REVIEWER'S NOTE: To those of you who read my review of "Pirates of the Carribean," I made a little mistake I must rectify. I mentioned that Commodore Norrington shared his character name with director Stephen Norrington. I was looking up information on "LXG" before I wrote that review, and I made the reference to Norrington thinking that I'm intelligent and stuff, believing that he directed "Pirates" instead of "LXG." Oops. Sorry for the mix-up. It's a good thing he directed "LXG" instead of "Pirates" because he probably would've butchered that great movie the way he did with "LXG." Enough ranting. On with the review, where the ranting is more structured.
After staggering success in the past few years, starting with "X-Men," the comic book movie genre finally has it's first major flop in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Well, this movie is definitely in a league of it's own, but it's in the Extraoridarily Boring League in this predictably stupid movie.
"The League" starts out in London in 1899, a fact that they keep repeating like the audience suffers from "Memento"-like memory loss, with a gruesome villain called The Phantom, a horrible refference to the Phantom of the Opera, complete with a knock-off mask. England, in all their wisdom, feel a war is coming so they, well this guy named M (Roxburgh), another horrible refference to a good movie (James Bond), sends for legendary adventurer Allan Quartermain (Connery) to lead a team of good guys to stop the bad guys. Lets run down the roster of the league, yes yes?
First there's Quartermain, whose exploits are legendary to the point that he has stand-in to pretend he's Quartermain to weed out the story-seekers. Then there's Captain Nemo (Shah), a hand-to-hand combat expert with some neat new technology. Then there's Tom Sawyer (West), yes the Tom Sawyer of Mark Twain fare who, apparently, traded in his river raft for a Secret Service badge. Add in Mina Harker (Wilson) who was Dracula's wife, Dr. Jeckyl and his buddy Mr. Hyde, Skinner (Curran) who is invisible and Dorian Gray (Townsend) who is an immortal, and you have one amazingly boring crew, considering their powers. With a cast as solid as this and an interesting premise, it almost seems as if they tried to make this movie as dull as possible.
The acting here isn't too shabby with decent performances from Connery, the seemingly ageless wonder, West, who's taking a much needed break from his teeny-bopper heartthrob role, Wilson and Townsend, who has that "shady guy" look down to a T. The best performance in the movie comes from Jason Flemyng who plays Dr. Jeckyl. He is great as the timid doctor who is unsure about unleashing his alter-ego out upon the world. When he does turn into Mr. Hyde, the visual effects are wonderful, and the makers of "The Hulk" should've taken a lesson from the effects of Mr. Hyde because they are much more realistic and cooler looking.
Now time for the bad news, which is, well, almost every other aspect of the movie. There are some nice fight scenes, especially with Shah's Nemo character who displays some great martial arts moves. The problem with the fight scenes is that the cinematographer and director seemed like they had no idea how to handle them. The camera work is as dizzying as the amateur cameramen in "The Blair Witch Project", but then again, that was intended to be dizzying, and I'm sure that's not what they intended for this movie. The camera work is basically all over the place, which is magnified even more by the scissor-loving editor who chops up the fight scenes at a blistering pace. It's enough to give light-headed people vertigo, and enough to just plain annoy the rest of us.
O.K. this is supposed to be set in 1899, yes yes? They put us in that frame of mind with the old-school rifles and six-shooters they use and the period costumes. I can even buy the fact that they have a car, because that would've been about the right time period. Most of the characters haven't even seen a car before, causing one of them to quip, "What's that?" to which Nemo replies "The future." All of that is fine and good, but I don't know how they planned to pull off the insanely elaborate "ship" that Nemo has. After I saw that monstrosity, I was waiting for West to pull out a cell phone, or something. A friend of mine, who has read the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neil that this movie was based on, said that Nemo's character in the graphic novel possesses technology that most of the world hasn't seen yet, but come on. It's what I like to call "overkill."
The script, written by James Dale Robinson, is filled with a bunch of nice one-liners ("That was naughty") but they're overshadowed by the greater number of corny lines ("What was that?" "The sound of treachery!") Wow. That line was good for a laugh, but I wasn't laughing because it was funny. I was laughing because it was stupid. I really like the premise, but Robinson didn't mold it into a workable story. They shoot their wad too early, giving away the big twist in the middle of the movie, causing the movie to work overtime just to keep us in the theater. I almost never walk out of movies ("A.I. Artificial Intelligence" being the only one I can remember walking out of) but I was pondering walking out of this one. The only reasons I stayed were this review, and sheer morbid curiosity. There's a pretty decent ending, but the damage was already done.
Director Stephen Norrington must have seemed like the perfect fit for this movie. He directed the comic-to-film adaptation of "Blade" so I'm sure they figured he'd be right for another comic book adaptation, yes yes? No no. Unlike "Blade," Norrington seems unfocused here. He works with his actors rather well, but his work behind the camera just looks like a train wreck, especially in the fight scenes.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a movie about...no, well it's about...hmm, no not that either. What is this frickin movie about? I guess you could say it's about justice, and crap, but all you will say after you've seen this waste of celluloid is "Why?"