If the original “X-Men” film had not been so successful, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” would have never been made. This loud film is much more a showcase of special effects than an attempt to give the audience anything worthwhile.
“The League” is yet another film adaptation of a comic book. This year has already seen several comic adaptations including “Daredevil,” “The Hulk” and “X-Men 2.” “The League” is the least known comic of the group, thus far the least successful film at the box office, and by far, the worst film of the four.
“The League” tells the story of several heroes, drawn from literary classics, who band together to defeat a common enemy. These heroes include an adult Tom Sawyer, an aged Allan Quartermain, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Dorian Gray, the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, and a woman who was bitten by none other than Dracula himself. The fact that all of these people exist in one place and time is an intriguing starting point for a film.
So, the film’s set-up is not the problem. The problem comes as they begin their adventure. This collection of odd colleagues must attempt to save the world from war and destruction. (That is almost always the threat in films that try too hard.) The plot lacks logic in many ways, drags often, and really only works to connect effects sequences.
Some of the sets are impressive and are used well in certain moments. The shoot-out in the library, which causes a blizzard of pages to fall from destroyed books, is the best effect in the film. Later, snow is used for an actual blizzard scene, but it seems to fall only during particular moments in the action and not during others. The expensive effects definitely work better in some shots than in others. The Nautilus never looks real. As with many high action sequences, the cinematography confuses as often as it reveals the actions of the characters onscreen.
The only part of the story that has real potential is the pseudo-father-son relationship between Quartermain and Sawyer. A better film may have been made if these two literary creations had been the only two heroes of the story. More time could have been spent on their past and the development of the bond between them.
Sean Connery was quite good playing Indiana Jones’ father in “The Last Crusade.” He may have succeeded here playing the surrogate parent to Tom Sawyer. Instead, it appears that Connery only desired to recapture his own youth by making one more action-adventure film where he got he got to play the hero. So the relationship between Quartermain and Sawyer is as predictable and one-dimensional as most everything else about “The League.”
If the film was only made because of the success of the “X-Men,” the filmmakers should have learned a lesson from that vastly superior film: Story and script do matter. The “X-Men” films have many spectacular effects and stunts, but between those moments there is intelligent dialogue and real emotion. In those films one cares about the characters and understands the story.
The makers of “The League” left character development, smart dialogue and plot on the table. They decided that great sets and effects were enough for a summer release. With the film struggling in a summer where “Finding Nemo,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “X-Men 2” have all succeeded, those behind “The League” may learn an important lesson.
Then again, there will always be bad summer movies; that’s why real film fans live for the fall and winter seasons.
Roger Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Albemarle, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence, language and innuendo
Director: Stephen Norrington
Writer: James Dale Robinson
Cast: Allan Quartermain: Sean Connery; Captain Nemo: Naseeruddin Shah; Mina Harker: Peta Wilson; The Invisible Man: Tony Curran; Dorian Gray: Stuart Townsend; Tom Sawyer: Shane West; Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde: Jason Flemyng.