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Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

People who know me will be aware that am a big fan of comic books and comic book movies. In particular I enjoy those comics written by the genius that is Alan Moore (Watchmen, The Killing Joke, Swamp Thing etc) who wrote the mini-series upon which this movie is based. I could review this film by comparing it to the comic book, but I won’t as the differences are too many and painful to list.

When I first watched this when it first came out I really enjoyed it. There was a pulp novel sensibility to the proceedings and the many characters meant there was always something else to look out for. However, having it watched it again on DVD (for the purposes of later comments I’ll mention the fact it was a normal DVD played on an Upscaler DVD player and viewed on an LCD TV) I realised that it is an absolute travesty of a movie.

Basically, a few fictitious characters (Allan Quartermain, Capt. Nemo, Mina Harker, an Invisible Man, Mr Hyde, Dorian Gray, Tom Sawyer) are recruited by the British Empire to combat the villianous plans of the mysterious Fantom (Richard Roxburgh).

The characters are all introduced bit by bit and say something humorous and then an bit of action happens. All the characters appear to speak with the same voice with a constant quipping at every encounter. Their lines could be pretty much interchangeable. There is also no consistency with their characterisation. For example, Mina Harker (Peta Wilson) is at first all distant and mysterious about what happened then at the first sign of trouble she Vamps up and rips out the neck of a generic guard. She then whackily licks the blood off her hand while tidying herself up in a compact mirror. There is a tiny bit of exposition about this and then on with the story as if nothing much happened. It just doesn’t make for a convincing character portrayal. The characterisation of all the characters is similarly poor.

Then there is the all pervading presence of Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery) who basically sorts everything out while the rest of the team don’t do much apart from take out the generic guards and be the source of copious amounts of exposition.

The effects, particularly the CGI, are pretty much rubbish and stick out like a sore thumb which good effects should not do. The compositing of the building blowing up near the start of the film is atrocious. As for the Mr Hyde costume/effect, at first you think it is pretty well done, then the more you watch it the more you realise how embarrassingly stupid it really is. It looks like a load of balloons covered in skin. The Invisible Man (Tony Curran) effects aren’t too bad until you notice that the white face paint he applies to make himself visible keeps changing from a few bits slapped on his face to his whole head being covered and then back again (plus if he is naked when invisible why does he leave bootprints in the snow?)

The sets themselves are okay and quite detailed, particularly the portraits in M’s meeting room that show previous incarnations of The League. However, Dorian Gray’s (Stuart Townsend) library appears to have been designed purely for the arrival of gun toting generic guards to stand in the gaps between the bookshelves. This is lazy plotting and design to make the environment fir the fight scene. Just one of those faults that niggles at you.

All of this could maybe have been lifted if the bad guy had been a great one. They don’t really come much better than the criminal genius of Professor Moriarty, but this film would make you think the total opposite. At first Richard Roxburgh plays him as The Fantom a basic 1 dimensional scarred bad guy and then shows no menace whatsoever when he shows his true face. I assume this was the start of Mr Roxburgh’s career suicide which was completed during his camp portrayal in the dreadful Van Helsing movie.

I could go on about how Tom Sawyer (Shane West) was shoe horned in to give Allan Quartermain a surrogate son and also appease the American audience by giving them an American hero, or how they wasted the character of Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) by having him do a bit of kung fu but whose basic function is to get the team from point A to point B. I could go on but I won’t. I think you get the picture.

Needless to say the reported conflict between Sean Connery and the director during the making of the movie will have contributed to some of the disaster that appears on screen, but the scriptwriter, effects people and other actors must take some of the blame.

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