The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Clever but lacking in the extraordinary

July 20, 2003, midnight | By Allison Elvove | 17 years, 6 months ago

So far, Summer 2003 has extinguished the usual excitement of going to the movies by showing a large number of dull sequels and moronic chick flicks. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has its own weaknesses but still reminds us of what summer movies should be: adventurous and entertaining.

While to some LXG will seem consumed with special effects that litter the screen, the film contains an important side order for those hungry filmgoers: A unique plot that keeps you alert with its humorous dialogue. Screenwriter James Robinson bases the film on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, and director Stephen Norrington ensures that the film is original and creative. The idea of saving the world is overused in literature and film, but with Sean Connery and his crew of extraordinary rescuers, nothing can go wrong.

The opening shot is of 20th Century Fox's emblem, but once the golden lettering dissolves into a decrepit version under the headline "London 1899," we already know we are in for a treat. A German tank forcefully enters a bank, and we meet for the first time, but not last, The Fantom. He is responsible for sending Europe to the brink of world war. M (Richard Roxburgh) secretly organizes the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in hopes of destroying the evil. Allan Quatermain (Connery) leads inventor Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), vampiress Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), immortal Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), American agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West), invisible man Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran) and the duo Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde (Jason Flemyng) into the unknown.

The septet journey to Venice aboard Nemo's ship, the Nautilus, to stop The Fantom from blowing up the building in which members of European nations are discussing the current threat of war. Each storybook character must battle the evils of the world while battling the evil within him or herself. When the action scenes become too repetitive, this subplot renews the audience's interest. Eventually, the protagonists learn to combine their unique talents despite the threat of sabotage.

While the music is fitting, changing from calm to upbeat to eerie, the more exciting aspect of LXG is allusions to cherished books of which most viewers will have heard of or read. We know the characters and get a kick out of watching them interact, even though the acting itself is not spectacular by any means.

Right from the get-go, the audience is laughing at the clever dialogue. From the invisible man's line, "And here I stand for all to see" to Nemo's assistant's introduction: "Call me Ishmael." When Quatermain looks at his spectacles remorsefully, saying, "I hate getting old," you stop and think a minute about Sean Connery himself—old, yet still going strong.

However, LXG is not Connery's most artistic movie in his extensive career, and the fairly bland cinematography does not help the situation. There are a few moments that stand out, such as when the buildings are crumbling. Cinematographer Dan Laustsen shakes the camera, which may be dizzying but is appropriate in order to make the situation seem more perilous and deadly. Another interesting shot is the crane shot of the computer-animated Nautilus. The camera moves from one side of the ship to the other, demonstrating the vastness of the craft compared to the ocean in which it is traveling.

Another scene in LXG that is memorable, but for the wrong reasons, is the gruesome and unnecessary transformation of Hyde to Jekyll. The majority of the audience is familiar with this character and his scientific experiments so there is no need to show elongated close-ups of the process. Sometimes, the computer graphics do not even seem well-integrated with the rest of the action. Lastly, the fight scenes, while elaborate, seem unbelievable. Harker and Gray can die only by extraordinary means, but the others manage to somehow evade death despite the hundreds of bullets flying every which way.

Fantasy. Action. Thriller. All of these sum up The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which will be attractive teens who crave adventure as well as older individuals who have read the well-known books like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Dracula and The Portrait of Dorian Gray, etc. The movie has its flaws, including moments of excess action and special effects, but beneath it all lies a strong premise with witty dialogue and suspenseful plot twists.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and occasional sexual innuendo. It runs 120 minutes and is now playing at area theaters.

Tags: print

Allison Elvove. Allison Elvove was a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online during the 2004-2005 school year. She wrote more than 70 articles while on the staff and supervised 40 student journalists, editing articles on a daily basis. During her time as editor, Silver Chips Online won the … More »

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