Action / Adventure
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Dir: Stephen Norrington
Star: Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, Richard Roxburgh, Jason Flemyng, Stuart Townsend
Cert / Year: 12A - PG13 /2003
Format: DVD R1

The world is heading toward a world war. A masked madman known only as "The Fantom" and brandishing a phenomenal arsenal is manipulating events and governments in order to spark off the conflict. A secret organisation within the British government, headed by the mysterious "M" (Richard Roxburgh) has tracked down and assembled some of the British Empire's greatest heroes and villains in order to form "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Led by the great white hunter himself, Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery), commands the group including Captain Nemo, (Naseeruddin Shah) the vampire Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), wayward scientist and murderer Henry Jekyll / Edward Hyde (Jason Flemyng) and The Invisible Man (Tony Curran) as they race across the globe in order to thwart the dastardly plot of the sinister Fantom and save the world.....

Yet another big screen offering from the ever growing array of graphic novel and comic book adaptations. What makes this one that bit different is that this fascinating premise brings together a number of well known literary characters and puts them into an exciting story with a good plot, loads of action and backed by some good special effects work. This foray into pulp action cinema is going to prove a real crowd pleaser amongst the Indiana Jones fan fraternity, as this is a marvellous full tilt action adventure romp in a similar vane. The dark and brooding visuals also manage to bring much of the style and atmosphere of the graphic novel to the screen.

The story is simple enough and adapted from the cult graphic novel by Allan Moore and Kevin O'Neill and after this, we could easily forgive Allan Moore for the awful From Hell. The concept is pretty cool and thrusting these popular literary characters together into a dark, broody 19th century world to battle an evil villain is a splendidly uncomplicated approach to action. It seems to be the current trend of film making to over complicate a movie by use of CGI, "architects", prophecies, dream worlds or just too much money to throw at a project (No names mentioned of course but Matrix Reloaded you know who you are!). So such a restrained approach is a pleasant change.

Unlike the "Invisible Man" in the comic, this one is far less ... Offensive. As anyone who has read the graphic novel will know. The film does differ to the graphic novel in other ways too but the differences on the whole work well enough here. Close scrutiny of the story however is not advised as this highlights some holes in the plot and enables the whole story to fall apart a bit in terms of historical inaccuracies and of course the advent of automatic weapons, tanks and rockets.

Captain Nemo returns to the original character origins and is an Indian, like he was in the original Jules Verne novel. I have to admit at this point however, that I still prefer James Mason's performance of Captain Nemo from Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to this one and the Nautilus from the same film is still my favourite design. This Captain Nemo nicely played by Naseeruddin Shah however is a high kicking, sword wielding mystery man, probable pirate and technological genius with a huge bushy beard, a turban and a chip on his shoulder. The "Nemo-mobile" is I must say, a bit of an indulgence to be honest but the styling on the enormous and grandiose Nautilus is fantastic, this incarnation does work well despite its flaws. Sean Connery is a fabulous Allan Quartermain and the inclusion of Mina Harker is very good. Peta Wilson shines as the sexy vampire Mina Harker and is probably one of the better characters of the film and is accompanied by some excellent special effects. Mr. Hyde looks very good and doesn't rely upon CGI (for a change). Oscar Wilde's foppish anti-hero Dorian Gray is well realised here and a cracking performance by Stuart Townsend fleshes him out well. After the dismal Queen of the Damned, I had not got high hopes for Townsend in this role but he does surprisingly well. Overall the characterisations are very well done and look quite cool except for Richard Roxburgh as "M" that is. Roxburgh ( Mission Impossible 2) is much too young for this character and is unfortunately, not sufficiently talented either. Poor Shane West is shoe horned into the film by the studio as Tom Sawyer, who may as well have been called "Token" as he is the token American character. It seems that if you want to make a film these days, you must have at least one American character in it. This glaring point is highlighted by the fact that Tom Sawyer is lets face it, about as extraordinary as a raisin and just doesn't fit with the other assembled adventurers and extraordinary types who are of course predominantly British or Captain Nemo.

With such rich and larger than life, established characters on muster here there is such a wide realm of possibility and yet very little is actually done with these characters. Considering Mina Harker is now a vampire, she is quite happy and able to walk around in daylight without bursting into flames or similar vampiric demise type fare. Mr. Hyde seems quite far removed from the original character and the simian quality to his transformed visage is an ingenious retro-evolution. I did find the idea to place Mr. Hyde in the "Rue Morgue" interesting, but it really doesn't work to be honest. What this film does is successfully assemble a group of prominent literary characters and turn them into a nineteenth century team of superheroes battling to save the world from villainy and terror. Noble ideals indeed and admittedly, just like every other group of heroes, but the difference here is that these characters are already heroes in their own right (mostly) and are heroes that most of us have grown up reading about already, be it in adventures in "King Solomon's Mines" or "20,000 Leagues under the Sea" or perhaps even "Dracula" looking at the "Picture of Dorian Gray". This is a novel approach, literally and I for one approve, although this package does need a little polish in places as it tends to have been tarnished by idiocy for some low attention threshold, Hyde-like viewers.

There is a bit of a boo boo early on in the film though. The Nautilus sails into Paris? I wasn't aware that Paris was on the French coast at the turn of the century. Surely they would sail into Le Havre or perhaps that large mass of land in-between Paris and the sea just appeared one night after Mr. Hyde's capture. This is made even dafter by the images of the "new" Nautilus cruising down the canals of Venice, again another completely impossible feat which for anyone who has actually been to Venice, it will appear quite dumb. These are of course, minor quibbles because this is a fantastic action adventure movie. There are some very good performances on the whole and some pretty good direction too, even if the stars and director were at each other's throats for a majority of the production. I hope the sequel proves to be just as good, which should incidentally be out very soon after they write the next comic... Watch this extraordinary space!


Quartermain: That was naughty!

Dorain Gray: I'm the big bad wolf..... grrr

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Good crisp image
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Excellent!
Features Good animated menu
Audio Commentary by actors: Peta Wilson, Jason Flemyng, Tony Curran and Shane West and Producer Trevor Albert
Audio Commentary Costume Designer Jackie West, Make-Up Effects designer Steve Johnson, VFX designer John Sullivan and Miniature model creators Ian Hunter & Matthew Gratzner
Behind the Scenes documentary
Deleted Scenes
Verdict Pretty good disc. Excellent presentation of the film and a few good extras to boot, including 2 feature length commentary tracks.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Link Back Top Home