Written by James Robinson
Running Time: 1:47
as Allan Quartermain
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was neither extraordinary, nor actually only of gentlemen, but was in fact a league. Other than the concept of having famous literary characters come together under one roof, the movie itself was so-so - neither really good, but not a big horrible mess.
In 1899, the world is on the verge of war, all started by a mysterious man known as Fantom. He is trying to sucker the world into war so he can sell his revolutionary military machines and make a huge profit. A man known only as M forms a league of champions to help save the day. They include the famous adventurer Allan Quartermain, the sometime pirate Captain Nemo, the immortal Dorian Gray, the vampire Mina Harker, the rogue Rodney Skinner a.k.a. the Invisible Man, the multi-faced Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the American spy, Tom Sawyer. Together, they must stop the Fantom from leading the world to war and also figure out which one of them has turned traitor, and is helping the Fantom get their most valued possessions: their powers.
From what I've been able to gather, the original comic book series focuses on Mina Harker, from Bram Stokerís Dracula, who is the leader of the League. Allen Quartermain from Henry Rider Haggard's King Solomonís Mines, Captain Nemo from Jules Verneís 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from Robert Louis Stevensonís novel, and Dr. Hawley Griffin from H.G. Wellsí The Invisible Man along with Campion Bond, an ancestor to James Bond, are also members of the group. From the movie you can see that it's Quartermain that is the group leader, and not Mina. Also, Dr. Griffin has been changed to Rodney Skinner, apparently because of a dispute with the people that control the estate of H.G. Wells. There is no Campion Bond character either, possibly because of contractual issues of using the name 'Bond' in a film. And the characters of an adult Tom Sawyer, from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Dorian Gray, from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, have been added. Would the movie have been any different had the movie remained faithful to the graphic novel? Probably only in casting, since with Sean Connery attached as Quartermain, there was little chance he'd settle for a supporting role. The rest of the cast seemed to fit their roles well enough. Connery, while getting a little too old for these kinds of roles, was still able to hold his own against his young cast. Peta Wilson as Mina Harker was gothic enough for her purposes, although I would have like to have seen more of her character. Shane West as Tom Sawyer played the brash young American role well. Jason Flemyng as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was both sad and scary, even if the Mr. Hyde character got too many laughs for its own good. Stuart Townsend as Dorian Gray was rather bland, but he looked right for the role of the immortal. Naseeruddin Shah played a seriously bad-ass Captain Nemo; he looked like he could challenge Neo in a martial arts fight. I never knew Captain Nemo could kick as much butt as he did. I'm hoping he gets a spin-off movie of his own. Tony Curran as The Invisible Man wasn't seen all that much (for obvious reasons), but his voice fit the part. All in all the casting wasn't bad, just the story they were put into was.
The story was both convoluted and sparse at the same time. The first half of the movie almost was spent meeting the characters, with little said or done about the main story line of stopping the Fantom. And why in the credits he's known as the Fantom instead of the Phantom is beyond me. Then people start going from good guy to bad guy and vice versa and you wonder what the point was. The audience wasn't invested in enough in the bad guy to really care once we found out who it was. And his explanation seemed to be thrown in as an afterthought once the director (or Sean Connery depending on what reports you read) saw the movie and realized it made no sense. I think the concept of the movie was great; the idea of having these great literary characters all come together as a group to fight for justice, but once that passes, you kind of need to have a worthwhile story to keep people interested. This movie felt a lot like The Hulk to me in that the entire film seemed to be setting up a sequel. Use the first movie to set up all the characters and their past histories, give them a throw-away plot, but get people geared up for a sequel. Well, as evidenced by The Hulk's box office freefall, unless you give people what they want to start off with, you may not be able to make a sequel. I think if the movie has a straight forward plot, just one evil guy with some henchmen wanting to take over/destroy the world, with maybe one surprise plot twist, and throw in a lot of action, you would have had a good movie. Instead you throw in one too many twists that no one cares about, and suddenly the movie becomes ho-hum.
And it wasn't that the movie was bad. As I said, the actors all fit their roles well, and the special effects, while not things that haven't been seen before, were done well. Some of the explosions looked a little cheap, but the major things like the Invisible Man and Mina Harker and her bats all worked out. The look of the film was dark and foreboding, which again worked well for this movie. And Captain Nemo's ship the Nautilus looked impressive, along with his supercharged car that apparently only Ishmael and Tom Sawyer can drive. I'm not sure Prague did a good job of doubling for Venice, having never been to Venice, and I can't say I understood how blowing up one building would stop other buildings from falling (why wouldn't blowing up that building still lead others to fall? Maybe some engineer can explain that to me), but all in all, it all looked good. My other (small) problem was that in everything I've ever read or seen on vampires, the one constant is that they don't have a reflection, yet as soon as Mina bites someone, she pulls out a mirror to check to make sure there's no blood on her face.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was one of those movies that would have been just as good seeing on the small screen, as it was on the big screen. The concept was great, but the story fell flat and couldn't hold my attention. The actors all worked and the look of the film was good, but without a strong story you're left with only an idea holding the movie together, and after getting over the intrigue of having all these literary giants on screen together, without something to keep them together, the movie starts to fall apart at the seams.
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The League of
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The Unofficial Companion to
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