For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Graphic Novel Film Adaptations, here’s a review of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) by SG of Rhyme & Reason
Thanks again to Vern of the Video Vortex for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Audrey of 1001 Movies and Beyond and she has chosen the genre of Movie Musicals.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of June by sending them to MusicalAudrey@movierob.net
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Audrey!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
It’s hard to beat a thrilling tale
Of risk and danger and betrayal,
Of trails to traipse and close escapes,
Imagined on an epic scale.
Thus, someone somewhere, fancy-prone,
Thought, “All these tales are grand alone.
Why not combine and redesign
These universes so well-known?”
And so they mashed the characters,
This tool of his, this skill of hers,
Together till the writer’s will
Was satisfied, no thought to yours.
And when the blender yielded ground
And saw what he had wrought and crowned,
He felt no sting, but thought, “Good thing
The original authors aren’t around.”
MPAA rating: PG-13
Despite its critical and commercial failure, I enjoy The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (or LXG) less for what it actually is and more for what it tries to be. Based on a comic series and graphic novel by the legendary Alan Moore of Watchmen fame, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is like an epic piece of big-budget crossover fan fiction, merging re-imagined protagonists from several 19th-century classics, such as King Solomon’s Mines, Dracula, The Invisible Man, and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, just to name a few.
So what does this half-successful adventure try to be? A Victorian version of The Avengers, or rather the Justice League, as Moore intended. The Avengers was a pioneering blockbuster in 2012, integrating characters from its shared Marvel Cinematic Universe into a highly entertaining free-for-all. Yet nine years earlier, cinema-goers had already watched the combined efforts of an expert marksman with no powers, a wealthy and tech-minded genius, an immortal, a deadly female, and a hulking monster who is the alter ego of a weak scientist. Yes, the Avengers clearly came first in the comics, but even though super-teams on film have become all the rage in recent years, I believe The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen holds the distinction of being among the first superhero team-ups to grace the silver screen, predated only by the X-Men.
One key advantage that The Avengers had was to introduce most of its heroes in their own movies before mashing them together as a team, a luxury that LXG, alas, could not afford. Even so, it does its best to introduce us to the likes of hunter Alan Quatermain (Sean Connery), vampiric Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), gung-ho Tom Sawyer (Shane West), the dual-personalitied Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng), and the smart-aleck Invisible Man (Tony Curran), all brought together by an early M of James Bond fame. With so many characters viewers may recognize but don’t really know, it’s a juggling act that I think the film pulls off better than most critics thought, though there’s precious little attention given to Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), who’s just there for transportation, or to Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), who’s just there for a plot twist.
With a cast of mostly lesser-known actors, Sean Connery carries the weight of the star power and does an effective job as an aging adventurer, making it all the more unfortunate that this was his last film role, possibly because the film was such a flop. Connery props the film up, but the special effects tend to drag it down and have not aged gracefully. Some action scenes are genuinely thrilling, like a car chase through a crumbling Venice, but the over-reliance on weak CGI toward the end is unmistakable, especially a monster smackdown that anticipated the Hulk vs Abomination fight in The Incredible Hulk. I suppose 2003 was too early for these effects-heavy efforts; The Lord of the Rings made it work, but the technology was not yet convincing enough for the likes of this and Van Helsing.
With a 17% Rotten Tomatoes score, I suspect LXG continues to be viewed as a black mark on the careers of everyone involved, but I still see it as a good effort and an entertaining one. The script and effects could have been improved, and the weird and ambiguous ending is crying out for a sequel, which is unlikely now, but a reboot would not be unwelcome. Maybe I just like these literary steampunk crossovers, which are still being attempted (such as the anime film Empire of Corpses, which also featured a backstabbing M, and Universal’s upcoming Dark Universe series). They rarely turn out as cool as they seem on paper, but in the right hands, a new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen may have some life still in it.
Best line: (Quatermain) “Now, would you like to learn to shoot?” (Tom Sawyer) “I can already.” (Quatermain) “Oh, I saw. Very American. Fire enough bullets and hope to hit the target.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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