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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: A Movie Review
This movie is not terrible. This movie is not the worst thing I've ever seen on the big screen. This movie is not God-awful. This movie is competent in terms of how it is put together. This film is perfectly adequate in its storytelling as carried out by the actors playing the allotted roles.
At certain points, though, the movie does make one feel as though he has walked into the middle of a series. It turns out that there's a good reason for that. The one-off film is an adaptation from a comic book series of the same name.
This can be a matter of some concern, because not everyone who sees the movie will have even heard of the comic books series, from which the film is derived and adapted. I have never read the comic book. What we have in the beginning of the movie, then, when the 'League' is being assembled, are the characters, who, upon meeting, reacting to one another in such a way as to make one say to himself: Gee whiz! What's going on? And at what point, between the opening credits and now did 'it,' whatever it is, get going on?
But of course, we have walked in on a series. Whatever the conflicts, they don't play a role in the movie going forward. As far as one can tell, a couple of the characters seem to have heard of each other, by way of a reputation of some notoriousness preceding them. But the movie gives those issues, whatever they are, short shrift.
Anyway, nineteenth century literary characters are brought together to 'save the world,' in some vague way. Details are unncecessary at this point since 'save the world' scenarios are fairly standard in stories like this. Should you decide to see the movie, chances are excellent that you won't find the situation particularly novel.
The saviors are: an invisible man---not the original man of science who developed the formula that confers invisibility; he died, so we are told, and a professioonal thief called Skinner, stole the formula, used it, and now cannot change back into visibility. If he helps 'save the world,' the British government just might give him the antidote---that is, after they have worked it out.
There's Dr. Henry Jekyll and his alter ego, Mr. Hyde. In the movie Hyde is a ten-foot tall wall of muscle. This is the exact opposite of the way the Hyde character is depicted in the original novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. But that is neither here nor there. The point is that Hyde has been transformed into a Super Being, who is, temporarily at least, diverted from his usual evil to become a Super Hero; that, of course, is because a Super Hero is needed to confront the Super Threat facing the world, imperiling its peace and security, and so forth.
Then we have Lady Harker; she is a vampire. She, too, seems to have been enhanced for the purpose of facing the Super Threat facing the world. She is a vampire yet seems to have no problem with daytime sunlight. As for the blood-craving we are told her kind are heir to---forget it. Blood: she seems to be able to take it or leave it. In addition, she obviously possesses the strength, speed, and regenerative durability we normally associate with the legions of Nosferatu.
Then we have Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde's story, The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Gray has a self portrait, enchanted, which ages while the man himself remains forever young. He, too, for the purposes of confronting the Super Threat to the world, has been enhanced, by the movie, to Super Being status so that he can become a Super Hero. In addition to his longevity, Dorian Gray is now impervious to bullets and every other weapon. What scrapes and nicks he does get, heal instantly.
So, Skinner, Lady Harker, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dorian Gray are the four members of the League who actually have Super Powers. There are three more members of the League. These are the most 'human' of the company. I say 'most human' in the sense that their persons have not, at all, been subject to any supernatural or scientific, augmenting catalysts. They have no Super Powers.
We have Quartermaine, a hunter, crack shot with a rifle, and a proficient two-fisted brawler. He is the leader of the League.
Next is a young man from the American Secret Service. He is also a crack shot with the rifle. A protégé-mentor relationship develops between him and Quartermaine.
Last but not least is Captain Nemo of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. His great ship, the Nautilus (an enormous ocean liner and submarine) effectively serves as the base of operations for the League. By the way, all of this, more or less, takes place in England at the turn of the twentieth century.
The major problem with the movie is that there is no team dynamic exhibited by this League. That is to say, that it would appear that the screenwriters had not been able to devise a way to mesh and meld the 'powers' and abilities of its members in such a way that they could operate properly as a team.
