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Section Header
The Avengers
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:
Joel McNeely

Orchestrated by:
David Slonaker
Jeff Atmajian

Compass III Records

Release Date:
November 10th, 1998

Also See:
Wild America
Shadows of the Empire

Audio Clips:
1. Main Title (0:29):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (240K)
Real Audio (149K)

5. DeWinter Castle (0:29):
WMA (184K)  MP3 (224K)
Real Audio (139K)

12. Invisible Jones (0:25):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (241K)
Real Audio (150K)

18. The Avengers Theme (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (257K)
Real Audio (160K)

Regular U.S. release, though the album quickly fell out of print and is difficult to find.


The Avengers

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Used Price: $21.98

Sales Rank: 467288

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Buy it... if you're one of the few, unfortunate souls who actually witnessed this film and agree that Joel McNeely's relatively snazzy blend of orchestral and synthetic style was one of the few redeeming production values.

Avoid it... if the cost of the extremely rare album doesn't merit the surrealistic, unorganized mess that McNeely tried to tie together to form a cohesive musical identity for the film's senseless plot.

The Avengers: (Joel McNeely) Cinematic disasters rarely come as total and devastating as the 1998 adaptation of The Avengers. In every aspect of the translation of the concept from the small to big screen, The Avengers failed miserably, and critics commonly consider the film to be among the worst of its decade. A completely incomprehensible plot, seemingly shuffled endlessly during production, combined with clueless direction and actors who obviously showed up simply to collect a check to create a film that was too confusing to entertain even the most loyal B-grade matinee enthusiasts. Meant as a comical spoof of the James Bond franchise, The Avengers put the unlikely pair of Emma Peel and John Steed, lackadaisically played by Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes, up against Sean Connery's weather-controlling villain for control of England and the world. Nothing that transpired along the path to victory for Peel and Steed made any sense, however, and with action sequences that could not salvage the plot, The Avengers is about as senseless as it gets. Other than Peel's mandatory leather suit, the production only had two upsides: a stunningly colorful advance poster and an overachieving score by Joel McNeely. So unorganized was the production of The Avengers that even its first composer couldn't stick around for the fun; Michael Kamen left this project to write for, of all things, Lethal Weapon 4. His name remains forever printed on those advance posters, though. Lucky for him, Joel McNeely was put in the unenviable position of trying to salvage what he could from the film, and, in typical McNeely fashion, he did a relatively good job. The years of 1998 and 1999 were a "make or break" period for McNeely in his efforts to burst through into the mainstream of film scoring, and unfortunately, all the major films he scored during this time were complete flops. Among the music he wrote for movies such as this, Soldier, and Virus, the last of those three may feature the best singular moments, but The Avengers is the most intriguing overall work.

The surreal lack of focus in the film forced McNeely to jump wildly in the same haphazard way, failing to allow a strong, overarching sense of cohesiveness to result. But McNeely comes damn close, and for this alone he should be commended. While a token concert arrangement of Laurie Johnson's original television theme would be tacked on to the film and album, McNeely coins a superior idea for the snazzy allure of the concept. Heard extensively in "Main Title" and used in various guises throughout the score, this theme is the easy highlight. Combining synthetic rhythms, drum pads, and the full orchestral ensemble in swinging jazz mode, this theme opens with a stylish electronic whistling performance of the theme that closely resembles Mark Snow's similar use for The X-Files. This track interestingly opens with an inverted form of Alan Silvestri's piano motif of mystery from Back to the Future, which is used by McNeely here to form the basis of the theme. Weaving in and out over the duration of the score, this theme only receives one lush performance in the waning moments of "Invisible Jones." A secondary theme exists in the form of an organ-led waltz for Connery's character, and this elegant piece receives perhaps the most development (in "DeWinter Castle," "Sir August's Garden," and "DeWinter's Waltz") of any idea in the score. Two somewhat underutilized ideas for each of the heroes can be heard successively in "Meet Emma Peel" (with a sensual, but poorly realized theme) and "John Steed, I Presume" (which is a far more effective, sophisticated representation of the character). The action material in The Avengers is engaging in parts, but tiresome and mundane in others. Among the highlights are "Prospero Lab Destruction" and "The Final Conflict," which both show McNeely's tendency to imitate the action style of Jerry Goldsmith at the time. A brief flurry of harmonious crescendos in the first 20 seconds of "Invisible Jones" foreshadows the typhoon cue in Virus.

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The remaining lengthy action cues never muster enough dramatic power, nor do they step into the realm of truly cartoonish parody, which leaves them clearly undecided. There is no distinct love theme for Peel and Steed, and for their closer moments in "Are You All Right?" and "Aftermath," McNeely makes very little attempt to mingle their respective themes, instrumentation, or even allow the title theme to convincingly evolve into something more sensual. In the end, it's this overall sense of indecision that causes the score to wander. You can't help but blame the film for this lack of cohesiveness, however, and McNeely's consistent instrumental creativity, especially in the electronics, still managed to lend the score something of a memorable identity. Interestingly, the most notable aspect of the score was it album release, which marked the first commercial venture by Randy Gerston's Compass III Records, an affiliate of Samson Music. The quality of this initial offering, including the lengthy hour of music presented and well-engineered sound, led many film score collectors to have high hopes for the label. At some point in the following year, the label changed its name to Chapter III Records and, after releasing Danny Elfman's A Simple Plan, Mychael Danna's Eight Millimeter, an expanded album of David Arnold's Tomorrow Never Dies, and Rachel Portman's The Legend of Bagger Vance over the next two years, the label abruptly went out of business and all of the above albums became rarities. While the Portman album is the most sought after of these pressings, The Avengers has sold for well over $100 despite the film's poor reputation. If only "Main Title," a piece of DeWinter's waltz, and parts of "Prospero Lab Destruction" and "Invisible Jones" could be condensed into a 10-minute suite, then that's all you'd need to get a good taste of McNeely's valiant attempt to infuse some pizzazz into an otherwise dead project. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Joel McNeely reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.31 (in 16 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.04 (in 7,541 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.8 Stars
Smart Average: 2.84 Stars*
***** 126 
**** 139 
*** 199 
** 197 
* 178 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Over 100 dollars? Really?
  Andre -- 3/17/09 (8:48 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 59:08

• 1. Main Title (2:52)
• 2. Prospero Lab Destruction (3:51)
• 3. Meet Emma Peel (1:09)
• 4. John Steed, I Presume? (2:51)
• 5. DeWinter Castle (2:08)
• 6. Sir August's Garden (4:22)
• 7. Chasing Teddy Bears (4:22)
• 8. Flight of the Mechanical Bees (3:04)
• 9. Into the Love Maze (3:56)
• 10. DeWinter's Waltz (1:25)
• 11. Stairway to Madness (2:41)
• 12. Invisible Jones (3:53)
• 13. Emma's Balloon Escape (4:18)
• 14. Are You All Right? (2:30)
• 15. Avenging Crimes (5:09)
• 16. The Final Conflict (7:22)
• 17. Aftermath (1:05)
• 18. The Avengers Theme* (1:25)

* composed by Laurie Johnson for the original TV series.

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert contains short notes from the director and producer of the film.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Avengers are Copyright © 1998, Compass III Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/12/98 and last updated 3/11/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.