The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Directed by Stephen Norrington
Written by James Dale Robinson from comic books by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
Starring Sean Connery


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Is it too much to hope that filmmakers have finally run out of comic books from which to take their stories? Or can we at least suggest that the next one be something like "The League of Ordinary Men and Women?" It could not be worse, and might well be better, than "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," which among other mistakes actually has a strong if not extraordinary woman, Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), she of the Dracula connection, as one of the 'gentlemen.'

"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" comes from a series of comic books by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, in which the Victorian hero Allan Quatermain assembles a team, so to speak, to fight evil threats. In the film, he is played by Sean Connery, who also gets Executive Producer credit and I hope a good deal of money, though he barely speaks and no longer acts; what a sad end to a fine career. In addition to Miss Harker his team here includes Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), an Invisible Man (Tony Curran), though not The Invisible Man (the rights were not available), Tom Sawyer, now a U.S. Marshal (Shane West), and last but not least Dr. Jekyll and his other self Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng). They are brought together in the year 1899 by, yes, M (Richard Roxburgh), to fight a villain called the Fantom, who plans to instigate a world war by wreaking havoc in each country in such a way that another country is blamed.

The signs of third-rate literary sensibilities (or worse) are everywhere: What possible connection does any one of the group have with any other? What would possess M, or anyone else, to bring in Dorian Gray to the hunt for a villain? Jekyll and Hyde? No explanations are given; evidently the creators were acquainted with the names, but not the stories themselves. The group assembles in London, and must get to Venice in four days. "Impossible," says one, apparently unaware of the existence of railroad trains. "We can do it in Capt. Nemo's 'Nautilus,'" is the answer, and soon enough they are cruising up Venice's canals in this quarter-mile-long behemoth without so much as scraping the nearby gondolas, at which point the third-rate filmic sensibilities take over. The group now possesses what appears to be a 16-cylinder Jaguar convertible, which roars through the many streets of Venice to try to apprehend the bad guys. Was no one aware that there are no streets in Venice?

This is an if-only film. If only someone at the studio had stopped them before it was too late. If only it were a satire, a Monty Python-like take on Victorian literary conceits. If only someone had thought to find a connection among the principals. Because I found this film so offensive I am going to give away its secret: M is actually the Fantom, and Dorian Gray is a traitor to the group. There; now go and enjoy.