The Avengers (1998)
by Don MacPherson
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik
When the Prospero Weather Shield is sabotaged, Mother summons top agent John Steed and research scientist Dr Emma Peel to his office and shows them security camera footage which shows Dr Peel destroying the lab. He orders them to find the real culprits and the trail leads to the eccentric billionaire, August de Wynter, who had developed a weather control technology and is plotting to hold the world to ransom or he’ll destroy cities with terrible storms. Battling through all seasons in one day, the Avengers defeat de Wynter when he’s struck by some artificial lightning. Big Ben is saved and the Avengers take tea on the terrace.
Mrs Peel (Uma Thurman) visits the secret research centre for The Prospero Project, a planned shield against the weather. She strides through the corridors and, when challenged by one of the scientists (Roger Lloyd Pack), turns and knocks him out then steals his keys. She enters a control room and sets the facility to self destruct then makes her escape, easily dispatching the guards on her way. Cut to Sir August de Wynter (Sean Connery) who is manically playing a grand organ in his palatial country house. He pauses and snarls, “Let the revels begin!”
At least, that’s how it was supposed to start…
Steed (Ralph Fiennes) walks casually down a country village street. He checks his watch then steps briskly aside as a flower pot is dropped from an upper window at him [qv. Noon Doomsday]. He coolly stoops to pick a white carnation from the broken pot and fixes it in his buttonhole [qv. The Undertakers]. He then passes a police constable who lunges at him with his truncheon but is easily subdued. The same occurs with a milkman who smashes two bottles together, an old lady with a pram (Alice, played by Eileen Atkins) who throws knives at him, and two mechanics who burst from a garage wielding large wrenches. A trio of nuns crossing the square ahead of him… he slows cautiously but they pass by demurely and he relaxes. A Wolesley saloon suddenly slowly appears behind him and he leaps up, grabbing the beam above a mews entry and it passes under him. The driver gets out and congratulates Steed on his time, it is Dr Darling (Nicholas Woodeson) and the village is revealed to be a film set used as a Ministry training ground [qv. Target!] as an observer holds up a card with the number 9 to indicate his score.
Mother (Jim Broadbent) meanwhile is alerted to the failure of the Prospero weather shield and is trying to placate the Prime Minister on the telephone. At the same time a messenger (Daniel Crowder) arrives at Dr Emma Peel’s flat and hands her a box of chocolates containing a card which reads “Please answer the phone” [qv. The Fear Merchants]. It rings and a woman’s voice tells her to meet John Steed at Boodle’s Gentlemen’s Club in one hour. The porter at Boodles (Richard Lumsden) is horrified when Mrs Peel enters and hurries after, telling her there hasn’t been a woman in Boodle’s since 1762. She knocks him out and he tumbles down the stairs before she strides off to find Steed sitting naked in the sauna, reading the Financial Times. He explains that he didn’t summon her; Mother wants to talk to her. They drive to Westminster where Mother is having tea with his assistant, Brenda (Carmen Ejogo). Steed frowns when Emma deliberately take a macaroon, despite him warning her earlier that they are Mother’s favourite. Emma explains the Prospero Project to Steed - a weather shield to protect against the extremes. “Until someone blows up the research lab”, Mother observes. She is then shown footage of the break-in and destruction at Prospero which clearly shows her; she declares that she’s innocent and Mother orders her and Steed to work as a team to find out who did.
As soon as they leave, Father (Fiona Shaw), Mother’s blind second in command, enters and suggests Mrs Peel may be ill - amnesia or split-personality, trauma over her husband’s disappearance. Mother concedes revenge could be a motive but says she’s they’re only lead. Steed meanwhile takes Emma to Trubshaw & Co. to be fitted for some new boots while he organises some new equipment for himself - they fence around the store [qv. The Town of No Return] while waiting for Trubshaw (John Wood) who is pleased as always to help the Ministry. They go outside and get into Steed’s Bentley which he initially struggles to start [qv. Who’s Who???] then drive to Sir August’s country house where he is (again) playing the organ. They split up, Emma entering the house while Steed scouts the gardens. Emma is led to the greenhouse by Sir August’s butler (Michael Godley) who hands her an umbrella at the greenhouse door. She enters, shielding herself from the dripping mist inside, but is suddenly grabbed around the throat by Sir August. He leads her though the garden, briefly sexually harasses her then agrees with he that cloud patterns can be controlled by microtransmissions. He shows her an orchid which has a massive magnifying disc in front of it and explains that he has created a biological impossibility in the orchid. He tries to force her to touch it (presumably because it’s poisonous and will knock her out) but she pulls her hand away and says she is wasting her time, he clearly knows nothing. This makes him irate and he declares he has forgotten more than those at the Ministry ever knew - the ratio of protons to ions, microstransmission theory, he did it all.
