Everybody is involved in groups, but it takes something special to be dubbed a league. And the League of Extraordinary Gentleman is no exception. Comprised of a vampire (Mina Harker), an explorer (Alan Quatermain), an invisible man, a pirate (Captain Nemo), a shape-shifting doctor (Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde depending on his mood), a U.S. army member (Tom Sawyer), and an immortal (Dorian Gray), the league is brought together by a mysterious man named M. Set at the end of the 1800s, the story is pretty basic. An evildoer named the Phantom has found a way to create weapons that can change the way battles are fought. With new toys such as machine guns and tanks, the Phantom starts to commit atrocious acts that have countries at each other’s throats. This is exactly what he wants you see. The onset of war would mean everyone would buy his weapons and he would become infinitely rich. So the league once compiled must stop the Phantom from his next target: a conference of all the world’s leaders. Led by Quatermain the league seems able enough, however every member has inner issues to deal with. Whether it is guilt from the death of a loved one or lost love now rekindled, the league must overcome their problems and a rat in the group to stop the Phantom from world domination.
On paper this looks like a real winner, but sadly it goes the way of so many summer big budget films: huge effects, interesting cinematography, and very little story. The idea is interesting enough but the actual follow through isn’t all that great. Probably the biggest complaint is just how thin the film is. Considering it is loaded with elaborate characters that all have their own books and films, you’d think this would be loaded with story. This film is geared towards teens for the most part and I would bet the average teen has no idea about the back story of Alan Quatermain or Dorian Gray. LXG makes them paper thin and that is a shame because you have some of literatures most interesting characters ever here. To make someone like the invisible man just somebody with a special power takes away the complexity of the original character and makes him nothing more than a forgettable action hero. Another major complaint is the inclusion of Tom Sawyer who was never in the original graphic novel. I am a big fan of the Samuel Clement’s work but his character here was thrown in just to give U.S. audiences something to identify with. Sometimes Americanizing things isn’t always the best policy. The film isn’t all bad. The action sequences, albeit incredibly unbelievable, are well shot. And a chase scene through the streets of Venice (although there are none there in reality) is truly grand in scale. Another interesting set piece is Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine. It is an amazing site but it instead made me want to watch 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea again. And I do have to say the actual identity of the Phantom is quite interesting and a nice touch that did put a smile on my face.
The acting all the way around is adequate, although no one really sticks out. Even Sean Connery fails to do anything special here. It’s a shame too. Connery has created some memorable characters and here he looks to be just collecting a paycheck. Usually Connery can overcome banal dialogue like he did in Just Cause, but here he seems content to go through the motions. The only other real performance of note is that of Jason Flemyng who is becoming a solid actor in his own right. He actually tries to bring a little life to Dr. Jekyll which is difficult considering how many different incarnations of the character we have seen. Flemyng showed promise in Bruiser and hopefully he’ll get a chance to showcase his abilities soon with some better material.
I really tried to like this film. It doesn’t take much for me to like a Sean Connery picture. He is one of the few actors I go out of my way to see. It also didn’t help that they trivialized some of literature’s most intriguing characters by making them flaccid versions of themselves. But even on the level of just a fun summer movie this falls flat as well. Running a little too long, the film just overstays its welcome. What makes it sadder is the film sets itself up for a sequel. If you really need to see it at least wait for a rental. Or better yet go find the graphic novel and you’ll enjoy yourself a whole lot more. 4 out of 10.