This big-screen version of the classic '60s TV spy show The Avengers can be added to the ignominious heap of updates, remakes, and adaptations that really didn't need to be made. While that's almost to be expected—practically no such attempts work—it's almost fascinating to witness just how lousy The Avengers really is. Stepping in for Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg as John Steed and Mrs. Peel are Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, a pairing that must have looked good on paper, but doesn't work on screen. Fiennes is a great actor, a fact that can be read on his expressive face every time he doesn't have to speak, but he can't find anything to do with a script that just isn't clever. And while they're both pretty people, Fiennes and Thurman have virtually no chemistry. She's been good in other movies, but Thurman has a tendency to be leaden, particularly in big-budget action films. She looks bored most of the time, and she ought to be. The Avengers is a triumph of production design, but it has virtually nothing else going for it, certainly not a hammy performance by Sean Connery (who has about 10 minutes of screen time) or a story that seems silly when it's comprehensible at all. (There's something about controlling the weather, cloning, and a conspiracy of some sort.) It doesn't stack up well to the original series for any number of reasons, but it barely even works as a movie to itself. The characters are never established, the plot is uninvolving, and the dialogue, in attempting to be droll, is so dry that you almost expect tumbleweeds to start rolling by. The Avengers feels more like an accidentally filmed first draft or a bad installment in a familiar franchise—something like Joel Schumacher's gaudy attempts at the Batman series—than a fully realized movie. As such, it should be treated with all the indifference that seems to have gone into making it.
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