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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen


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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Stephen Norrington I 2003 I USA
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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen promises a lot but ultimately does not deliver. I ended up seeing this wreck because my two brothers literally dragged me to it; my expectations were, having seen all the negative reviews and buzz, reasonably low.

It must be said, however, that the film starts off quite well. The story is simple: renowned adventurer Allan Quartermain (Connery) leads a team of extraordinary figures with legendary powers to battle the technological terror of a madman known as The Phantom, who wants to create a world crisis and. This League comprises seafarer Captain Nemo (Shah), vampiress Mina Harker (Wilson), an invisible man named Rodney Skinner (Curran), American secret service agent Tom Sawyer (West), the ageless and invincible Dorian Gray (Townsend), and the dangerous split personality of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Flemyng).


Based upon the acclaimed comic books by Alan Moore and Kevin O' Neill, the film certainly does have a lot to offer; the set pieces are impressive, the visual effects are for the most part quite sensational indeed and the premise is great. Bringing the personages from literary works by Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne, Louis R Stevenson etc is a fantastic idea  - shame the execution by director Stephen Norrington is poor, uninspired and shabby. What could have been an intriguing story is absolutely ruined by a less than ordinary implementation, what could've been a fun roller-coaster ride is instead turned into an uninteresting and boring action-adventure vehicle for the deliberate showing off of Connery (who, by the by, is also executive producer of the film. Surprise, surprise...)


The main aim of the film is to entertain its viewers for almost two hours. The audience is meant to enjoy it as any given Saturday matinee, and that's precisely what it does (or at least tries to do): it seeks to keep the audience amused with all the bada-boom explosions, car chases and gunfights, all of them free of any palpable logic, of course. Expect no more. The thing is, while watching the film I could not cease thinking that the makers of the film considered the audience to be idiots. You see, there are moments in movies where the boundaries are crossed, sometimes for the better, others for the worse. Here Norrington does not simply cross the boundaries; he chews them up, spits them out and stamps on them with colossal force. Because at one point, you just know that when the monumental Nautilus submarine sails across the narrow canals of Venice, you can't help but laugh at the incomprehensibility and utter absurdity of it all. Either the makers of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen do not have a clue about Venice by any means, or worse (and more likely), they believe that their audience doesn't. And when filmmakers think that they know a lot more than the public, don't you just have that desperate wanton to violently beat their faces to a pulp with a metal pole?  


One of the other important things that the movie seems to (purposefully?) ignore is the laws of physics. Now, I am aware that the laws of physics in action movies are often easily overlooked they are no doubt less relevant than the eye-boggling explosions. That said, I rapidly came to the conclusion that the movie as a whole was a mere joke; in one particular scene, (if my memory serves rightly) as Tom Sawyer and Quatermain go through the streets of Venice in a speeding car (yes, that's right, a car in 1860 something), Quatermain jumps out of the car and lands on the floor. He's just standing on the floor. Inertia did not seem to affect his jump or anything; he didn't roll on the floor after the jump. He merely jumps out of the fast-moving vehicle and in the next instant hes standing on the floor. Just like that. I was like, "What the hell?" I felt like throwing my popcorn at the screen, but I decided not to. I tried to ignore that and moved on.


The film also suffers from the so called atrociously-written dialogue syndrome. Connery goes around, beating up everyone in sight without getting hurt, throwing unoriginally lame one-liners everywhere and trying to be funny when in fact he's not. This is made all the more saddening because the writers do not seem to be aware that what they've written is solely and purely appalling. They just won't (or perhaps don't want to) realise that the dialogue is terribly unimaginative. Everything is so muddled, so convolutedly disorganised and uncreative that to not think of the word "catastrophe" is inevitable.

And it's not just that: all the characters that they've illustrated are as unsympathetic as they're dull, and note that there's a vast array of them. Not even once did I feel for any of them or identify with them, let alone relate to them and their emotions. The father/son relationship between Quatermain and Tom Sawyer is disorganised and unimportant, as is the one between Dorian and Harker. Overall, the script is a disaster, although not even more so than the execution of it.


Summer 2003 was a fun one. Several blockbusters proved to be convincing: Pirates of the Caribbean, Terminator 3, Hulk - they all did the job they were assigned to do with great finesse. However, while The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen may be mildly fun, it's also brainless, dumb and simply put, ineffably stupid -  that's how bad it is. Do not spend your money on this unnecessary and pointless piece of trash, unless that is, you're in the mood to get a feel of what messy editing looks like.


Reviewed by Pablo Hernandez, 2003