Wednesday, 13th December 2017. 3:42:38pm ET
Reviews Movie Reviews The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Movie: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Company: 20th Century Fox
Format: VHS
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 1/29/04

The year is 1899, and unknown forces led by a masked man creatively calling himself "the phantom" are conspiring towards world war and domination with the help of powerful new inventions including tanks, armor, machine guns, and explosives. In order to stop this new threat to global security, the British government decided to assemble a crack team of characters from classic horror and science fiction literature. Led by sharpshooter Allan Quartermain, the league also includes vampiress Mina Harker (of Dracula fame), the invisible man, the conditionally immortal Dorian Gray, Dr. Jeckyll (a.k.a. Mr. Hyde), the infamous Captain Nemo, and American operative Tom Sawyer. Sound ridiculous? Well, yes, it is a bit of a stretch. However, underlying plot twists and the clever use of elements from each character's literary past actually do manage to set this film's sights a bit higher than the typical action flick. Does it hit its mark? Well, yes and no.

Let's get one thing straight. This thing's a big budget Hollywood action vehicle. The CGI effects are big and spectacular. The main plot events are often just triggers for huge special effects sequences and lots of action. Hell, half the time it's not even completely clear why they're doing what they're doing, but all you have to know is that they have to blow something up or stop someone within a certain amount of time. Character development is somewhat sparse, although each character's past and literary history nicely figure into their personalities and interactions for some interesting interplay. The inner turmoil between Jeckyll's personality and Hyde's is fairly well-portrayed, even if the Hulk-esque special effects transformations are a bit over the top. Hints at a past relationship between Harker and Gray add personal tension and a tiny bit of intrigue. The invisible man's shady past as a thief and playful personality play against an inner morality. Quartermain is a man plagued by a violent past and the loss of his son. The fairly naïve Tom Sawyer sort of plays a surrogate son to Quartermain. All of these things factor into the story, especially as the plot begins to unfold and the league members begin to suspect that not everyone is what they seem.

The acting, despite the story's almost laughable array of fictional characters, is actually fairly strong and able to carry the movie even when the plot runs thin. Sean Connery gives his usual strong performance as Quartermain, while Peta Wilson gives an even more outstanding performance as the brooding, dark humored Mina Harker. Stuart Townsend and Jason Flemyng do respectable jobs as Dorian Gray and Jeckyll/Hyde, respectively, while Tony Curran's invisible man is well acted but largely...well...invisible throughout the movie.

In short, while the film's literary character backgrounds and often strong acting make this slightly more interesting than your standard watered down action drivel, it's still undeniably a Hollywood action film whose sometimes muddy and/or ridiculous plot thrives on convoluted action sequences and special effects. It's usually entertaining enough and contains a few inspired moments, but it's ultimately little more than another forgettable superhero action film.


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