By Bernie and Sand Pilarski
Bernie:I really wanted to like this movie. It stars Sean Connery. It's the right genre. It stars Sean Connery. So when I liked the first five minutes, I thought maybe all the negative reviews were wrong -- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I thought, was going to be an old fashioned action/superhero/roadshow picture starring (did I mention this?) Sean Connery.
And you know, it was old fashioned in some ways. Like Raiders of the Lost Ark,it tried to capture a bit of the nostalgic look of the 1940's adventure films -- the maps with the growing lines to show our hero's travels, miniatures of London and Paris at the turn of the century that almost looked real, and lots of costumes that look like they came from that period.
It appears that the British Empire, and yes, even the world is being threatened by a bad guy who wants to start a world war so he can profit from the sale of WMD to the combatants. So, obviously, the only thing to do is to form a commando squad made up of various literary characters, all of whom happen to be alive and willing to help out. The Invisible Man, Dr.Jekyll (and when he gets too excited, Mr. Hyde), Mina Harker, a kind of vampire slut action figure, Dorian Gray, a pouty ne'er-do-death, Captain Nemo who provides transportation, Tom Sawyer, an American secret agent (I'm not kidding here) looking after the interests of the US government, and Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery). Quatermain is an old explorer, retired and living in Africa, brooding over the death of his son, who reluctantly agrees to participate only after the bad guy's goons blow up his favorite bar. The League's task is to stop the bad guy before he can blow up Venice thereby starting WWI, which they kinda do, loosing only half of Venice in the process. But wait, there's a plot twist, one of the League is a traitor, and our heroes rush off to the frozen tundra to confront the real villain in climactic battle to save the world.
By the end of this movie, I was rooting for WWI.
The effects were not all that good, none of the actors seemed comfortable with their roles, and I doubt they could be given the script they had, and most of all, it just did not make sense. The idea of populating a story with fictional characters from other works can be effective. Murder by Death, Neil Simon's sleuth spoof that united the world's greatest fictional detectives was enormously entertaining. Mr. Simon wrote as if he had actually read the stories of the characters he used. In the case of The League, I'm not entirely convinced that the writers could read. The story is based on "the graphic novel" because it was easier to just look at the pictures.
On the bright side, I did love the film's vision of Nemo's sub The Nautilus. Even if they had trouble keeping the scale right from scene to scene, the ship was certainly a beauty to behold with hardwood floors, marble walled staterooms, and wonderful filigree flourishes on the hull. Cool ship.
But unless you are really desperate to see a pretty sub, sorry guys, wait for the DVD at Blockbuster for this one.
Sand:My mother used to tell me that if I couldn't say anything nice, I shouldn't say anything at all. Fine, I can say something nice. "When Allan Quatermain turned to face the audience, I was glad to see that Sean Connery's familiar face was still handsome after all these years." There, Mom, I said something nice, now let's get to the review of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Allegedly this movie was based upon a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, and I will give them a nod in that having literary characters meet and interact is a cool idea. I like Sean Connery being in charge. He should be. But sorry, Captain Nemo does not click in my mind as an Indian dude who worships Kali and knows kung fu fighting. (Played stiffly and depressedly by Naseeruddin Shah.) And who, at the close of the movie, say that he's tired of hanging out under the sea and now wants to travel. But then, perhaps he was retiring. Trade the Nautilus in on a big RV, no doubt.
I'll be blunt. The plot was dumb, the effects were only so-so for current technology, and I can't handle a Nautilus that looks like a giant skinny slice of cheesecake with silvery-pearl art deco edges. Oh,and that seems to change size depending on the scene. Puh-leeze. The dialogue was hokey and stilted. I wanted Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) to go get a dang haircut, and just shut up. How many years had he been whining about his portrait?
But the worst was the continuity. I like comic-book type movies, I really do. But when the lady vampire's hairdo changes from scene to scene (Peta Wilson) and goes from straight to perm-curly, I just have to giggle and feel sorry for whoever was responsible. I wanted to have not been seen entering the movie after the scene in which the invisible man (Tony Curran) walks miles through the snow in a Mongolian winter naked to avoid guards, but once dressed manages to have found the sunglasses he used at the beginning of the movie.
Not to mention that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Jason Fleming) were both really, really unpleasant to look at. The Hyde special effects made him look like a tumor, and Dr. Jekyll's makeup made him look not troubled, but rather like he had a bad cold. And I don't even want to talk about the stupidity of introducing Tom Sawyer (Shane West) as an American secret agent.
On DVD, with a lot of drinks near at hand, and a remote control so one could 'pause' the movie and go make a sandwich or play a game of checkers, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would be fine. Not one for the big screen, though. I wanted to enjoy this movie, but I found I kept thinking how lucky the folks were in the next theater to be watching Johnny Depp.