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‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen': such a waste!

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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.

Since, at 5 ½/10, the outcome rates for me in the “Diverting if you’ve nothing better to see” category, I won’t head on into spoilers.
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…

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About taliesin

  • jadester

    great minds think alike! i saw this today, and was, tbh quite disappointed. I wouldn’t call it exactly bad, just…average. With too many wasted oppurtunities to list them all. Needless to say, having read the first volume (indeed i bought it in graphic novel format) i can safely say if they’d have stuck more closely to the plot, it would’ve made for a better film. The steampunk setting was not played up enough, why was Alain Quatermain played up as being the group’s leader? (in the book, all the characters are given more or less equal standing), where was the go-between Campion Bond?, why was Moriarty looking young and strong?, why was there such a gratuitous use of guns? (in the book, as you’d expect for turn-of-the-century, swords and other blades are used far more often), why did Dr. Jekyll have to drink potion to become Hyde?, why did the invisible man most of the time have a very solid-looking face? (the effect they used initially should have been used throughout), and what the hell was the amoral and more importantly American Tom Sawyer doing in the very British League? Ok that last one prob’ly needs more explaining – the characters themselves may not all be of British nationality but they are famous figures of British literature. To my knowledge, Tom Sawyer is from two books written by an American author, and anyway i seriously doubt if someone doesn’t know any of the british lit. figures they’re any likelier to know who tom sawyer is, so as a concession to less “well-read” (loosest possible sense) people it’s pretty pointless.
    No doubt sean connery wanted to be sure of being the “main” character, and whilst i can understand each of the League having to have their back-stories explained, however briefly, in order to familiarise those of us who have not even heard of them, i can’t help thinking the comic’s way was far better. Overall, at the end i realised the film gives the impression of having been written and/or directed by someone who has heard of the comic of The League, possible even had a flick through, and then gone and written their own story using a very similar idea. Even as an action film, it is merely ok. Fans will more likely than not be disappointed at the plot changes and concessions to a wider audience, whereas the wider audience may well be confused, or at least daunted, by the selection of characters and how they fit the story.
    oh yeah, here’s a blooper for ya: when jekyl changes into hyde, obviously his whole body grows. So how come his shirt and any other top clothing garment rip whilst his trousers magically grow and shrink to fit?

  • http://www.vacuity.de Michelle

    i personally hadn’t expected much of this one, but when i actually saw it i thought it was a great work. the special effects are great and not too many but used in a great way. the story is not all that, but i personally enjoyed the movie a lot because of the way it was made.