Written by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, and James Robinson
Directed by Stephen Norrington
I don’t know how I missed this movie up until now. As soon as I read the description, I was intrigued. I also wondered why I managed to miss it for so long. It had so many elements that I am fond of. The only thing I can think of is that since I’ve never been a huge James Bond fan, with Sean Connery in the lead role and looking at the title, I believed this was something similar to a spy film. It’s nothing like a spy film.
The setting is the turn of the 20th century. A madman is going across Europe with a superweapon. Countries are pointing fingers at each other and are on the brink of war.
Sean Connery is Allan Quartermain. A man visits him in Kenya and asks for his help in trying to keep the peace. Quartermain is convinced to come back after dodging an assassin’s bullet. He leads a team of legendary figures out of great literary works in a battle against this madman, known as The Fantom. This grouping consists of Captain Nemo (portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah), Secret Service Agent Tom Sawyer (portrayed by Shane West), The Invisible Man (portrayed by Tony Curran), Mina Harker (portrayed by Peta Wilson), Dorian Gray (portrayed by Stewart Townsend), and Dr. Jekyll (portrayed by Jason Flemyng). They are gathered together on this mission by M (portrayed by Richard Roxburgh).
The team travels in Nemo’s ship, the Nautilus to try and prevent the destruction of Venice which is hosting an international conference of dignitaries. Along the way, they share misadventures as they try to get to the root of the problem, and learn there is a turncoat in their midst.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore. I haven’t read the novel, but after seeing the film I’ll likely look them up. From reading some of the plot summaries, it’s apparent that the story has been sanitized to make it more family-friendly. It carried a PG-13 rating which I’m sure would have been an R had plot points such as Allan Quartermain being an opium addict and fleeing an Egyptian Port with Miss Mina Murray under threat of rape. The story concept of bringing together all these classic characters in a Victorian setting battling a futuristic villain is quite good. As the film opened, I thought it was going to be a time-travel story as the weaponry looked that advanced. The same is true of the Nautilus which is quite advanced for the time period.
Overall, I enjoyed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen even with some of the plot holes. Anyone who has read the stories these characters come from will recognize the departure from how they were written. Didn’t Dorian Gray spend most of the novel staring at his portrait, enthralled with himself? Here he is afraid to look upon the painting for fear that it will break the spell. The idea of Tom Sawyer growing up and becoming a secret service agent is intriguing, but there is really no background given as to why he’s included in the group, except as a necessary representative for the time period.
The acting is good. Sean Connery is, well, Sean Connery. He seems to portray Allan Quartermain the way he has portrayed many other characters, but that works here. Stewart Townsend as Dorian Gray was magnificent and probably the highlight of the film. Peta Wilson also does a terrific job as the sole female among a harem of males fawning over her. She gets the danger edge perfectly in her character without being over-the-top.
There are some great special effects, especially of Mr. Hyde. The action sequences are good as well. The storyline is a bit convoluted but decent. At times there are lines of script worthy of producing groans for its corniness, so the writing could have been stronger. I’m not sure if that’s the flavor of what the novel was like, but it could have been better.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is worth seeing if you are a science fiction or literary buff. The characterizations might put some people off, but the film is fun overall. What a very different idea that feels like something totally new and fresh.
” Assembling the League
” Deleted and Extended Scenes
” Commentary by Producers Don Murphy and Trevor Albert and Actors Shane West, Jason Fleming, and Tony Curran
” Commentary by Costume Designer Jacqueline West, Visual Effects Supervisor John E. Sullivan, Make-Up Effects Supervisor Steve Johnson, and Miniatures Creator Matthew Gratzner
Categories: Movie Reviews