Given a choice between ‘The League’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’ (Sony; just out in French cinemas), the Kid preferred to see ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’.
She was engrossed pretty much from start to finish, though this fell well short of her movies of the year.
Again, her dad was more disappointed.
If it weren’t for Sean Connery, who must find it hard to be bad whatever he appears in, and some of the more adventurous special effects, this film would be right down at the “bof” end of my scale for making so little of a darned good idea.
Perhaps it lost something by no longer being on the really big screens when we caught up with it, but that shouldn’t make too much of a difference.
For a movie whose whole point is a remarkable cast uniting some enduring characters of outstanding 19th-century literature, the plot — such as it is — could scarcely be more banal, the subtlety virtually non-existent, and several fictional models idiotically betrayed in gross errors of detail.
Should you have been on a desert island, Sean Connery plays Henry Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain, a name the moviemakers managed to misspell at one point if my eyes didn’t deceive me, in an example of petty sloppiness. He’s the archetypal reluctant hero called on in 1899 by Her Majesty’s government to serve queen and empire one more time, drawing five other Brits and a token American, Tom Sawyer, into a team to — one guess — save the world from a maniac inventor. This villain is determined to trigger an arms race and a world war, raking in the profits by selling his advanced weaponry to all sides.
But if you’ve more than a passing acquaintance with the (relative) ambiguity of such fictional creations as Dorian Gray and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, you’re likely to feel let down by their one-dimensional incarnations here.
Some of the visuals are splendid as ideas — a gigantic Nautilus improbably piloted by Captain Nemo through the narrow canals of Venice, a finale where you half expect some legendary Scott of the Arctic meets the Yeti encounter. However, the papier-mâché quality to a few of the effects has you wondering how quickly the money ran out or whether it’s deliberate.
Even the Kid, slightly more willing than me to suspend judgement as well as a large dose of disbelief, drew the line at Jules Verne’s super-sub in one shot racing across the high seas, to be shown a moment later from another angle with not a hint of a wake behind it. And how the heck does sharpshooter Sawyer know how to drive a unique and elegant automobile the instant he’s thrust behind the wheel?
Pushed even for an instant, I think she’d find a lot more quite unnecessary holes, but why spoil her remembrance of fun? At least she’s read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and one or two of the other “sources” and much enjoyed them. It’s not such a bad film, but a regrettable waste of resources!
I don’t see British director Steve Norrington’s (IMDb) uninspired league making other teenagers eager to lap up the literature, so flat are most of the characters, but it drops sufficient hint of a sequel to leave hope for considerably more effort and depth if there is one.
A side-benefit was discovering the original of the film itself, in the work of Allan Moore, whose own ‘League’, with Kevin O’Neill, is duly credited as a “graphic novel” rather than a comic strip.
On further exploration, I found I’d stumbled belatedly on a shaggy-headed Northampton school dropout whose considerable oeuvre (Moore fansite) is that of a renowned and original talent. People familiar with this eccentric and insightful Englishman tell me I’d do best to start with his take on Jack the Ripper, ‘From Hell.’ Hmm. I remember a better film there…