League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Stephen Norrington
Published Jul 01, 2003Flushed with the success of the X-Men franchise and Daredevil, Fox unleashes their adaptation of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. But with all the success comic book adaps have been receiving (Hulk, the aforementioned DD and X-Mens, the Blades, Spiderman, etc.), it's beginning to resemble a line from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back; to paraphrase: "After X-Men hit at the box-office, the studios rushed in to snatch up every comic book property they could get their dirty little hands on " And although reported to be an excellent series, does League really deserve a movie?
Regardless of deserve, it now is a movie and a perfectly acceptable one at that, but sadly one that doesn't live up to its excellent premise or even reach beyond being merely mediocre. The excellent premise: assemble a number of literary heroes and villains, such as Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Mina Harker, Dorrian Gray and Tom Sawyer (both of whom were not in the original series), to save the world from being plunged into a world war by a criminal madman with an army using advanced technology the world has never seen and therefore can't combat.
Set in 1899, the first thing to go is continuity, that and the fact that some of these characters actually died in their stories, but what the hell, it's an intriguing premise. A little too intriguing for a movie actually, as seeing that volumes have been written on these characters (hell, they're all a part of literary history), bringing them together in a movie only glosses over their stories, personalities and, inevitably, our interest.
Dispensing with the back stories for the characters and focusing on recruiting, introducing and shoehorning the viewer into the adventure, which you're pulled along with possibly so you don't have time to look, or think, too closely at what's going on League does have appearances going for it, generally, (set in the end of the century, it looks amazingly gothic, at times, but some of the CGI is weak sauce), not to mention the always good Sean Connery playing the aging Quatermain.
But where League falters is with its simplistic plot, its boring antagonists, the lameness of its super-villain (he's called the Phantom, and the twist at the end actually made me angry) and some of its weak, weak-looking effects (some CGI explosions, creatures and Nemo's sub). Not to mention not giving the breadth of character necessary to make us care about anyone but Connery, and we care about Connery not because of his character but because he's Sean Connery and can make anything watchable, except Entrapment, which really sucked.
Perhaps League would have been better with the darkness of the original series left in tact (Quatermain as a heroin addict, the Invisible Man as a sex fiend) but even watered down and glossed over, the novelty of seeing these characters manages to save the movie from being terrible, which, despite having both some good and some bad, is merely acceptable summer fare. Still, it poses the question: how long until the comic book adaptation genre bubble bursts? (Fox)