one of them.  Even in the tenser moments, the original John Steed came across as quite relaxed and natural.  Ralph Fiennes is just so stilted in his efforts to play Steed it’s beyond unnatural. Where are the smiles, the laughter and the effortlessness?  I’m guessing in a bin somewhere having been surgically removed before rehearsals began.  Assuming, of course, that there was room in the bin for them as Uma Thurman clearly had the same procedure done to allow her to play Mrs Peel so badly as well.  Pretty much everything to do with this film feels absolutely forced. The relationship that they’re trying to hard to capture (which, by rights, shouldn’t be there as it’s supposed to be their first meeting), the banter, the fact you know they’ve shagged senseless and got it out of their systems, nothing in this film has the naturalness of the original.  The only scene that I put something akin to “getting close” to was when Steed was trying to chat up the very young looking Keeley Hawes.

What makes the lack of naturalness even weirder and more depressing is just how much of the film is lifted almost directly from the TV series.  The fencing between Steed and Peel, the House that Jack Built sequence, the weather obsessed madman and even the reappearance of the one off Father from the last year of the show.  I’m guessing that the random use of giant teddy bear costumes is a nod to the Cathy Gale episode “Mr Teddy Bear”.  The fact that it seems to snow inside the costumes is rather strange, either the explanatory scene was one of the thirty minutes’ worth cut after the first test screening (to working class Spaniards apparently) or it was just an horrendous mistake (like so much of the rest of the film). Eddie Izzard’s only dialogue in the film is a good gag but it’s just NOT The Avengers and the closing music clearly wants to try and emulate Bond (perhaps this would have been a better Bond movie?).

There are a few good set pieces, and you know right from the start of the final fight just how Sean Connery’s villain will meet his maker but they’re just not enough to salvage this utter mess of a movie.  Perhaps, one day, someone will unearth a bootleg of the original cut and we’ll see if the missing footage does actually help the plot make sense.  Perhaps, one day, Hollywood will finally forget this atrocity and make a new and better version (unlikely thanks to bloody Marvel).  Perhaps, one day, there’ll be a decent DVD release of it so I can at least watch some extra features.  Or, most unlikely of all, perhaps one day I’ll forgive this film the ultimate crime.  It’s an awful film that I don’t think I’ll ever really want to watch again.  The script, the acting, the music… all terrible.  But when it was over I still wanted to see another one.  I desperately wanted to know if, in a sequel where the characters actually had a “right” to know each other and be banterous together, things might actually work out.  I wanted Steed and Peel back.  And a terrible film that still leaves me wanting more is something I’m really not prepared to forgive easily.

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