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TSM Movie Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Posted by Dr. Tom on Jul 13, 2003, 18:54

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN

Starring Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, and Stuart Townsend
Written by James Dale Robinson, based on graphic novels by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
Directed by Stephen Norrington
Rated PG-13, 108 minutes


Combining a poor story, equally bad filmmaking, and a cast mailing in their performances, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (LXG) is precisely the kind of summer movie that gives summer movies such a bad name.

The film opens in 1899, set in an alternative Victorian reality, with a steam tank ravaging the streets of Britain. No technology like that exists at the time, of course, which makes the eventual premise of the movie patently absurd. A month later, in Germany, the same mysterious villain torches a dirigible facility, setting the whole thing ablaze like one giant Hindenburg. This villain, who hides his cliché scarred face behind a cliché mask, goes by the cliché name of The Phantom.

Obviously, the best way to deal with this threat is to recruit heroes of popular myth, fantasy, and science fiction, so that is just what Mycroft Holmes (aka “M,” played by Richard Roxburgh) does. He starts by going after legendary adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) to head up the League. The retired Quatermain agrees after a forced action sequence leaves him little alternative.

The rest of the League comes together in short order. They are: Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), who has somehow become a Hindu master of kung fu; Invisible Man Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), whose name was apparently changed because the H.G. Wells estate wanted nothing to do with this clunker; Dracula survivor Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), tortured soul Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), whom you wouldn’t like after he drank a flask of his formula; Oscar Wilde character Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), who’s managed to become immortal and invulnerable; and Secret Service agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West). Sawyer is, to paraphrase comic Eddie Izzard, the token American dropped into British movies to get them to sell, and it shows.

The plans of the Phantom aren’t investigated and exposed so much as they are clumsily stumbled upon, like someone banging their shins on a bedframe in the dark. The League, of course, has to deal with a traitor in their midst, as well as the fact that they end up as targets in the Phantom’s ultimate scheme to make more people just like them, which is completely unnecessary given his technological superiority to the rest of the world. The Phantom makes a very impotent villain, and it doesn’t take long for this to become obvious.

I’d like to say there’s a compelling reason to go see LXG, but there isn’t. Connery completists will inevitably see it, but will no doubt groan as much as they did during The Avengers. This is what happens when an actor accepts a part without reading the script just because he turned down two iconic roles earlier. Looking at Connery on the screen, I got the impression he hated this movie as much as I did, and his easy scowl was born not of stoicism but of disgust for what he had signed on to do.

There are no memorable performances in LXG at all, though Peta Wilson does a decent job in a role she’s all wrong for. The characters are more like caricatures, with a few minutes of heavy-handed background information designed to get the audience to like them. It doesn’t work. There’s not enough time to get the audience to invest emotionally in an ensemble cast this large, and there’s not enough meat to the story to even attempt it. The Mr. Hyde special effects look too much like a rubber suit to be taken seriously, and there were numerous problems with the presentation of the Invisible Man. None of these problems are helped by director Norrington’s tendency to throw as many kinetic fight scenes on the screen at one time as he can, thus making the movie both bad and difficult to follow.

LXG is not the worst movie I’ve seen this year. That dubious distinction still belongs to The Life of David Gale; LXG is simply garbage, while Gale is hubristic garbage that insults its audience’s intelligence every step of the way. Sean Connery delivers a line to M, in which he says, “I’m waiting to be impressed.” Those of us who saw LXG are still waiting. 2/10

Dr. Tom Fowler
Stop me before I see another crappy movie.
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