The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Die Liga der aussergewöhnlichen Gentlemen
USA / Germany / Czech Republic / UK 2003
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
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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
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
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.