(Originally published 2003)
Directed by Stephen Norrington, written by James Dale Robinson, 110 minutes, rated PG-13.
The adventure film, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” an oxymoron if there ever was one, is a weapon of mass destruction, a movie rigged with so much TNT, the damned thing keeps blowing itself up.
Throughout, whole cities explode, submarines explode, mountainsides explode and people explode, and yet the movie, without the assistance of an explosive script, quickly counts itself among the destruction.
Loosely based on Alan Moore’s darkly imagined comic books, "LXG"--as the ghetto-fabulous folks at Twentieth Century Fox are marketing it, presumably to catch the eye of the attention-deprived hip-hop set--has a terrific premise and squanders it.
It takes a handful of the Victorian era's more infamous heroes and villains, and asks them to stop an evil force called the Fantom from conquering the world.
In the books, that idea moved like a snake to a rat. Fueled with Moore's ferocious wit and the clever, sudden jags he hooked through the corners of his story, there was no stopping the brutal, high-minded fun.
Director Stephen Norrington's film, on the other hand, jacks the books' energy with such an overbearing 21st-century sensibility, it quickly dumbs down the proceedings with an overkill of action clichés.
The result? A summer blockbuster as overstuffed as a WWE locker room, but with none of the fun and all of the odor.
Set in 1899, “LXG” imagines a world on the brink of war, with Britain and Germany gearing up for a major battle after the mysterious Fantom lays waste to each with his seemingly endless supply of bombs. With both countries blaming the other, the head of British intelligence--not coincidentally named M (Richard Roxburgh)--is ordered by the Queen to get to the bottom of things.
M does so by reaching out to Sean Connery's Allan Quatermain, the roguish adventurer from H. Rider Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines," who reluctantly agrees to join the fight by forming a literary league of superheroes.
The team he gathers is impressive: Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer (Shane West), H.G. Well's the Invisible Man (Tony Curran), Jules Verne's Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Robert Lewis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng), and Bram Stoker's Mina Harker (Peta Wilson).
With special effects that are just a step above what you see on the Sci Fi channel and a script by James Dale Robinson that favors flash and fire over nuance and logic, "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is actually rather illiterate, a disappointment that has its moments, particularly with the charismatic Connery, but which is rarely as extraordinary as its title suggests.