The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Fooling around with history is a parlour game. This is a parlour movie, with added bits, like special effects coming out of its ears.

How extraordinary is a gentleman? In the case of Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), Jonathan's wife and full time vampire, the answer is very. They're all here - Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) with his portrait covered in sackcloth, Dr Jekyll (Jason Flemyng) and Mr Hyde who looks like the Governor of California after a quadruple dose of steroids, Capt Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) with his opulent Victorian submarine, apple-cheeked and wet-nosed Tom Sawyer (Shane West), The Invisible Man (Tony Curran) who talks like a London cabbie and Rider Haggard's great white hunter Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery).

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Why are they here? That's an entirely different and altogether more confusing question. It is the last year of the 19th century and there is mischief afoot in Europe, where a mysterious masked figure, calling himself The Phantom, has been orchestrating acts of terrorism, using revolutionary new weapons, in an attempt to start a war between Britain and Germany. A meeting of national leaders has been arranged in Venice and there is the strong suspicion that The Phantom intends to blow the city to bits while the meeting is in progress.

A bowler-hatted civil servant is sent to Africa to persuade Quartermain to lead a group of fictional oddballs to stop this heinous crime. He travels to London to meet the head of internal security, possible a precursor of MI6, who goes under the name of - wait for it! - M (Richard Roxburgh).

What follows is an expensive series of set piece fracas, with stuntmen flying around the place and an overload of comic book violence. The level of hokum becomes top heavy, as does the use of CGI. In the end, it is only good for a laugh, but director Stephen Norrington cannot find the time between exploding this and destroying that to choreograph any meaningful physical comedy.

Connery has presence; Townsend has good looks; Wilson has teeth; Shah has a walk-in beard; Flemying has Hyde; West has youthful enthusiasm; Curran has see-through clothes.

When the immortal Gray is shot at close quarters by a machine gun and his only response is a sardonic smile, the shooter gasps, "What are you?", to which Oscar Wilde's narcissistic hero replies, "I'm complicated."

Is the action packed? Certainly. Does it add up to anything? No. Does that matter? Ultimately, yes.

Reviewed on: 16 Oct 2003
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The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen packshot
A group of fictional oddballs join forces on a mission in 19th century Europe.
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Director: Stephen Norrington

Writer: James Robinson, based on comic books by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

Starring: Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng, Richard Roxburgh, Max Ryan, Tom Goodman-Hill, David Hemmings

Year: 2003

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, Germany, Czech Republic, UK


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