Steed meanwhile has found a red phone booth in the gardens and enters when he hears it ringing. A storm whips up outside and he can barely hear the voice on the line intoning, “Private property, no trespassing”. In the greenhouse, all is calm as Emma and Sir August take tea and her tells her they don’t get many trespassers - because they shoot them. Back at the phone booth, Steed emerges to a Narnia-like scene of deep snow in the woods. Sure enough, he hears a jingling sound and a sleigh being pulled by dogs appears. He stares at the figure riding it who is clad in an enormous fur coat and sunglasses but appears to be Mrs Peel. She fires a spear gun at him but he dives aside, so she then shoots him in the chest with a revolver.
Steed wakes up at Emma’s flat and finds that Trunshaw’s bulletproof waistcoat saved him. He and Emma follow up a clue she found and visit Wonderland Weather, a company that sells retail weather solutions. They pretend to be rose horticulturalists seeking perfect conditions for their roses before an upcoming flower show and the receptionist Tamara (Keeley Hawes) leads them in to see the facilities. In another part of the building, Sir August is addressing a room of people disguised in teddy bear suits. He thanks them all for their assistance in his scheme and offers a million dollars to any who are worried and wish to back out. Two bears raise their paws at the offer and August is briefly disappointed before he kills them both with poisoned darts. Tamara meanwhile has shown Steed and Emma the options available - Tuscany or Gstadt, delivered down the telephone line - but is called away by a horn honking, leaving Steed and Emma free to search the building. They find the dead bears who Emma identifies as Babbington and Morton, two scientists from Prospero. They see an orange and black bear go off in different directions. Steed follows the orange bear to the street where he finds Bailey (Eddie Izzard) dumping the costume. Bailey and his thugs surround Steed and set upon him but are easily defeated. Bailey manages to escape in a van and Steed finds a map lying on the ground showing the layout of BROLLY, the British Organisation for Lasting Liquid Years. Emma meanwhile has been attacked on the rooftop by the black bear who is revealed to be an evil version of herself. When Steed arrives, evil Emma leaps off the side of the building and disappears.
Steed meets Mother and Father in Mother’s mobile HQ atop a double-decker bus [qv. False Witness] and they discuss the two Emmas. Father is dismissive but Steed swears he saw both of them. Mother tells him to hurry up, the World Council of Ministers is meeting on St Swithin’s Day and he fears an attack. Sir August meanwhile targets the middle of England (Rutland for god’s sake!) for a test run of his plan. Steed and Emma play chess while they discuss the potential of a weather bomb. Emma finds a cluster of microclimates on a map and they decide t pay Sir August another visit. Father meanwhile visits Sir August and tells him she can’t hold off the Ministry much longer and warns him about Mrs Peel. He cheats at croquet against a blind woman by standing on the ball and asks if she might double the bet [qv. Goldfinger]. Bailey and Donavan (Shaun Ryder) are lying in wait for Steed and Emma and intercept Emma’s E-type Jaguar with a swarm of robotic drone wasps who fire at the car. Emma destroys several by driving through a tunnel then one crashes into the car and Steed takes the opportunity to turn its gun against the swarm; the last wasp causes Bailey to crash his Mini and then Steed and Emma are brought to a halt by the old lady from the village training course, who pulls out a tommy gun [qv. The Little Wonders, The Girl from Auntie and Super Secret Cypher Snatch] and kills Donavan while Bailey flees. Steed introduces her to Emma as Alice and they set off on foot for Sir August’s house as the Jag explodes behind them.
