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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Die Liga der aussergewöhnlichen Gentlemen

USA/Germany/Czech Republic/UK 2003
produced by
Trevor Albert, Don Murphy, Sean Connery (exectuive), Mark Gordon (executive) for Angry Films, Flying Colours Productions, JD Productions, Mediastream, 20th Century Fox
directed by Stephen Norrington
starring Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng, Richard Rosburgh, Max Ryan, Tom Goodman-Hill, David Hemmings, Terry O'Neill, Rudolf Pellar, Robert Wilcox, Robert Orr, Michael McGuffie, Joel Kirby, Marek Vasut, Ewart James Walters, Michal Grün, Robert Vahey, Sylvester Morand, Mariano Titanti, Huggy Leaver, Pavel Bezdek, Stanislav Adamickij, James Babson, San Shella
screenplay by James Robinson, based on the comicbook by Alan Moore (writer) and Kevin O'Neill (artist), characters created by H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, music by Trevor Jones, special effects by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Steve Johnson's Edge FX, Tippett Studio

Allan Quatermain, Jekyll and Hyde, The Invisible Man, Dorian Gray, Captain Nemo, Tom Sawyer, Moriarty

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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1899: Famous big game hunter and adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) - out of Henry Rider Haggards' King Solomon's Mines -  is brought to London from Africa to join the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, an organisation created by M (Richard Roxburgh) to stop the evils of a certain masked villain called the Phantom, who wants to throw Europe, and ultimately the whole world, into war.

Quatermain's colleagues in the league include Mina Harker (Peta Wilson) - of Dracula-fame, and actually a vampire -, Jules Verne's Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), H.G.Wells' Invisible Man (Tony Curran), Oscar Wilde's Doran Gray (Stuart Townsend) and Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer (Shane West) ... and then there's one our team has to go and capture in Paris, where he haunts the Rue Morgue: Jekyll/Hyde (Jason Flemyng).

Once our heroes are assembled, it's off to Venice in Captain Nemo's submarine Nautilus, where the Phantom plans to sabotage a top secret peace conference and also destroy large parts of the city ... and when the League arrives, the city already starts to come down (thanks to some underwater bombs), and only a race through crumbling Venice in a sportscar to find out the epicenter of the explosion and to neutralize it with a missile can stop the city from going bust altogether.

But with the mission accomplished, things within the League take a turn for the worse: It turns out the Invisible Man is missing, Dorian Gray has betrayed them all, and M, the man who initially assembled the League, is actually the Phantom, alias Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, of Sherlock Holmes-fame.

But why did he assemble the League in the first place ?

Because he needed blood samples of the Invisible Man, vampire Mina and Jekyll and Hyde, to produce monsters of his own.

And why is he telling this to our heroes now (via a record disc) ?

Because he has placed some bombs aboard the Nautilus, that are triggered by a background sound on the disc and will make sure that none of them survives. But survive they do, thanks to the efforts of Mr Hyde, and thanks to the Invisible Man, who has, thanks to his invisibility, managed to follow Moriarty and Gray, the League even knows where Moriarty has located his big weapons factory - somewhere in deepest Siberia.

Our heroes attack, but in the meantime, Moriarty has created not only tanks and robots with flamethrowes but also his own Invisible Man and his own Hyde, and when fighting Dorian Gray, Mina has to realize he is pretty immortal as well ... that is until she destroys his picture ...

And in the end the League overthrows Moriarty's evil organisation, and Quatermain can finally teach young hothead Tom Sawyer to use his rifle with patience, and thus in the end, Sawyer shoots Moriarty from quite a distance ... which is pretty much the last Quatermain sees, he soon after dies from wounds inflicted during the attack ...

 

The British comicbook this film is based on, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Kevin O'Neill, is a loving hommage and intelligent parody of a host of British and European literary heroes who have soon become mainstays of (pulp) literature.

When turned into a Hollywood blockbuster though, both hommage and parody are thrown out of the window, the investors only saw all the big names in the comic and how they would translate into money at the box office. And to not alienate Ameican audiences too much with an all British cast, they threw the distinctively American character Tom Sawyer into the mix, even if the character in the film has nothing whatsoever to do with Mark Twain's creation and in the film seems like a fish out of water - and the most annoying character of them all.

The outcome is an old-fashioned adventure film that is somewhat reminiscent of old serials, both in its episodic structure and its generous use of pulp mainstays. Now that wouldn't be all bad, the problem with this film is its unconvincing CGI-effects where reason would have dictated miniature models: first of all,why did the Nautilus have to be animated ? She would have looked so much more convincing if she was made of real matter, swimming in real water, and this wouldn't even have been a difficult effect. And then the sportscar racing through crumbling Venice ... the computer generated houses of Venice caving in do not look at all menacing when our heroes are driving through, they just look like something out of a Playstation ... and this scene could have been so cool would one have gotten the feeling that stuff is actually falling down. Well, sometimes you just have to hate computer-effects I guess ...

Now all that said, the film is not all bad, if old-fashioned and slightly sci-fi-silly adventures are your cup of tea, but it could have been so much more with a wittier script (that's possibly sticking closer to the comic), a more imaginative direction, and better (real-life instead of CGI) effects. Such a pity.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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