There was a squirming dude sitting next to me in the front mezzanine of the theater that was showing The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Midway through the film, he plotted his escape. Surrounded on both sides by viewers with feet up and vats of popcorn on their laps, he squeezed through the bars in front of him and leapt to his freedom. Now that’s a hero.
For the rest of us, League did prove extraordinary in its rank ineptitude, crude computer effects and rude indifference to the dark Alan Moore graphic novel on which the film is based.
Set in 1899, League starts with a recruiter named M (Richard Roxburgh), who brings together nineteenth-century literary rogues and asks them to form an alliance to — what else? — save the world. Sean Connery stars as Allan Quartermain, the great white hunter. Tossed in for spice, if little sense, are vampire babe Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), who gets it on with Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend). There’s also an Invisible Man (Tony Curran), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng) and — just to get an American lad in the mix — Tom Sawyer (Shane West), who’d like to get his blood sucked by Mina. It’s Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) who ferries the league off to Venice in his submarine Nautilus.
Except for Connery, who is every inch the lion in winter, nothing here feels authentic. Director Stephen Norrington (Blade) uses computers to paint in the f/x, which look as fake as Connery’s hairpiece. Jekyll’s transformation into a Halloween-costume Hyde is laughably bad. You can say the same of the movie.