Renowned adventurer Allan Quatermain leads a team of extraordinary figures with legendary powers to battle the technological terror of a madman known as "The Fantom." This "League" comprises seafarer/inventor Captain Nemo, vampiress Mina Harker, an invisible man named Rodney Skinner, American secret service agent Tom Sawyer, the ageless and invincible Dorian Gray, and the dangerous split personality of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.
/ Czech Republic
Directed by: Stephen Norrington
. Starring: Sean Connery
, Naseeruddin Shah
, Peta Wilson
, Tony Curran
, Stuart Townsend
, Shane West
, Jason Flemyng
, Richard Roxburgh
, Max Ryan
, Tom Goodman-Hill
, David Hemmings
, Terry O'Neill
, Rudolf Pellar
. Music by: Trevor Jones
Comic book movies seem to be all the rage in Hollywood, from the "X-Men" franchise to "Spider-Man." This is hardly a new craze - "Superman" and "Batman" are well-established franchises - but there certainly seems to be a glut of them at the moment. I mean, "The Punisher?" The hell are they doing bringing that old chestnut to the big screen.
Ah well. C'est la vie. For those who thrive on comics and graphic novels, it's a good time to be alive. I'm not one of those people, but its amazing to see the range of such material available for adaptation. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," based on the work of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, is such a fascinating concept, I'm surprised it wasn't made into a film sooner. The story unites some of the 19th century's most famous - and infamous - literary characters in a fight to save the world from the nefarious plans of an evil mastermind. While it's not on a par with "Spider-Man," and nowhere near the league of "X2," "LXG" packs enough of a whollop to be worth the price of a matinee ticket. If you're going to an evening show, I suggest you take a lot of friends and try to get a group discount, because it's just not worth $8.
The leader of the League is Alan Quatermain ("King Solomon's Mines"), played by the indomitable Sean Connery, who does a wonderful job as a crotchety old Great White Hunter. Joining him on the quest is Dorian Gray ("The Portrait of Dorian Gray," Stuart Townsend), an immortal, laissez faire aristocrat; Mina Harker ("Dracula," Peta Wilson), a vampire; Rodney Skinner (taking the place of Claude Raines, "The Invisible Man," played by Tony Curran); Dr. Jekyll (and his infamous alter ego, Mr. Hyde), from Robert Louis Stevenson's book of the same name, played by Jason Flemyng; Captain Nemo ("20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," Naseeruddin Shah), a pirate; and Tom Sawyer ("The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," Shane West), a spy and all-American good ole boy. Recruited by a mysterious figure called M, the League is instructed to stop a wicked villain - known as the Phantom (of "of the Opera" fame) - from starting a world war. On top of that small order, they have to wrap it up in four days.
Well. That doesn't leave much time for a breather for our heroes, nor does it leave the movie much chance to establish any kind of character development. Each figure is introduced in whirlwind fashion, and their backgrounds are forcefed to the audience in blink-and-you'll-miss-it soundbytes. Mina's story of being bitten by the man himself, Count Dracula, is told so quickly, you almost don't realize it's been mentioned at all. They're thrown together over the course of fifteen minutes, and begin functioning like a well-oiled machine soon after. I find it a bit hard to believe that these disparate figures of questionable morality would gel so quickly, but since this is the movies, I'll suspend my disbelief.
Most of the screentime is dominated by Connery (let's face it, it's his movie), West (with Connery), and Townsend (who proves to the world that he can play a smarmy bard, but would have been AWFUL as Aragorn in "LotR"). Interesting characters, yes, but more time needed to be given to the others! Tantalizing hints of a MinaDorianJekyll love triangle remain just that - hints. I especially mourn this loss because I would have loved to see this triangle come to fruition: the three characters with the most moral and spiritual corruption, interacting on such a personal level. The possibilities for drama and character development are staggering. A slightly more prominent MinaDorianTom triangle bears a bit more fruit, but the fruit is runty and not worth eating. Nemo is enigmatic by the end of the film - how good can a man be who worships Kali, Hindu goddess of death? And honestly, I forgot Curran was even in the movie - he disappears (literally and figuratively) for at least three-quarters of the film.
The effects were good, but not great. Nemo's "Nautilus" was beautiful, inside and out, and his "automobile" was fantastic. Mina's ability to morph into a flock of vampire bats was impressive as well. Mr. Hyde - a primarily CGI character - was believable enough, but in a world where Gollum rules supreme, the big brute just didn't live up to standard. The fight scenes were okay, but not memorable. The only exception is a knockdown match between Hyde and an uber-Hyde wannabe.
You'll hear people complain that there was too much modern technology (eg, machine guns, cars, tanks, etc) in the movie. Tell them to suck it up and pay attention - that was the whole frelling POINT.
In the end, I'll say that most of this movie's ills could have been cured by a few script changes and an extra hour's running time. Quatermain's father-complex towards Sawyer was written so bluntly, it was almost painful, and many moments that are meant to be climactic and shocking were obvious to me five minutes into the movie. Flemyng, Curran and Wilson were so underused, it's criminal. How can you sideline Dr. Jekyll, an invisible man, and a vampire? It boggles the mind.
But perhaps I'm just being picky. This is a summer movie, after all, and it gives the audience everything they're expecting: explosions, fight scenes, a few humorous quips, and plenty of moody lighting. If nothing else, perhaps this movie will prompt audiences to go out and pick up the books from which the characters are derived. I, for one, intend to finally dust off a copy of Oscar Wilde's "The Portrait of Dorian Gray." I suggest you do the same.
Review by mnemosyne23 from the Internet Movie Database.