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I have always been a fan of the cult television series and had high hopes when a film version of THE AVENGERS ($20) was announced. Boy was I sadly disappointed, when I finally had the opportunity to see the movie. The problem is, at ninety-five minutes, THE AVENGERS plays like a much longer film that was drastically edited it down to the barest essentials. Can you say hatched job? This isn’t to say the cutting wasn’t warranted, but the end results are messy. Continuity seems to be almost completely absent from the film, making everything feel like a bunch of disjointed vignettes strung together to flesh out the barest semblance of a plot.

There are times when director Jeremiah Chechik captures the style and flavor of the original television series, but there are too few of them to make up for the structural problems of the film. Ralph Fiennes takes on the role of John Steed, which was originally made famous by Patrick Macnee. Uma Thurman is the successor to Diana Rigg in the role of Emma Peel. Both of them do the best they can with their underwritten parts, but they don’t have the chemistry of Macnee and Rigg. Sean Connery is wasted as Sir August de Wynter, which happens to be Connery’s first screen villain. The plot of THE AVENGERS concerns Sir August de Wynter’s attempt to take over the world using a weather-controlling machine. The British government assigns their top agent, John Steed to stop de Wynter. Mrs. Emma Peel, whose meteorological expertise, first makes her a suspect aids Steed in the endeavor. The cast of THE AVENGERS also includes Fiona Shaw, Jim Broadbent, Eddie Izzard, Eileen Atkins, John Wood, Keeley Hawes and the voice of Patrick Macnee.

Warner Home Video offers THE AVENGERS in both wide screen and full screen presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. The full screen the version looks okay, but if you are going to spend any time with THE AVENGERS you’ll want to do it in full wide screen splendor. THE AVENGERS is framed at 1.85:1, which offers balanced looking compositions. This wide screen presentation also includes the anamorphic component for playback on 16:9 aspect ratio televisions. As expected, THE AVENGERS is a total knockout on DVD. The disc is demonstration quality with a razor sharp image and excellent detail, even in the shadows. Color reproduction is also phenomenal. The richly saturated hues have an intensity and total absence of chroma noise that will knock one’s socks off. Digital compression artifacts were never readily detectable.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a rather pleasing mix that offers a wide-open soundstage and clean dialogue reproduction. Directional sound effects are brought into play at key moments and the track handles them effortlessly. A French language soundtrack has been encoded into the DVD as have, English and French subtitles. The interactive menus are mildly animated and contain music. Through the menus one can access six theatrical trailers, only one of which is for THE AVENGERS, plus production notes and cast biographies for both the movie and the original television series.

Fans of the original television series may want to pick up a copy of THE AVENGERS and spend an evening with the film. The one truly good thing that did come out of the movie and DVD release of THE AVENGERS is the fact that episodes from the original television series will be appearing on DVD.


The Avengers (1998)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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