The Avengers opens with Fiennes’ John Steed in pinstripe suit and bowler hat, walking through an old English village. He’s threatened by a lethal milkman, some deadly nuns and a traditionally dressed killer-‘bobby’. Then the Oscar-nominated actor opens his mouth and you really wish he hadn’t.
Something is very wrong. He appears to be not Fiennes, but some sort of robot replacement. Thurman turns up and speaks in the same way: neither reacts to the other. The only theory that holds weight is that they recorded their scenes in rooms on different continents and then let their robot stand-ins replace them when it came to performing in front of the camera. Both are totally devoid of sex appeal, which is pretty hard considering their respective track records.
It must be a joke. Nothing else could excuse the remaining 85 minutes of this confused big-screen version of the cult ’60s TV series. There’s nothing wrong with making it camp and giving it a unique style (futurama gadgetry meets the ’60s), and there’s nothing wrong with making a comedy thriller.
But there is absolutely no excuse for a comedy thriller that’s neither funny nor thrilling. There is no excuse for cutting entire chunks out of the original plot (Emma Peel’s villainous clone dives off a rooftop, never to reappear; Connery dresses as a giant teddy bear, but then someone else is suddenly wearing his suit; Steed and Peel cross a river walking, for some reason, in great big inflatable balls). And there’s no excuse for wasting surreal comic Eddie Izzard in a high-profile, non-speaking role.
To its minute credit, there are a couple of reasonably enjoyable set-pieces, such as when Steed and Peel are chased by giant mechanical bees. But since these sequences make no sense it’s very hard to be excited by them. The only thing that could salvage this pitiful mess is if somebody turned around in six months time and cried: “Ha ha! We were only kidding! This is the real film.” As it is, The Avengers ranks as one of the greatest disappointments of the summer.