you know the drill: when something makes enough of an impression on the pop-culture, it's influence opens the floodgates for similarly themed productions. in the original wake of 007-mania there was a veritable plethora of spy-themed tv shows in America, and surprisingly, most managed to have their own identity rather than simply imitate. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was the first and, next to Get Smart, the very best. Napoleon Solo, as played by Robert Vaughn, and Illya Kuryakin, as played by David McCallum, are one of the small screen's all-time great hero teams.
(legend even has it that Ian Fleming himself contributed. the story goes that Fleming got as far as coining the name Napoleon Solo before Bond producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli frowned upon his fraternizing with the competition. but as far as i know it's only a story.)
the film version is courtesy of Guy Ritchie, fresh off of his triumphant films starring Robert Downey as Sherlock Holmes. the finished movie just might be good enough to vindicate it's stars, Henry "Man Of Steel" Cavill and Armie "The Lone Ranger" Hammer, for their prior flops. although in all fairness, neither was at all bad in their respective roles. it was the films themselves that were mishandled.
Cavill expertly replicates the erudite mischief of Robert Vaughn. it could be argue that he simply imitates Vaughn, but either way he gets the job done. Hammer, meanwhile, brings a rougher edge to Kuryakin. it's kind of a bummer that he has none of the philosophical bent that characterized McCallum's version, but again, his approach serves the film.
the basic gimmick presents the film as a prequel. set in 1963, the year before the series premiered, the film deals with Cold War tensions at their heaviest. intrepid burglar turned CIA agent Solo and KGB operative Kuryakin are presented as rivals forced to work together and learn to like each other in the process.
if i'm completely honest, i have semi-reservations about the film, because it only vaguely echoes the series. there's no mention of their standing nemesis, the terrorist organization Thrush, for instance, and the formation of U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law Enforcement) is presented as the culmination of the film's events. in what just might be first for a film version of a tv show, they don't even use Jerry Goldsmith's theme music!
you'd think they could at least manage the customary cameos for original stars. if memory serves, the late Robert Vaughn wasn't late just yet in 2015.
but it's hard to make that stick, since the film does manage to work as far as it goes. and there's the suggestion that, had the sequel come to pass, it would've dealt more directly with U.N.C.L.E. as we know it. moreover, it must be admitted that it's liberties with our heroes' relationship make sense. relations between their respective countries were, after all, much pricklier than the series usually presented. for that matter, even on the series Solo and Kuryakin tended to have the sort of Bing Crosby/Bob Hope relationship which allows for the occasional semi-gentle ribbing. it makes sense that their initial meeting was probably less than amicable.
i guess all i'm really saying is that i personally wouldn't of taken the same approach. well, that's okay. i have many favorite films which i probably wouldn't done the same way, including my very favorite, Lord Of The Rings. i bet most people could say the same.
certainly the way it was approached isn't necessarily wrong. the film may be formulaic, but it plays the formula expertly for all it's worth.
so go ahead, say U.N.C.L.E.!
and yes, i did have to say that.