Saturday, 21 August 2010

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Year: 2003
Director: Stephen Norrington
Screenplay: James Dale Robinson based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
Starring: Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng, Richard Roxburgh and Max Ryan
Running Time: 110 minutes
Genre: Fantasy, action, adventure, superhero, science-fiction, steampunk

Summary: The year is 1899 and a mysterious villain known as The Fantom has arranged a raid on the Bank of England designed to point to the Germans, and this is followed by a raid on an airship factory in berlin designed to point to the British. With the countries of Europe at each other's throats the world stands on the brink of an all-out World War. The only solution is to recruit a "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" consisting of hunter and adventurer Allan Quatermain (Connery), Captain Nemo (Shah) who owns the world's only submarine the Nautilus, vampire Wilhelmina Harker (Wilson), the completely invisible thief Rodney Skinner (Curran), the apparently indestructible Dorian Gray (Townsend), American sharpshooter Tom Sawyer (West) and the tormented Doctor Henry Jekyll with his violent alter ego Edward Hyde (Flemyng). Brought together by the mysterious "M" (Roxburgh) the group have to conquer they're own personal demons to save the world.

Opinions: This film has the benefit of a really interesting central idea, that of bringing together characters from 19th century adventure stories, such as Allan Quatermain (from the novel King Solomon's Mines and it's various sequels and prequels by H. Rider Haggard), Captain Nemo (from the novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne), Wilhemina Harker (from the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker), the "Invisible Man" (from the novel The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells), Dorian Gray (from the novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde), Tom Sawyer (from the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and others by Mark Twain) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (from the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson). However the movie, which was hated by critics despite being relatively successful at the Box Office, never became the franchise which it so obviously was intended to be.
The movie had a notoriously difficult shoot with one of the biggest sets being destoryed in a storm and a great deal of tension between director Stephen Norrington and star Sean Connery (when asked why the director didn't attend the premiere Connery snapped "check the local asylum"). Also due to the nature of using already created characters some charcaters had to be changed, added or dropped depending on whether or not the film-makers could get the rights to use them. The character Tom Sawyer was added at the request of the studio (20th Century Fox) in order to make the film more accessible to an American audience. The film was also the subject of a lawsuit brought against the studio by writers Larry Cohen and Martin Poll who claimed that the film plagarised a script they had written called Cast of Characters which the studio had previously rejected. The writers claimed that the studio hired Alan Moore to write the graphic novel based on the Cast of Characters script. The idiocy of this claim is heightened by the fact that the lawsuit focused on two characters (Tom Sawyer and Dorian Gray) which did not appear in the original comics and were added for the film. Despite dismissing the claim as "absurd nonsense" the studio settled out of court, which infuriated Alan Moore who thought that he had been denied the chance to exonerate himself. In the end after this film Sean Connery announced his retirement from acting and Stephen Norrington declared that he would never make another film again (although he has changed his mind) and Alan Moore has severed all ties with the movie world (despite the release of the movies V for Vendetta (2006) and Watchmen (2009) based on his comics).
It is not a good film by any means, basically hurtling from one special effects packed action sequence to another with a minimum of story or character development. The special effects are good and the action sequences are well done and do provide some excitement but it is all really predictable, and with so many interesting ideas it just feels like a wasted opportunity. It is also worth mentioning that the movie has absolutely nothing in common with the superb graphic novel series aside from the title and central premise.

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