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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (A Movie Review)

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen


Starring Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng, Richard Roxburgh, Max Ryan, Tom Goodman-Hill, David Hemmings, Terry O’Neill, Rudolf Pellar and Winter Ave Zoli.

Screenplay by James Dale Robinson.

Directed by Stephen Norrington.

Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Pictures. 110 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Every once in a while, a big budget movie drops with a resounding thud. Now, in the tradition of Hudson Hawk, The Avengers and Men in Black II comes The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The film has an intriguing concept, an interesting cast (if only because Sean Connery is in it) and numbers among its characters many of the greatest characters in literature.

So how is it so jaw-droppingly bad?

To give you a thumbnail idea of the story line, an evil villain from somewhere in the near future (to 1899, not today) goes back to Victorian London to create a series of international incidents, hoping to spawn a world war. The British government forms the titular league, made up of many of the greatest characters in then popular books.

Therefore, Alan Quatermain (Sean Connery), Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng), the Invisible Man (Tony Curran), Mina Harker from Dracula (Peta Wilson of La Femme Nikita), Tom Sawyer (Shane West of Once & Again) and Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) are charged with saving the world.

Now, one of the major problems with this is that the film plays fast and loose with many of these legends. For example, a vampire can go out in the daylight in the middle of a bunch of cross tombstones, and she can see her reflection in a mirror. Also, although Dorian Gray didn’t age physically, just in his painting, I don’t remember him being immortal, nor do I remember him being unable to look at his picture for fear of death.

Some of the characters are given traits they never had before. I guess I’ll have to re-read my Mark Twain and Jules Verne, but I don’t recall Tom Sawyer being a crack marksman or Captain Nemo being a martial artist. Some characters, particularly Quatermain and Gray, probably aren’t even known by modern audiences. In a case of modern sensibilities intruding, instead of Mr. Hyde just being an evil doppelganger of Dr. Jekyll, he has become a fifteen-foot high behemoth who looks more like the Hulk than Hyde.

While we’re on the subject of things that are too big, the submarine Nautilus, which seems to be about two football fields long and hundreds of feet high, keeps popping up in little waterways it would never come close to fitting in. And what about the car chase on the streets of Venice, even though Venice has no streets, just canals? The sheer weight of the inaccuracies and the stilted dialogue just smothers whatever interesting ideas The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen may have had. (7/03)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2003 All rights reserved. Posted: July 22, 2003.

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