THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
Sean Connery is easily in the top 10 coolest MoFo's on Earth. In fact he's in the top two since the only person I can think of who might be cooler is Jack Nicholson. That kind of cool is an awesome power and an awesome responsibility, not to be misused. But if he does misuse it, who do I call?
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (also known as LXG) was directed by Stephen Norrington (DEATH MACHINE, BLADE) and written by James Robinson, based on the very popular comic book by Alan Moore (FROM HELL) and Kevin O'Neill (HARDWARE). It opens with narration, telling us what should be shown, and we learn that the year is 1899 and the world is on the verge of both great technological discovery and war.
The narration implies that the impending Great War between the European powers was certain to include fantastic new inventions, something no one could have known at the time. Like every era including our own, the people of 1899 thought they'd reached the pinnacle of technology and only minor improvements to existing ways of doing things lay in their future.
But then The Phantom appears. This masked supervillain makes terrorist attacks on first one country, then another, each time seeming to act on behalf of first one country, then another. He's trying to get a war going and tensions run high.
These attacks involve "futuristic" weapons (tanks, wire-guided rockets, etc.) and we quickly discover that the Phantom is an arms dealer who wants to start a war so he can make millions by selling these weapons. In other words the source of all evil is corporate greed. How charmingly naive.*
But even that is being too complimentary. Think about it in modern terms.
If Lockheed-Martin built a hypersonic bomber and proceeded to attack various cities in the U.S. and Europe, then approached those same countries and said, "Pretty cool bomber, isn't it? So, how many can I put you down for?" what do you think the response would be? And once everyone knew the reason for these attacks and that they weren't orchestrated by enemy nations (as everyone seems to in the movie) wouldn't the war tension evaporate?**
I could go on and on but I'll spare you. The movie has tons of poorly thought out scenes that raise questions like that.
Down in Africa retired adventurer Allen Quatermain (Sean Connery: HIGHLANDER, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, and the best Bond, James Bond - seven times - of them all). Quatermain is retired and relaxing when he's approached by a man from British Intelligence. The empire needs him.
Of course Quatermain refuses but then some representatives from a different group show up. They're also looking for Quatermain but not to recruit him and a believable (comic book) fight ensues. Connery is in his 70's but he can still kick ass, no question.
On to London where Quatermain meets the rest of the League: a gentleman thief named Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran: THE 13the WARRIOR, BLADE II), a vampire named Mina Harker (Peta Wilson: NIKITA [TV]), a brash, young American named Tom Sawyer (Shane West: DRACULA 2000), inventor extraordinaire Captain Nemo (Naseerruddin Shah) and their host/boss, "M" (Richard Roxburgh: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II). After a few adventures and a brush with the Phantom they also manage to recruit Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng: DEEP RISING, FROM HELL, BELOW), although they're more interested in his alter ego, and Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend: QUEEN OF THE DAMNED).
And yes, if you passed high school lit class, you recognize most of these names as characters from science fiction and horror of the 19th century. Some of the actors do a better job than others at bringing these characters to the screen. Stuart Townsend is playing the same snide, bored immortal he played in QUEEN OF THE DAMNED and Jason Flemyng evokes sympathy as the conflicted Dr. Jekyll, who claims he doesn't want to transform into Mr. Hyde anymore and yet carries a case full of doses of the transformation formula where ever he goes.
The questions and plot holes keep piling up as the group pursues the Phantom. The chase takes place mostly with Captain Nemo's huge submarine, the Nautilus, which is far more advanced than all the "advanced" weaponry of the Phantom. Probably the most eye-rolling moment takes place when the Phantom is traced to Venice and the cruise-ship-sized Nautilus is taken down the canals and into the city. No freakin' way!
Other places are more lazy and irritating than eye rolling. At one point the Phantom has revealed a major twist, in great detail, to the League. He then says, "You're probably wondering why I told you this " and goes on to describe how he plans to do them in. But when he said that he wasn't talking to the League. He was talking to the audience in an incredibly lame, ham-handed attempt at providing exposition.
And now it's time for me to provide a
Yeah, you read that right.
Now that's not quite as stupid as it seems because they mention this when the sub is on the surface, charging its batteries with solar energy. But why would Hollywood writers choose solar power when (nuclear) there is a much more (nuclear) obvious choice (nuclear) that the U.S. Navy has been (nuclear) using for many decades (nuclear) ?
Who can say?
My guess is that solar energy, while perhaps not the most obvious choice as a submarine power source, was the most politically correct choice. And by the way in the original Jules Verne story Nemo's sub was powered by extracting electrolytes from the water. That wouldn't work but it still makes more sense than a solar powered submarine.
This movie is such an absolute mess that not even Connery's alpha-male charisma can save it. There are mildly interesting scenes and a couple of laughs lost in a wasteland of giant plot holes, cliché-ridden dialogue and just plain bad writing and directing. I give it one shriek girl.
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