They enter the gardens, observed by a robot peacock with a camera in one of its feathers, and bizarrely decide to split up when they reach the garden maze. Emma falls down a trap on one path after encountering her evil twin and moments later Sir August attacks Steed with his cane. Steed defends him self with his umbrella and they parry each other’s blows. Sir August knocks his umbrella into the air and has vanished by the time it descends back to earth - but evil Emma appears and knocks Steed out. Emma comes to in a dungeon where she is strapped down to a metal table. [qv. A Surfeit of H2O, The Positive-Negative Man] Sir August leers at her before drugging her and we cut to Alice finding Steed in the maze. She also saw the second Emma and she has a plan. They decide to split up again and Alice goes to ring the doorbell of the mansion, interrupting Sir August’s attempt to rape Emma. (I know!, right?) Sir August answers the door and finds Alice offering him raffle tickets for a church fete. She pulls a gun on him him when he refuses her entry and demands to be taken to Mrs Peel. Emma meanwhile has awoken and staggers to her feet, the room spinning from the drugs [qv. Something Nasty in the Nursery]. Opening a door she finds herself in a maze of marble stairwells and corridors all leading back to the same room. [qv. The House that Jack Built] She hears Steed tapping on a seemingly solid wall painted as a window and dives through a mirror to crash through to the grounds outside. Alice meanwhile has pulled a revolver on Sir August but Bailey sneaks up behind her and coshes her.
Emma wakes up at Steed’s flat. He gives her the boots ordered from Trubshaw and when he puts on a boot he leans towards her and they lean their faces towards each other… They are interrupted by the arrival of Father who has ordered Emma’s arrest, Mother and Brenda are powerless to stop her. A threatening storm front moves in over London as Steed goes to visit Invisible Jones (Patrick Macnee) in the archives. He reveals that Father once worked with Sir August on some cloning experiments and identifies the BROLLY map as being of an island on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Father enters Emma’s padded cell and briefly interrogates her before admitting evil Emma; the real Emma is tranquilised and carried away.
Sir August interrupts a session of the World Council and tells them from now on they’ll buy their weather from him, “And by God you’ll pay”. Alice staggers in and hands de Wynter’s demands to Mother - 10% of Gross National Product annually. If the government doesn’t agree, “the weather will keep getting colder and colder until we’ll all have to go to tell just tow warm up”. Mother asks if she was tortured and learns that Father is a traitor. Mother goes to confront Father but Father gets the upper hand when Mother is shocked to see two Emma Peels. They escape in a modified hot air balloon before Steed arrives and he sets off in pursuit, tracking them using his pocket watch which is homing in on a sensor in Emma’s new boots. Emma comes to in the balloon and climbs outside, disabling it by disconnecting the gas hoses so the balloon loses height. Evil Emma knocks her from the balloon but before she can fix the hoses the balloon crashes into the neon sign for Wonderland Weather and she and Father are killed in the resulting explosion. Steed finds Emma in the snow of Trafalgar Square and they kiss, Steed claiming it was to make sure she was the real Mrs Peel. (I know! right?)
They cross the Serpentine in inflatable balls [qv. Never Say Never Again], finding more dead teddy bears on the island. They descend to the secret lab via another phone booth. Inside the lab they find Sir August preparing the destruction of London and Steed goes to confront him while Emma goes to disconnect the control circuits and winds up fighting Bailey. Bailey falls to his death after an acrobatic aerial fight on the cables holding the control circuits aloft while Steed and Sir August fence one again, Steed drawing a sabre from inside his umbrella just before a massive bolt of lightning destroys Big Ben. After being stabbed a couple times by Sir August’s cane, Steed gains the upper hand, pushing him back and Sir August is killed when a massive bolt of lightning strikes him and lifts him into the air. Mrs Peel has managed to shut down the facility and dives down to the bottom to meet Steed, then they have to escape quickly as an auto destruct sequence is activated.
Mother tells the Prime Minister that the crisis has been averted as blue skies return to London and Brenda rewards him with a macaroon. The Avengers enjoy a glass of champagne with Mother in an ivied rotunda on the rooftop of County Hall, across the river from the Houses of Parliament and we can see that Big Ben has been restored to working order.