For example, if we cast our mind back to the first Avengers movie (which, incidentally, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen so clearly wants to be), we understand that Captain America was undoubtedly the leader of the team. He was the general; and when they went to the battle, he outlined the battle plan and gave out the tactical assignments to the other team members. One would expect the same from Quatermaine, in that movie that so wants to be The Avengers, but we don't get it.
Anyhow, in The Avengers there is a scene in which Iron Man is shot out of the sky. The Hulk rescues him by jumping hundreds of feet into the air, catching him, and then slowing their descent by digging his fingers into the side of a building. There is really nothing even approaching that in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Everybody seems to go off and do their own thing.
That half of the equation is balanced by the fact that the bad guys, also, did not offer a really unified, coherent aggressive presentation. They, too, seemed to break up and do their own thing.
For this reason, I thought that the makers of this movie would have been better served---if they had to make a movie with these characters---adopting a kind of Sin City/Pulp Fiction, anthology approach. Just have the Invisible Man, Lady Harker (the vampire), Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde, Dorian Gray, and Captain Nemo/Quartermaine/young Secret Service man have their own separate adventures.
Let me wrap this essay up with one more point. There are two places, that I recall, in the film where the story is dependent upon too-convenient happenstance to move the story along. Too many such incidents and you have yourself a proper B-movie on your hands. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is not a B-movie; I am not making that claim. Besides, Sean Connery is in it, as you may have noticed from the picture of the movie poster.
Anyhow, there was the scene in which the League is collecting Dorian Gray. They, without Jekyll-Hyde, call on him at his home. Apparently the story called for a confrontation between themselves and the Forces of Evil, who are their opponents. Well, as Dorian Gray and the rest of the League are in discussion in the lounge of his hugely vertical home, dozens of men suddenly appear led by a sinister man in a mask.
But they appear from upstairs, the level above Dorian Gray's 'sitting room.' The question is: How on Earth did dozens of men get in there? This should be a problem but.... (shrug), its not. Not only that but as the fight gets going, the young American Secret Service guy appears from that same level of the house.
Where did he come from? How had he come to be, obviously hiding up there without even being noticed by the Forces of Evil? Were they all just hiding in separate rooms, amazingly, simply without noticing each other? That would seem to be a logistical problem but, again... (shrug), its really not.
Interestingly, at one point, when this detachment of the Forces of Evil first appear, Dorian Gray feels the need to assure the League that, "They're not mine." Now, does this mean or foreshadow the fact that there are another bunch of thugs who do work for Dorian Gray, but these thugs are not them? The movie seems to know that this is the logical conclusion by having Dorian Gray acknowledge it in this way, but.... yes/no/yes/no/yes.... whatever.
There is another instance in the film dependent upon too-convenient happenstance. It turns out that Dorian Gray is a traitor, a double agent actually in league with the Forces of Evil; by the way, this revealed fact does address the prior question about how did the dozens of men get into his house before (and still, it does not answer the question about how the American Secret Service man got in there, but anyway...).
So, Dorian Gray and Lady Harker (the vampire) fight. These two 'immortals' fight it out. But they do so in the bedroom of his mansion, where his enchanted portrait lies covered at the foot of his bed. The plot was dependent of Gray doing this boneheaded thing. Why would one such as he leave himself so vulnerable? Why didn't he bury that portrait in a very deep hole, where it would never be seen again?
Anyway, Lady Harker appears for the first time wearing tight, black, shiny, metallic-looking leather. Of course, you know what that means: she is about to embark on some official superhero bad-assery.
So, they fight in Dorian Gray's bedroom. Finally, Lady Harker pins Gray to a wall with a long blade. At this point, and for some reason, Gray cannot withdraw the blade and free himself. This always means that the bad guy is done for. She then takes up the portrait, unwraps it, and shows Gray his own enchanted portrait, at which point he ages to the literally point of disintegration in seconds.
Well, I think I'll just leave it there. You can't win 'em all!