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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – Movie Review

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Poster

Written by: James Robinson, based on the comic book series by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
Directed by: Steve Norrington
Starring: Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Shane West, Stuart Townsend, Jason Flemyng, Tony Curran & Richard Roxburgh

My Advice: Don’t even think about it….

The European Nations have been manipulated to the brink of war. The British government, however, is on to said manipulation and puts the call out to a collection of “gothic curiosities” and one formerly bona fide hero. These individuals you might recognize: Allan Quatermain (Connery); Captain Nemo (Shah); Mina Harker (Wilson); Tom Sawyer (West); Dorian Gray (Townsend); Dr. Henry Jekyll (Flemyng) and The Invisible Man (Curran). This–in a nutshell–describes both the film and the comic series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Mostly.

[ad#longpost]That’s also where the line ends, as from the get-go this film is not (and has no intention of) going down the road of its comic predecessor. And the reasoning behind why the changes were made in the film makes almost as much sense as the actual film does. Which ain’t much.

Because the filmmakers clearly had to make this a Sean Connery Vehicle, the man inhabits nearly every frame of this film–and thus destroys the main context of Moore‘s original story. Quatermain being in his right mind from the beginning gives Mina nothing to add to the proceedings. But we can’t have real conflict here–we have to have the forced “buddy cop” variety. We have to have this League grow to respect each other–so clearly both Robinson and Norrington were hitting the crack pipes early on in the game.

With the focus on Quatermain, the original narrative of the books falls apart–so somebody came up with the bright idea to add two more main characters to the gang. Dorian Gray was the sole inspired choice in this film–I could see Mr. Gray fitting in with the group quite well. Tom Sawyer, however, is a completely useless figure–and should have been excised, as the American audience did NOT need a relatable character when you could have very well just given them six decently written ones. When you have a film that now has SEVEN LEADS as opposed to five–you have less space to give everyone a clear arc–which isn’t solved by Connery’s frame hogging. We never get a clear sense of Nemo’s motivations, and we never quite understand what the hell’s Mina’s doing here at all, and the Jekyll/Hyde control issues get resolved in the worst Disney-like way possible.

Oh wait–the forced conflict’s not working. Time to blow stuff up then! Because you can stop a chain of bombs by causing a HUGE EXPLOSION placed directly above a much larger concentration of bombs–where, it just so happens, all the people are. A particular development on the Nautilus was a nice touch, however, it would played better with the “evil plan” (which makes no sense in the now-altered plot) exposition completely edited out. It would have added tension to what there was of the plot. Guess we didn’t need all that “Buddy Cop” tension, after all.

What you get is an attempt to make a very cerebral (but with a knowing wink) to comic book teams past into a kickass action flick. And while the film tries to look the part, it ultimately fails in the execution on all fronts. The film is constantly second guessing itself–throwing out hints to character motivation and instantly dropping it for an ill-placed action sequence or explosion…or more Connery. Decent editing would have gone a long way to correct some of this. Guess we couldn’t have that either…

The sad thing is it would not have taken much effort to make LXG a decent film. But apparently no one here could be bothered to do that–as they were much more preoccupied in its estimation of the audience’s intelligence at the expense of the audience’s intelligence.

And if they couldn’t be bothered, why should we?

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