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IN SHORT: Worst of the Year #2. [Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence, language and innuendo. 110 minutes]
So, can creations by Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde and H. Rider Haggard put their egos, not to mention copyrights and trademarks, to the side and get on with the good fight and save a world about to enter the Twentieth Century? They might. But nothing can save this mish-mash of a story that assumes you already know all there is to know about each of the characters that team to form this League. It prefers to throw action scene after action scene at you helter skelter, with only the barest explanation of why its story is "important." It is, simply, an utter bore.
For those who never believed a comic book could provide a great read, may we suggest that you spend your money, instead, on the printed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill, whose novels (there are two) brought the great Europe-based action heroes of late 19th and early 20th century literature together in much the same form as comic book superhero teams would from the 1940s on. The original League story is jammed full of "Easter Eggs," hidden clues that document the cultural history of the time, in fact and fiction, and fill a supplemental book of its own. The filmed adaptation of LXG, adds two new players to the team facing down a scurrilous villain who threatens the world with evil machinations as dastardly as they are visually spectacular! That said, enough about the original.
In making the transition from comic to film screenwriter James Dale Robinson, gives us a remarkably flat story packed with occasional visual thrills reminiscent of Verne. All of ' em fail to engage or thrill. Equal blame also is placed on the shoulders of director Stephen Norrington, whose affection for half second long jump cuts do nothing but distract from any story that may want to be told. You'll know what we mean if you waste your money on this bomb. They're the moments when the back of your bored into stupor brain will wake up and go "Huh? What was that?" even as the film provides no explanation.
In League we see the beginnings of the British Secret Service, as its titular head "M" (Richard Roxburgh) engages famed hunter and adventurer Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery) to bring together a team that will save Civilization itself from the plans of a mysterious, masked Fantom. As random military attacks in Europe presage the coming of a World War, the Leaders of the Free World plan a gathering in Venice Italy to try and negotiate a peace. Or at least figure out who's attacking who. Fantom's plan is to set off a chain of explosions that will sink the city -- at least the parts of the city still above ground, since it is Venice, after all -- and kill all within.
On Quartermain's team are a particularly unlikable Invisible Man (Tony Curran) called Rodney Skinner, who stole the formula made famous years earlier by a different character; Sikh Prince Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) whose submersible ship Nautilus is a technological marvel and a wondrous thing of beauty to behold; the immortal Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend); American detective Thomas Sawyer (Shane West), now a Secret Agent of the U.S. government; and the sexually distracting -- this is a League of gentlemen, after all -- Mina Harker (Peta Wilson, click for StarTalk), who possesses powers gained due to an encounter with the fangs of one Count Dracula of Transylvania. Yes, she's got that ol' lust for blood but it's under control. Really, it is.
Quartermain has a mere four days to accomplish the mission, even though he needs at least a day to track down and persuade one other essential persons to sign up. That's no grammatical error. The final piece to this puzzle is two: the physically schizophrenic Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jason Flemyng) whose alter ego "Mr. Hyde" is not someone you would care to meet in a dark alley. Once the full team is in place, all must figure out a way to work together without killing each other first.
Ah, if only they had. Then the world would have ended and movies would never have developed and the survivors wouldn't waste their money on this thing.
And, of course, there's a big twist ending! One which, unfortunately, involves a character never seen in this story. It is a twist which is just as pointless as is this movie.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, he would have paid . . .
We can't even give it a buck for the special effects which, comparatively, aren't very special. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an utter and extraordinary waste of time
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