Movie Review

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence, language and innuendo

Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Genre:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Length:
1 hr. 52 min.

Starring: Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, Stuart Townsend, Tony Curran, Jason Flemyng | Directed by: Stephen Norrington | Produced by: Jane Hamsher, Don Murphy | Written by: James Robinson and Alan Moore | Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Copyright 20th Century Fox
Story: Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), the world’s greatest adventurer, must lead a legion of superheroes the likes of which the world has never seen. Quatermain’s extraordinary League is comprised of Captain Nemo, Dracula vampiress Mina Harker, an Invisible Man, American secret service agent Tom Sawyer, Dorian Gray, and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. The League members are staunch individualists, outcasts in fact, with checkered pasts and singular gifts that have been both blessing and curse. Now they must learn to trust each other and work as a team for the very hope of civilization.
Peta Wilson as the vampire Mina Harker and Stuart Townsend as the immortal Dorian Gray in “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. Photos Copyright 20th Century Fox.

Did you know?

There have been real men with amazing God-given powers? Learn about…

 

It’s unfortunate and ironic that this film can be summarized in the now-famous Sean Connery line from its own promotional trailer: “I’m waiting to be impressed.” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” could have been an excellent film. I spent most of the last half wishing they would have continued in the original costume drama thread ala Sherlock Holmes rather than to forge into some strange post-modern game of cat and mouse.

The Story

The original premise is actually quite interesting, as it brings famous literary characters together. Allan Quartermain, the legendary explorer. Dr. Jekyll and his counterpart Mr. Hyde, the man-turned-monster. Captain Nemo and the Nautilus from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” The Invisible Man. Immortal Dorian Gray, and Mina Harker, former assistant to Van Helsing (the famous Dracula hunter). Throw in a notorious fiend from the literary works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a hoard of sly winks at other novels and histories (Around The World in Eighty Days, “The Phantom of the Opera”, and Jack the Ripper) and you have what starts off as a promising film.

In a dark alleyway a number of Victorian policemen are assaulted by a massive iron tank which boldly smashes into the Bank of London and robs not only the vault of its valuable contents but a set of original blueprints of the Venice underground as well. Since the only survivor (left alive to “tell the tale”) heard the thieves speaking German, England launches a series of accusations against their former allies. In the meantime the same gang of roughens seize control of a German laboratory and blow it sky high. Germany believes this to be the work of England—and British Secret Service Agents are frantically attempting to prevent an all-out war.

Explorer Allan Quartermain is sought out in Kenya by a British agent sent to persuade him to help them capture the fiend responsible, known only as “The Fantom.” The legendary hero journeys to England where he is briefed by “M,” a man of high position in the government but no intention to do more than set their plans for a counter-attack in motion. (Viewers are encouraged to believe he is Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older and less physically ambitious brother.) Quartermain’s mission is to bring together an elite crime-fighting team comprised of some of the most notorious individuals of their age and protect the world leaders as they gather in Venice for a secret summit meeting.

Among those already enlisted to join him in battle are Captain Nemo, a Hindi “pirate” and inventor who seeks to right past wrongs, Mina Harker, a former vampire-hunter and scientist, and Rodney Skinner (who, thanks to an invisibility formula with no anecdote, can only be seen when wearing clothing). “M” wants two more to make up the “dream team”—Dorian Gray, an immortal whose fate is tied to a cursed self portrait, and the infamous Dr. Jekyll, whose counterpart Mr. Hyde could be a valuable asset in battling the Fantom. Dorian has already been approached by the British government and turned them down. “M” hopes the reappearance of his old flame, Mina Harker, will change his mind. In the meantime, Jeckyl lurks abroad in Paris, having been run out of England for his violent crimes against humanity.

They have only three days to bring together the League and stop Fantom from rampant destruction. Along the way they’re joined by a spirited American by the name of Thomas Sawyer, a crack shot, fast driver, and doubly suspicious individual. As they journey together aboard the Nautilus, the characters each reveal a different side. Dark secrets, unrequited love, past sins, and old wounds. They will all be called to use their talents against a diabolical evil which, unleashed on the world, could create rampant chaos… and may find themselves unwilling pawns in the process. When a traitor is discovered among them, none of the League may make back to England alive.

