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When Marvel Comics set out to create an uber-film bringing together Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk (and SHOULD include the Wasp or Ms Marvel at the very least), there was something standing in their way. It was not the worried, furtive glances of fanboys or the daunting task of condensing decades of continuity into what amount to two-hour snippets. No, the problem was that another film called The Avengers already existed. Thankfully, most of the civilized world seems to have forgotten about it. I wish I could.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Based on a 60s spy-fi series of the same name coming to us from the BBC, The Avengers introduces us to John Steed, shining star amongst the good dozen or so secret agents we see in the employ of ‘The Ministry’. He is tasked with finding and questioning Dr. Emma Peel, an eminent meteorologist, on some strange goings-on in the atmosphere and the fact that she’s apparently killed someone. Mrs. Peel, since we’re not being quite so formal, is understandably curious as to how she could be in two places at once and thus joins Steed in tracking down the true mastermind behind the atmospheric shenanigans, a graduate of the Blofeld School for Evil Geniuses and recipient of the Dr. Evil Impractical Domination Plot Award, Sir August De Wynter. … No, it’s not a clever nom-de-plume.

The TV series was sadly before my time. I recall my father gushing about it from time to time, how Steed’s cool demeanor under fire lent a sort of tongue-in-cheek aspect to the action and intrigue, and Diana Rigg in a black catsuit was nothing to sneeze at. From what I understand, however, the premise of the show began somewhat grounded but eventually grew to incorporate some of the more esoteric aspects of the James Bond films while simultaneously delivering subtle parodies of eccentricities of the contemporary British lifestyle. For some reason, the writer and director of 1998’s Razzie contender seemed to be under the impression that all of this idiocy was to be played 100% straight. Maybe this confusion was caused by the apparent fact they need to share a brain.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

‘Straight’, by the way, here has the meaning of ‘straight as a length of rebar made from indestructible space metal and about as pliable.’ The actors tasked with modernizing these icons of their age, Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, seem to be so mechanical and uninvolved in their actions and delivery that I had to wonder if I was actually seeing the actors or some very advanced animatronic doubles who had been programmed to emote by mole people who’ve only seen human beings through fractures in the earth’s crust, most of them under Madame Tussaud’s. Even Sir Sean Connery isn’t having fun in this thing, and he gets to preside over a meeting of evil masterminds while dressed in a bear costume. And before you think that’s a bit odd, let me expand on the scene by saying they’re ALL in bear costumes. It’s like they decided part of their world domination plot included cosplaying as the mascots for the Grateful Dead.

As for the British influence, I think the only things the monobrained writer-director superstar tag team know about the Brits is that they drink tea and have accents. It seems that every single opportunity they get these people are having tea. Steed even has a fucking spigot in his Bently for the stuff. With cream already added. Red phone booths, double-decker buses, no anachronistic, staid and trite Britishism goes unreferenced because that’s funny, right? Oh, this isn’t a comedy? It’s a big-budget blockbuster? Well, the action is at least engaging. At least it would be if there was ever the vaguest hint of danger, suspense or even excitement projected by our cast. I know it’s a lot to expect for a movie like this to verge towards realism, but last I checked lightning striking a metal rod extended in a man’s hand did not lift him into the air as if the gods of Olympus decided they wanted to raise the villain up just to personally dismember him with their immortal nectar-stained hands. But by then I’d pretty much given up on the movie making any sense whatsoever.

Courtesy Warner Bros.
Did you think I was kidding about this?

It only runs 90 minutes long but it feels a lot longer. It takes itself far too seriously to be campy and goes for too many idiotic laughs to approach the quiet desperation of truly British films like Trainspotting. Attempts at innuendo or chemistry fall flatter than the deck of an aircraft carrier and have about as much subtlety. The plot makes absolutely no sense and skips around without warning, the special effects are bland and uninspired and I couldn’t help but think you should be getting a lot more entertainment or at least some fucking fun out of Voldemort, the Bride and James Bond himself all being in a spy-fi movie together. It’s no wonder Marvel steamrolled this macaroon-smelling turd on its way to production. The Avengers from 1998 is best left forgotten. Find the TV series if you’re curious, and hopefully the movie of the same name coming out next year will be a better time at the movies overall, even if the inclusion of only one girl is a bit perplexing. The ’98 flick had a few more, including double Uma Thurmans. And if nothing else, at least Eddie Izzard got to wear some fabulous shoes. But when executive transvestite fashion’s the highest compliment you can pay the picture instead of just an amusing observation… you get the idea.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.