The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Review
By Shawn McKenzie 07/11/2003
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a movie that has a cool idea. What if a Justice League of turn of the century literary figures were real and fought evil? This movie brings us just that, and the results are pretty sweet.
It?s 1899 and the upcoming 20th century brings some neat new technological advances like automobiles, submarines, tanks, and machine guns. It also brings the threat of a World War, and a villain known as the Fantom has been taking advantage of some of these technological advances in various European countries in order to start this World War, where he will profit from it. A member of the British Empire named M (Richard Roxburgh) has called upon some of the greatest heroes in the world to deal with the problem. They are called the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and it is comprised of famous literary figures (in their world, these people are real.) M sends his representative, Sanderson Reed (Tom Goodman-Hill), to Africa to recruit the first one, hunter and adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery, who also executive-produced the movie.) He is recruited to lead the League and help recruit the other members. The pirate Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), from 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, was one of the first three members recruited. He has a problem with the British Empire, but he doesn?t want to see a World War. Scientist turned vampire Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), who had helped vampire hunter Van Helsing track down Dracula before being bitten herself, also wants to avoid a World War. Invisible man Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), a thief who had stolen the invisible formula from the scientist who had created it, but discovered that he couldn?t change back, was only in it because he was promised that they might be able to change him back. Quatermain had been recruited for his bravery and shooting accuracy, Nemo for his inventions and martial arts, Harker for her intelligence and immortal strength, and Skinner for his invisibility. They next go to the house of Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) and try to recruit him. They wanted Gray because of his immorality and lack of the fear of death. He was immortal because he had made a wish never to die or grow old. A portrait of him instead does the aging, and he would die if he ever laid eyes upon it. At first, Gray has no interest in joining the League, but after an attack by the Fantom?s crew, he decides to join for the fun of it. It is during this attack that they also recruit American secret service agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West), who has no powers, but like Quatermain, he is incredibly brave. The last member of the League recruited is Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng.) He is recruited mainly for the Hyde part (since Hyde becomes huge and Hulk-like) and is promised clemency if he joined (in other words, he would be allowed to come back to London without fear of incarceration.) The League heads for Venice in Nemo?s sub, the Nautilus, where they hope to stop the Fantom from destroying the city with some planted bombs and killing some world leaders, which would start the World War. Quatermain is not sure who to trust, since most of the League is comprised of characters with checkered pasts and aren?t too concerned about world peace. Along the way, he comes to learn who is good and who is bad, some of whom are people he hadn?t considered (including a traitor in the League.) He also grows close to Sawyer, who acts as a substitute son for his real son, who had tragically died during one of his adventures.
Based off a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and Kevin O?Neill (who also wrote the graphic novel From Hell), this is the latest movie adaptation to take some liberties. Like past comic book movie adaptations, I once again don?t care, since I?m not a comic book geek. For those unfamiliar with how the movie differs from the graphic novel, I will tell you what I found out through my usual process of research. The invisible man was renamed Skinner, instead of Dr. Hawley Griffin from the original H.G. Wells novel due to rights issues. A character from the book, British Agent Campion Bond (a predecessor to James Bond) was deleted, and Agent Tom Sawyer was added (he wasn?t a character in the book, but he was the story?s one link to America.) As I said, I hadn?t read the book, so I didn?t care. One thing I was concerned about was the Harker character. I realized she had developed a way to suppress her blood thirst and somehow had the ability to walk in daylight, but they don?t explain it in the movie. Director Stephen Norrington has a little experience with comic book daywalkers, since he helmed the first Blade film.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an exciting movie and Connery?s first quotable movie since The Rock (all week I?ve been doing my impression of Connery saying ?I?m waiting to be impressed? and ?That was naughty.?) I think some younger audiences might not understand all the references, especially if they hadn?t been required to read the books that some of these characters were in during high school. I?ll admit, I haven?t read all these books either, but I have seen their many film adaptations, so I was familiar with them all (okay?maybe I had never heard of Harker, but I know Van Helsing!) My brother, who is 26-years-old, had never heard of Dorian Gray. I?ve seen the 1945 classic The Picture of Dorian Gray before, but even I had to remind myself of his gimmick. If you are going to check this film out, and I highly recommend it, I would either read the graphic novel or do some rudimentary research on the characters first. I truly believe it will heighten your enjoyment of this action-packed flick.
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