Critique

LXG looked promising from the trailers and for the first half hour was tolerable. Then it turned just plain strange. The script simply fails to go anywhere—it doesn’t give us any complexities in the characters, seems to wander with no true idea of where it’s leading itself, and comes up with a true stinker of an ending.

How Marvel talked Sean Connery, Richard Roxburg, Shane West, and Stuart Townsend into this will forever remain a mystery. The movie is all about high-action fighting sequences with nothing of depth interspaced between. It’s never a good sign when the villain turns out to be the most fascinating character—and his death isn’t even dramatic. (I might also add “pathetic” and “below him,” considering just who he turns out to be.)

One plot twist did surprise me, but the other was easily foreseen. Since there’s no time for character development, the ending climax wasn’t as poignant as it might have been.

The special effects are fairly decent but are also grotesque. Seeing Jekyll transform into Hyde is a bone-wrenching experience with disgusting results (facial contortions, a massive hunched back, and sinewy flesh). Seeing a character age eighty years in three seconds and have his rotted corpse fall to the floor wasn’t particularly edifying either.

The content is limited to primarily intense fighting scenes, but unfortunately they aren’t even that well filmed. In order to keep the PG-13 rating the director was forced to use choppy editing techniques. The result is that most of the time you can’t see what’s going on and it feels as though you’re inside a video game. The bodies pile up by the ending credits, including several main characters (who may or may not be dead).

Language is mild—limited to some British slang and a few profanities, as well as some innuendo.

The relationship between Mina and Dorian is presumed to be sexual—we see them kissing passionately after he bandages her cut finger with his handkerchief. Minor spoiler: Mina is “turned on” by blood… because in her adventures helping her husband defeat Dracula with the aid of Van Helsing, she was bitten. The beautiful woman is now a vampire with the ability to transform herself into a legion of bats at will. The first evidence of this comes with no warning—when she suddenly turns on an attacker threatening her with a knife and bites him savagely in the neck. The camera briefly lingers on her licking blood from her lips before composing herself.

Conclusion

There were moments when I found the movie enjoyable, but these were few and far between. I found myself wishing they’d taken a much more natural approach and engaged the characters in a psychological battle against evil rather than merely pitting fang against claw.

There are some witty lines, but most failed to get laughs. LXG just doesn’t hold a candle against Spider-Man, which has a much better message for teens and doesn’t have the troubling elements—the presence of a lady vampire (which arguably incorporates “sexualized violence” into the film) and a particularly disconcerting ending which leaves the viewer with the impression that an African witch doctor is resurrecting one of the dead heroes. My only conciliation is that Sherlock Holmes himself never made an appearance, though the film could have used his intelligence and foresight.

reprinted with permission of www.charitysplace.com

Year of Release—2003

Viewer CommentsSend your comments

Neutral—Anytime I know that a movie contains elements of occultic or evil spiritual nature, my guard is up. I’m glad I gave this one a shot, though. This was more like listening to an old-timer tell a fantastic tale that he is making up as he goes along rather than gory horror film. I mention the gore because this movie has some witchy characters… and witchy characters do some shocking, witchy things. There are points of idol worship, immortality, vampires, witch doctors, and some some sexual references. This is a pretty well made film, though. You’ll see very little blood for all the action and only a very few frames that remind you of a horror film. The characters never strive for moral redemption and there is no delving into their spiritual nature or conjuring of spirits. The characters are what they are, just to be taken at face value.

Visually the picture is very intricate in fantastic detail and that was something I loved. The plot is good and never really show. Use of CGI is just right (I get tired of digital characters pretty quickly). The effects are very interesting, especially for the invisible man. There are some light points of humor along the way, too. To gauge if this show is right for you, I’d say its a whole lot better than the Batman movies, and morally on par with The Mummy. It’s definitely a hodge-podge of literary characters that wouldn’t seem to ever go together. But in the end, I thought it was a good piece of fiction and better than average in movie making quality.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Case Mitchell, age 30
Neutral—Joining the list of high budget action flicks is “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, who boasts big stars, fast action, and costly visual effects. I was eager to see this movie, judging from its enticing trailers, and wondered if it would live up to its name of “extraordinary.”

