LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (**)
Movie Review by:
Jim "Good Old JR" Rutkowski
Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, Stuart Townsend.
for intense sequences of fantasy violence,
language and innuendo.
"...it'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
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
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
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.
LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN ©
2003 20th Century Fox.
All Rights Reserved.
Review © 2003 Alternate Reality, Inc.
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