The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Review

It's 1899 and a mysterious master criminal known as the Phantom is bringing the great nations of Europe closer and closer to the brink of war. His men have robbed the Bank of England disguised as German soldiers and blown up a Zeppelin factory dressed as British infantrymen. Desperate to avert a World War, British Intelligence gathers together a team of the most unique talents the Empire has to offer: a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which comprises celebrated adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), submariner and pirate Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), immortal Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), invisible thief Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), vampire hunter turned bloodsucker Mina Harker (Peta Wilson) and a scientist with a split personality called, depending on his mood, Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde (Jason Flemyng). Joined by American secret agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West), the League sets off for Venice in Nemo's submarine, the Nautilus. A major conference of world leaders is about to take place there and the Phantom is planning to wipe them out.

I haven't read the acclaimed graphic novel on which The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is based. Maybe its writers, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill did something clever with their concept of characters from 19th century literature joining together to battle evil. All I can say is screenwriter James Dale Robinson hasn't. This is just another big, dumb action film with literary figures blowing stuff up instead of video game heroes. I doubt any of the eminent writers who conceived the League's members would be pleased with the way they've been used in this film. Allan Quatermain alone is given more than one dimension, probably in deference to Sean Connery's superstar status, though even the Great Scot can only do so much with the handful of character-building scenes he's provided. Captain Nemo and Tom Sawyer act as Quatermain's sidekicks while the rest of the League seem to be there mainly for the gimmicks they can bring to the action: Dorian can't be killed, Mina can turn into a flock of bats, etc. In the case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the filmmakers appear to have got them mixed up with Bruce Banner and the Hulk.

The humans are completely dwarfed by the production design and the special effects - literally dwarfed in the case of the Nautilus, a submarine the size of an aircraft carrier which is somehow able to fully submerge in the Thames and sail through the canals of Venice. We're supposed to be awed but the Nautilus never looks like anything other than a computer generated image. For all the money that went into this film, the special effects are pretty shoddy and director Stephen Norrington doesn't know how to integrate them effectively. In the attack on the Zeppelin hangar, he doesn't even establish the scale of the airships. Zeppelins were the size of ocean liners yet we might as well be watching barrage balloons explode. Norrington did a good job on the original Blade, a tighter and more modestly scaled action picture. This time he's out of his depth. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would like to be a thinking man's blockbuster but the finished product comes off as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider with pretensions.

Overall

4

out of 10

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