The film revolves around a simple plot. It features six characters from English Literature: Allan Quatermain (a hardened adventurer and explorer), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (a tortured man who drinks a formula to transform into a hideous beast), Dorian Gray (a handsome man who is immortal and hedonistic), Captain Nemo (the inventor/captain of the great submarine “Nautilus”), Tom Sawyer (an all-American young sharpshooter), Rodney Skinner (a quick-witted, invisible man), and Mina Harker (a beautiful and mysterious vampire). Together, they are known as the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, employed by the British Empire to prevent a world war from starting between Britain and Germany. To do so, they must stop the Phantom, a man who has been holding scientists hostage and developing highly superior weapons of war, and who is willing to sell them to the highest bidder. The story tends to unravel from there, with

…a few twists (though some rather predictable ones) and turns… Overall, the movie is visually enjoyable, and the action kept my attention riveted. The plot, like many action flicks, is rather shallow, though at times it attempts to go deeper. Amidst the swordplay and martial art sequences, there is some interesting talk about the “demons” inside us, trying to recover from the past, and the importance of relationships. There is a theme of self-sacrifice throughout the film. The movie does not push the boundaries of profanity and nudity/sex. Although some of the gentlemen of “The League” seem intoxicated with the only woman, Mina Harker, who sometimes dresses rather skimpily. No sex is shown. There are good life lessons about loyalty, trust, friendship and sacrifice, but there is also betrayal and a little witchcraft (scene with an African witch doctor and Nemo kneels before a statue of the Indian God Kali). Violence, though not graphic, is prevalent throughout. Overall, this film could be seen by a discerning Christian, 14 years and above.

“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” is a passable action flick that will not fail to entertain and excite, but will probably fail to leave a very strong lasting impression. Compared to other more violent and sex-infused films of its genre, however, it rises in a league of its own.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Nadia K., age 18
Positive—Thank goodness for a movie that has little or no bad language, sex, or nudity! I was very pleased with this film despite the many negative critcs’ reviews. I don’t understand why the critics had it out for this movie. I actually enjoyed it more than The Hulk, which had some nudity and a disturbing story line, or X-men 2, which was rampant with violence, language and sex related material. This movie, I believe, is appropriate for the ages of 13 and over. There are a few intense sequences, but mostly it is all in the tradition of Indiana Jones, Jumanji, and other great action/fantasy films! Go see it!
My Ratings: [X/X]
—Rachel, age 50
Positive—I went into this movie expecting a fun romp through some lives of great literary characters and got just that. Though probably not suited for children under 13, for some frightening elements and constant action, I would recommend this movie to anyone with a spirit for adventure and good story-telling. The twists in the plot and “complicated” characters attempt to redeem their past evils by joining forces to do good for the world. Self-sacrifice and the struggle between good and evil will keep you riveted by these “Extraordinary Gentlemen and woman.” content: mild language, some brief bloody violence, and special effects-fantasy violence, slight innuendo.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Matt, age 19
Positive—I found this film to be very entertaining even though Mina Harker is a vampiress and Dorian Gray appears to be less than human, since he was riddled with bullets at close range and did not die. I don’t recall any profanity, there was no nudity, and the violence was not very graphic (obvious killing but no real blood and gore type of killings)…

…Even though this movie contains some questionable elements, including Harker and Gray, I would see it again. The story is far-fetched enough to be make-believe but acted out in such a manner as to be entertaining. I would not recommend taking small children to see this film.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—T. Williams, age 46

