Published on July 14th, 2003 | by Erich Becker0
Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
I’ve never read the graphic novel on which The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is based and after viewing the film I wonder if I ever will for fear of my sanity. LXG is a mish-mash of action sequences, faulty, flimsy dialogue, and in sorry need of an actual script. In fact LXG feels as though bits and pieces of every movie to be released this year have been carved up and reanimated in some bastation that might be identified as a movie.
This, believe me, is hard for a critic to say on a film that he has been anxiously awaiting since the trailers first appeared. The film looked to have it all. A dark, gritty feel coupled with interesting character brought to life from the texts in which they were described, and Sean Connery, who we all know is one of the greatest actors to step foot on this planet. Ultimately not even Sir Connery can save this film from meeting the B-Movie Bargain Bin at Blockbuster. The biggest hope you could of had for this film is the pedigree of director Stephen Norrington who successfully took Blade from comic to film, but, alas, the same isn’t true here.
LXG takes place, mainly, in Europe, where a badass known only as The Phantom is plaguing the European nations, circa 1899, to instill war and sell off his highly advanced weaponry (WWII era) to the highest bidder. In order to do this he goes to opposing nations and blows stuff up speaking the language of an “enemy” country. Seemingly people in the 19 century don’t realize that there is more than one nation which speaks bad English. With imminent peril facing the world a group of the world’s greatest scientists/spy/immortal/etc. are assembled, including Dracula’s bride Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), immortal Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), explorer Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), the invisible man Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), US Secret Service agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West), and Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) with the intent to destroy The Phantom and free those whom he has enslaved.
The problem with the film really begins and ends with the script which appears to have been written in the form of a 1st grader constructing a thesis on whale migration. As you can expect this isn’t a good thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual screenplay to this film turned up in a museum for having the most loose ends and unexplained phenomenon in the world. You never actually learn where this advanced technology the Phantom has came from, he just busts down walls with a tank and runs over English Constables.
Characters appear, disappear, and change hairstyles with the blink of an eye. Of course, as with any movie focusing on an ensemble cast and special powers, there are certain problems that can be exploited by only one member of the team, but in the end these plot devices feel so contrived that you groan in disgust, mainly because you can see what’s coming.
The best acting in this mess is that of Shane West and his accurate portrayal of Tom Sawyer, now mysteriously a Secret Service agent, but when you call a teen movie character actor the best in any film you’re dwelling at the bottom of the barrel. Granted we do get some witty quips between certain characters, and the true identity of The Phantom is rather cool, if you read books, that is, but it still doesn’t relieve the sour taste in your mouth.
The film does have some redeeming factors. The action scenes, while hardly making sense, are cool to watch, and show that Sean Connery can still kick some ass, but this isn’t enough to bring the movie out of mediocrity.
In the end the betrayal by one member of the league is hardly a surprise, and how the movie will progress and end is nothing that you haven’t seen played out in countless other action films. Tack on the Hollywood ending and obvious door for a sequel and that’s all she wrote. Fox originally wanted this film to start a franchise, and I can still see that happening, but if they do decide to produce another keep in mind that for anything to succeed a script is the most important key, and a story not taken from 20 years of action films might help the cause.
LXG does a few things right, but what it does wrong knocks the film from extraordinary to just plain ordinary.