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Movie Review by:
Jim "Good Old JR" Rutkowski
Directed by:
Stephen Norrington
Written by:
James Robinson
Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, Stuart Townsend.
Running time:
110 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence, language and innuendo.
 "'s a visually gorgeous, narratively feeble exercise in which cardboard characters are moved around between orgasmic explosions and weightless carnage."
The marketing brains at 20th Century Fox are apparently terrified that 13-year-old boys won't have heard of the famous literary superheroes in ''The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,'' let alone be able to pronounce the film's title. That must be why the trailers and ads reduce the name to a more instant-message friendly ''LXG'' and scrupulously avoid mention of the characters. The depressing part is that they're probably right.

For the record, the heroes are: adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), the Invisible Man (Tony Curran), Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), Dr. Henry Jekyll a.k.a. Mr. Edward Hyde (Jason Flemyng), and a young American sharpshooter named Tom Sawyer (Shane West). These uncanny LXG-men (and woman) band together in 1899 London to combat the global designs of a madman known only as the Phantom. In his possession are unheard-of weapons -- you would recognize them as tanks and automatic rifles -- and his endgame is a brand new concept called world war.
Neat idea, no? It certainly was when renegade comic book writer Alan Moore and illustrator Kevin O'Neill came up with it in 1999. The series of graphic novels on which the new movie is loosely based marks a clever and well-turned addition to the ''steampunk'' genre that transmuted the edgy what-if speculations of cyberpunk fiction into a 19th-century setting.
Unfortunately, the movie version of ''The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'' has the distinction of being much dumber and pulpier than any comic book ever made -- the ink practically comes off on your fingers as you watch it. Moore's comic utilized the conceit of using literary characters to great effect. They were unique personalities having to work together to combat not just a major foe, but also there own inner demons. Directed by Stephen Norrington (''Blade'') and executive produced by Connery himself, it's a visually gorgeous, narratively feeble exercise in which cardboard characters are moved around between orgasmic explosions and weightless carnage. This isn't a ripoff on the order of ''Wild Wild West'' or ''The Avengers'' -- two storied disasters from summers past -- but it's close.

A typical scene: The League has followed the Phantom to Venice, where he plans to sink the city with a series of underground bombs. To stop the chain reaction of collapsing buildings, Tom Sawyer has to drive Nemo's newfangled ''auto-mobile'' into the epicenter of the blast so the Captain can track him with a rocket, because everyone knows that to stop a bomb you just need a bigger bomb. After a noisy chase, the rocket eventually lands square on Sawyer's noggin -- and two scenes later he's swaggering around with a teensy scratch on his brow.
There is dialogue in the spaces between heavy-weapons fire, although the acting across the board is mostly action-figure posturing. We learn that Mina, early established as an F.O.D. (Friend of Dracula), has vamperic ways that jeopardize her possible romance with Tom (it also results in a nifty instant perm whenever she transforms). Quatermain mourns his dead son and finds in Tom a suitable replacement; he tells the younger man, ''If you can't do it with one bullet, don't do it at all,'' advice the movie itself heartily scorns. Dorian is a sneaky devil with a telltale painting in his attic; the Invisible Man's a Cockney petty crook; Henry Jekyll is a wimpy 19th-century Bruce Banner and his alter-ego a computer-tweaked behemoth who could be the Hulk's more socialized cousin.

The most intriguing character in ''League'' is Nemo, presented (as in the comic book) as the mystic Persian pasha that Jules Verne originally envisioned. Nemo's submarine, the Nautilus, is a stunning creation -- a sleek, silver Victorian-era needle that could have boiled up out of artist H.R. Giger's dreams. How this massive craft manages to navigate the narrow canals of Venice is another matter.

Your adolescent son will think it's the dopiest thing he has seen in, oh, weeks, especially a climactic battle between Hyde and a hilariously pumped-up villain that is pure PlayStation. Anyone without braces, however, may detect a low rumbling in the background. It's not the screws of the Nautilus you hear, but the combined sounds of Verne, H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, and H. Rider Haggard twirling rapidly in their graves.

All Rights Reserved.

Review 2003 Alternate Reality, Inc.



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