League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – movie review

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Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger

Starring: Sean Connery, Stuart Townsend, Peta Wilson, Shane West, Jason Flemyng
Director: Stephen Norrington

The realisation of a comic on screen is always an exciting prospect. The ideas and originality that exist in the world of comics is probably an almost endless source of potential movie material and it’s always interesting to see which ideas are adapted next and how the comic fantasies will translate onto real actors in real world locations.

LXG started life as a comic mini-series and here is presented on the big screen with some established talent in the key roles headed by the now almost legendary Sean Connery as Allan Quatermain, a famous adventurer. The time is the nineteenth century and Quatermain is called upon to head up the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a group of truly legendary names, which although in the context of the movie are real, in fact are all famous, fictional characters. The ‘League’ is the world’s only hope in combating the evil Fantom who is using futuristic weapons to destroy and pillage at will and governments are powerless to stop him.

In essence the idea of LXG is a good one but does this movie’s realisation live up to expectations?

LXG certainly handles most of the required effects reasonably well and generally the acting can’t really be criticised but the leaps of faith the audience is expected to take in order to accept what’s happening on-screen is ridiculous to the extreme.

For one thing if you haven’t read the comics, which most people won’t have even heard of, you might wonder exactly how these various characters came to be in the same place at the same time. Also those who haven’t read that many books probably won’t even know some of the characters involved as there backgrounds are not really explored in the film. Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) for instance has what seems to be a nuclear powered submarine plus a very fast car, all far too advanced for the time period and the Tom Sawyer (Shane West) character just happens to have the ability to drive it at high speed through the streets of Venice. (Paved streets not canals).

You may think that I’m picking holes here unnecessarily but if anyone is prepared to suspend their disbelief in a movie in order to accept the fantasy and enjoy the film it’s me! LXG though just expects too much.

Take Mina Harker (Peta Wilson) who is a vampire character. Well at one point she turns into a vampire but – but wait – somebody decided that in a ‘big’ movie this would not be enough so she turns into hundreds of bats! And what about the ‘invisible man’ Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran) who disappears for half the movie – totally disappears!

And since when did Dr Jekyll (Jason Flemyng) and Mr Hyde become Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk? And don’t drink too much of the potion or you’ll become a really big monster – oops – didn’t mean to give something away there!!

Ok now for all the criticism I can see parents taking their kids to see this film and I’m sure the children will like it, although I’m also sure they will have a lot of questions for their parents afterwards, which the parents won’t be able to explain.

Meanwhile my question is – who told the editor to chop all of the back story out – you know, the explanations, the reasons why the characters are what they are? Was it the director, did they ruin out of budget, would the film have been too long?

LXG could have been a very good movie but somewhere the interpretation to the screen just didn’t work properly, someone forgot about the audience – forgot the audience might want to ‘think’ about what was going on in front of them.

This really is a lot of smoke and noise, either without much substance, or with more substance than the makers knew what to do with.

Leave this one for when you want to keep the kids amused for 110 minutes.

2 out of 6 stars