Positive—This film is excellent viewing, although not for children under the age of 13 (personal opinion of course!). For those intrigued by the legends and tales of old, LXG is a must see. Objectionable content includes minor language, serious violence (good vs. evil) and the mystical/magical qualities as found in classic literature. I felt that all of the acting was in character and very well done; with special effects that were awesome!
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Amy L. Ford, age 34
Neutral—Start with the 60’s Batman series, make it an X-Men wannabe with almost-state-of-the-art special effects and characters taken from legendary fiction, and you’ve got the League. No superfluous character development or complicated plot to interfere with the tongue-in-cheek fight and chase scenes. They throw in some preadolescent locker-room humor, but the vampire (one of the good guys) savoring the blood of her enemy might be too much for most kids. The shaman invoking spirits of life and death over a Christian grave should also make one pause. All in all, an entertaining, relatively clean action flick, but don’t expect the X-Men.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Ed Kenschaft, age 35
Negative—There is no pro-Christian content in this film. Although the special effects were nice and kept me on the edge of my seat, the film is from a secular viewpoint. Two characters in the film claim to be immortal (one of them is a vampire who does what vampires do… suck blood). One of the characters is praying to a statue of a Hindu god (though nothing is shoved down the viewer’s throat). The movie itself is pretty mediocre, too. The special effects have a nice touch but are overdone. Some of the duel scenes are very fuzzy and blurred. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the sound effects editing was done by amateurs. The filmmakers tried too hard to make this like Lord of the Rings. The violence in the film just barely toes the PG-13 mark. If you really want to see this film, wait until it’s out on video or cable because it isn’t worth the $6.50 I paid to see it in theaters.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Shannon Hammell, age 21
Negative—This movie had much adventure potential but was hampered by a weak plot, clunky cast and a penchant for mindless action. Some golden characters were the invisible man as the comedic relief (he had the lines that drew the most chuckles) and the thoroughly evil character of Dorian Gray, who played with suave smoothness hiding a wolf among the flock as it were. From a Christian standpoint there’s a lot to take offense at: Mina Harker, the vampire (in the comics however she was not a vampire but the last survivor of the encounter with the lord of vampires: Count Dracula, something that in the comics made her a strong female character through faith and will, sadly in the movie version she is herself a creature of the undead). Dorian Gray, who sold his soul to the dark powers (Satan) for immortality, bonding his soul to a painting. Captain Nemo worships the Indian Death Goddess Kali, and Dr. Jeykll’s Mr. Hyde persona is a powerhouse without (for the most part) conscience. Only Agent Sawyer remains untouched by the otherworldy…
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 1]
—Brian Childers, age 33
Neutral—I found myself getting tired during the film, as if it was like so many other hacked together basic plots. Some of the effects and characters were interesting, but only for a while. I personally like weird, or rather, I enjoy bizarre or surreal or shocking elements as long as they help out in some way, but the weird stuff here didn’t do it for me! I think it would be a pretty good movie for kids, but a couple things bothered me (especially the vampiress feasting on a guy’s neck and having to wipe the blood away, and then seeing Sean Connery and the rest of the gang recover from watching their comrade do that as if it were not really such a big deal).
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 2]
—Stephen, age 23
Comments from young people
Neutral—I liked this movie, but what was offensive was Violence : Extreme, Blood/Gore : Moderate(when we see Dracula’s Bride sucks blood out of a guy, realy disqusting) Sex/nudity: moderate and Bad Attitude: Heavy. I recomend 11 and up to see this movie.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Benjamin M. McCluney, age 12
Movie Critics
…Connery looks and sounds terribly bored… These Gentlemen are certainly extraordinary. But “The League” is nothing out of the ordinary…
—Michael Brody, The Film Hobbit
…isn’t a complete disaster… but it’s not likely to spawn a franchise, either. …there’s just too much violence—some sexualized—to put a stamp of approval on “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”.
—Bob Smithouser, Plugged In, Focus on the Family
…Violence: Extreme / Disrespectful/Bad Attiude: Extreme…
—ScreenIt!
…Extreme Caution…
—Dr. Tom Snyder, Movieguide
…Watching this outrageously vapid and overdone movie is a sad experience, because Connery, at 73, hasn’t really lost his stuff.
—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
…just when it seems about to become a real corker of an adventure movie, [the film] plunges into incomprehensible action, idiotic dialogue, inexplicable motivations, causes without effects, effects without causes, and general lunacy. What a mess.
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…one more bloated effects-o-rama lumbering through a formula plot… without much zest, imagination or awareness of its own absurdity.
—William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer