"I'm waiting to be impressed", cracks Sean Connery in a scene in LXG: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and so was I, and I'm glad I didn't hold my breath. I've got to stop seeing movies just because the posters look good. Well, that wasn't the only reason….I liked the idea of a team of Victorian Superfriends based on 19th Century literary figures. You'd figure since the concept worked well in the comic book industry, Hollywood should have been able to do a good job right? I mean, look at Spiderman and X-Men. Well, what I forgot about were messes like The Hulk and The Rocketeer.
Our team consists of Adventurer Alan Quartermain (Sean Connerey), pirate Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah: Monsoon Wedding); vampiress Mina [Murray] Harker (Peta Wilson: TV's La Femme Nikita); The Invisible Man Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran: Blade II), comely immortal Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), Tom Sawyer (Shane West: A Walk to Remember) who grew up to be a Secret Service Agent; and the bipolar Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng: Snatch).
So what is the reason for such an ensemble? To save the world of course. War looms over Western Europe at the turn of the century, as England and Germany have a pissing contest. Waiting to capitalize on the impending war is a mysterious villain known only as "The Phantom", who plans to sell WMD's to each side while he is sheltered safely away in Mongolia.
The movie starts off very promising when we encounter a remorseful Quartermain, now retired in Kenya. He's approached by an agent of the Crown seeking his assistance in averting an armed conflict, but refuses, stating that he's lost too many friends and relatives in service to Her Majesty. However, after an attempt on his life, in what was probably the best and most credible action sequence of the movie, he agrees and returns to England. There he meets with a royal Agent, identified as "M" (Richard Roxburgh: Moulin Rouge) who fills him in on the situation and tasks him to recruit several individual with special talents whose job it will be to protect a secret meeting of European leaders in Venice from a planned attack. Oh yeah, he only has 3 days to do all of this.
We then follow Quartermain as he enlists the various other players, all of whom have a personal motive for joining. After the crew is gathered, they set off for Venice in Nemo's submarine, The Nautilus, which is larger than any modern aircraft carrier. While aboard things get tense as the characters learn more about one another and point out each other's flaws, not to mention everyone vying for Mina's attention.
Once in Venice, the team locomotes via automobile, yes a motorcar, through the paved streets of Venice. (I guess the director Stephen Norrington has never been there, or perhaps he got confused with the hotel in Vegas.) Anyway, here thing get blown out of proportion and the League finds that they've been betrayed by one of their own.
Enough of the plot, here is where I point out why the League just was far from extraordinary. I've already mentioned the 'streets' of Venice, but just so you know, the Nautilus manages to navigate through the narrow canals of the city too. If you thought the animated green creature in The Hulk was awful, then you'll find the gorilla-like rendition of Mr. Hyde even more ridiculous.
The movie also gives a new meaning to character assassination, as none of the LXG are developed and several were altered in such away that anyone familiar with the literary works would immediately notice. Mina Harker was still a Vampire although in Stoker's novel she'd been absolved of the curse. Dorian Gray's picture will not cause his demise in the manner indicated by the movie -- if it did then why did he have it hanging on the wall to begin with? The Invisible Man, known as the Gentleman Thief, is given a cockney accent, and perhaps the hardest stretch is Quartermain and Nemo on the same side of the British Empire.
LXG was just a series of special effects pasted onto a underdeveloped and worn-out scenario. Norrington chose style over substance, hoping that the computer graphics would dazzle us so that we don't notice how weak the movie really is. The editing of the action is choppy and inconsistent, and somehow we aren't supposed to notice.
As far as acting, the best credits go to Curran and Townsend, both of whom perform favorably. Curran, whose character got the best use of special effects, was mostly heard vice seen. Of all the characters in the movie, his was the most likeable. Stuart Townsend was a wise choice for Wilde's Dorian Gray, both in the looks department and the arrogant, morally corrupt soul literally immortalized on canvas. Conversely, Shane West was lacking as Twain's Sawyer, who was not in the comic nor should he have been in the movie.
LXG had good possibility but fizzled out after all the introductions were over. A potential Victorian version of X-Men, it mutated into a dismal mess. This is another good movie gone bad.
Notes: Read the comic book.
Czarina's Caustic Comment or Captious Compliment: Extraordinarily Defective. This League should be disbanded.
The Extraordinary Czarina
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