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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (**)
Directed by Stephen Norrington
Written by James Robinson, from an idea bought from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
 
Principal Cast
Sean Connery -- Allan Quatermain
Naseeruddin Shah -- Captain Nemo
Peta Wilson -- Mina Harker
Tony Curran -- Rodney Skinner (The Invisible Man)
Stuart Townsend -- Dorian Gray
Shane West -- Tom Sawyer
Jason Flemyng -- Dr. Henry Jekyll aka Mr. Edward Hyde
Richard Roxburgh -- Mycroft Holmes
Max Ryan -- Dante
Tom Goodman-Hill -- Sanderson Reed
David Hemmings -- Nigel
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

I got this really cool idea, see. We'll buy the rights to a comic book from this Alan Moore dude, who's so hot right now in the whadda-ya-callum graphic novels, and then, and here's the really clever bit, we'll take out everything that makes the graphic novel interesting, and put in tried and true Hollywood clichés, so the audience will love it. Righty, righty, right?

And sure enough, that's what they've done, oh best beloved. They've taken out the bizarre characterization and plugged in standard -- no, substandard -- movie characters. They've surgically removed all of the subtlety and replaced it with the blatantly obvious. And they have deliberately made the movie as deeply dumb as comics were before Alan Moore came along. (I say this in all seriousness. Much as I love Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures, face it, they were dumb.)

LXG, as they would like us to call their movie, is deeply dumb. It is not dumb the way it would be dumb if it were written by a stupid person. It is dumb in the way a movie is when it is written by a smart person with contempt for his audience.

Alan Moore drops in subtle references to 19th century literature. When the screenplay mentions Phileas Fogg, one of the most famous fictional characters of all time, it adds, in an aside to nobody, "He went around the world in 80 days." The writers do not understand that an audience feels pleasure when they get a reference on their own. They do not feel pleasure at having a reference explained to them, doubly so if they didn't get it in the first place.

There is a Star Trek TNG episode titled "Allegiance" by Richard Manning and Hans Beimler in which Picard is replaced by a double. Picard is a real hero. His double tries to act like a hero, tries to make the crew like him, tries to impress them. The crew, of course, realize that something is seriously wrong with the captain.

All of the heroes in LXG try to impress people with how heroic they are. Allan Quatermain discusses his most personal memories with a complete stranger, Tom Sawyer. Mina Harker explains her awful secret without any hesitation or embarrassment. Captain Nemo leaves the door open while worshiping Kali, and then looks offended and closes the door when people see him. If he wanted privacy, why did he leave the door open in the first place!

The total absence of characterization hurts the film more than the presence of highways in Venice, the statement that you can travel by sea north north-east from Venice and reach Manchuria, or the fact that the invisible man does not leave footprints in the snow. But the stupid bits were left in, even though someone connected with the film must have been smart enough to notice how stupid they were. This says worlds about the contempt the filmmakers felt for their material and their audience.

The mistake that I disliked most (among too many to list) was their decision to have the portrait of Dorian Gray show the upper body only. But that portrait was and must be a full-length portrait. Otherwise Dorian Gray, like Iolanthe's Strephon, would only be immortal from the waist up. This bothers me, I think, because the idea of adding Dorian Gray to the League was a good one, if only the filmmakers had shown just a smidgen of professionalism.

The best Allan Quatermain film is the one starring Stewart Granger in King Solomon's Mines. Second best is the earlier version staring Paul Robeson. LXG belongs somewhere down around Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold staring Richard Chamberlain. It is, however, probably better than Tarzan in King Solomon's Mines or Watusi.

There are a few effective moments in the film. The best is a brief scene with Quatermain and a tiger. Sean Connery is always a pleasure to watch. Even the stupidest line sounds better when he says it. Still, what a disappointment!

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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