The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – Stephen Norrington

 

The Sci-Fi Chronicles plunges us into the world of Alan Moore’s graphic novels with this film adaptation of his work directed by Stephen Norrington, which suffers from a bit of a haphazard script that hinted at great potential, and just failed horribly to have it pay off. It’s a great idea (mostly), using characters no longer bound by copyright, and pairing them all up together as a force for justice, in this adventure that needs a bit more steampunk, a lot better script, but does have a pretty wicked cast – Sean Connery, Tony Curran, Peta Wilson, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng, Richard Roxburgh, and  Naseeruddin Singh.

This is, to date, Sean Connery’s last film. I keep hoping he’ll come back to do one last, great role to wash the aftertaste of this one out.

Set at the dawn of the twentieth century, a nefarious force is playing the forces of the world against each other in an attempt to start a war… but all of that may be a backdrop for an eve more terrible plan.

The forces of good(ish) are brought together by M (Roxburgh) to fight for the British Empire, and stop the dark forces at work. He’s recruited a collection of famous personages, legendary adventurer Allan Quartermain (Connery), possible immortal, Dorian Gray (Townsend), invisible man, Rodney Skinner (Curran), Captain Nemo (Singh) and the vampiric Mina Harker (Wilson).

Along the way they recruit Jekyll and Hyde (Flemyng) and are joined by American agent, Tom Sawyer (West).

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Each of them, supposedly, has their issues and relationships to deal with, though most of the exposition is too top-heavy, and the characters aren’t as engaging as they could be to make us care about what happens them.

The action sequences, when they come along, are fairly well-crafted and made, there are some good beats, and the effects are pretty strong, but the lack of characterization causes each scene to be little more than one forgettable set piece after another.

I would love to see this graphic novel revisited, and this time with a better script. I honestly don’t understand why 20th Century Fox has such a problem with comic properties. Their treatment of the X-men and the Fantastic Four are prime examples, barring the Bryan Singer films, of course.

There was the potential for something really cool here, something that could have given them a bit of a tent pole franchise if they had given the film a better treatment, I mean, there is a wealth of source material to draw from. But instead, they didn’t pay the graphic novel their due, and created this poor reflection of the series that, of course, did as poorly as it did.

As I said, there are hints throughout the film of something cool, but it never comes to fruition, in fact, even as I write this, I realize that this concept would work so much better as a television series than a film franchise. And there are so many characters they could draw from, and then, thanks to the format, they could tell stronger stories…

Oh Fox, sigh.

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