It must be fun to make a film without any regard for the script.
I would imagine that it's a great relief to discard the excess baggage of logic and character in favor of speeding along nicely to some foregone conclusion. There must be very few worries in that. After all, if you dismiss everything to which you might have to do justice then there's very little chance of actually failing at anything. We might call this the Bruckheimer Approach if LXG was, in fact, one of his films.
Alas, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen cannot boast the carefree pedigree of Hollywood's style-struck uber-producer, which, had such been the case, might have made for a film entertaining enough so as to forgive its massive shortcomings. Unfortunately, however, for such an ultimate disappointment, LXG can at least boast of its a wildly impressive history.
Based on the graphic novel by the ever-clever Alan Moore, LXG flaunts a rather exceptional premise, specifically that of banding together several iconic characters from classic English literature. Teaming together Dracula's Mina, Wilde's Dorian Grey, Stevenson's Jekyll & Hyde, Mr. Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, and the Invisible Man, LXG draws from a rich tradition of exemplary dramatic storytelling. The filmmaker's addition of a sore-thumb American - namely, Tom Sawyer - neither adds nor subtracts from this still impressive concept. And with Blade director Stephen Norrington at the helm, one would think that such a project was bound to deliver on its great potential of dramatic action.
And if only the film had agreed with the audience, things might have been better.
For a film with such a deep well from which to draw, LXG reflects its cast as gimmicks rather than characters (the adventurer, the immortal, the vampire, and so forth). They serve to provide spectacle rather than background, and for a film that revolves entirely around the formation of a LEAGUE, there's almost no depth or satisfactory interaction afforded to the participants. I just can't help but think that in the translation from page to screen these characters have been done a massive injustice. Not to mention that their introductions are uniformly dumbed-down for what the filmmakers have clearly determined will be an under-educated audience.
The story is largely laughable, oftentimes making little to no sense, and the twists are obvious and rarely pay off. The real identity of the actual villain might bring a smile to your face if the pre-existing frown hadn't so recently cemented itself
The performances here are uniformly weak, even with Sean Connery at the lead. Stuart Townsend as Dorian Grey has clearly at some point entered into a Johnny Depp look-alike contest, while Shane West plays Tom Sawyer with all the charm of a Dawson's Creek outcast. Meanwhile, Captain Nemo dawns a costume that could make even the Pope burst out laughing, while Dr. Jekyll's Mr. Hyde is made to resemble an over-sized Styrofoam monkey. Fortunately, however, Peta Wilson lends Mina a decidedly sexy charm and Tony Curran is a ball to watch as the Invisible Man.
Norrington is the only notable success here, bringing a stand-up production value to an otherwise downhill film. The sets are stunning and the sequences ambitious, rocketing forward with an exceptional energy. Norrington's direction is confident and well-paced, but only when not being subverted by some rather unsightly editing. One gets the feeling that there's a much better film hidden away somewhere beneath this one.
But I must give credit where credit is due and say that the film isn't entirely dreadful. Certain sequences are downright enjoyable, and the FX work is at times jaw dropping. And while the 1890's perspective on sci-fi gadgetry could certainly have been better illustrated, the antiquated-techno here is certainly fun to watch.
Overall, the tone of the film is clear:
These are the X-Men of old English literature, but if you're looking for anything literary, turn back now.