The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Sean Connery's Extraordinary Gentlemen is too much of a good thing.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Utilizing the comic book series written by Alan Moore and art by Kevin O''Neill as a jumping-off point, Stephen Norrington''s quasi-adaptation is unsurprisingly heavy on the action and light on backstory and character development--something Moore has rarely been accused of.
Moore, the shaggy, reclusive savior of comics shot to fame in 1983 after he was handed the reins of DC''s struggling Swamp Thing series. He then went on to single-handedly redefine what a comic book could be, from a literary standpoint, with Watchmen, and, most famously, From Hell. Norrington, who directed the adaptation of Marvel Comics'' Blade a few years back, is no slouch when it comes to films based on comics, and now that it seems that every other release these days either stems from a comic-book series, it''s good to know that there are at least a handful of filmmakers out there who have an understanding of the paneled medium and how to make it work on screen.
That said, Norrington and screenwriter James Robinson have made an entirely serviceable mess of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which feels as manic and frothy as the last juddering gasp of a dying man''s lungs. As has become the case with more and more summer blockbusters, the film kick-starts at roughly 100mph and never bothers to slow down for characterization.
Coming on the heels of T3 and Charlie''s Angels: Full Throttle, Norrington''s film makes you long for the sonorous ennui of Jim Jarmusch''s Stranger Than Paradise. Aren''t there any superheroes who lounge around on Sundays lingering over a copy of the Times and listening to NPR? I thought not--they''re all too busy dodging overzealous pyro-technicians and driving cars cooler than the Batmobile. As the American ideal, they''re multitasked and overworked.
Set in the waning days of the 19th century, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has a blushingly good notion at its feverish core: that every now and again the truly remarkable men and women of the world must band together to avert the end of said world. And so we have famed British explorer Alan Quartermain (an extraordinary youthful-looking Sean Connery), Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Dracula''s former flame Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), an Invisible Man (Tony Curran), incorruptible Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), Tom Sawyer (Shane West), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng), all united against the mysterious Phantom, who''s seeking to spark off World War I.
In theory, and in Moore''s comic series, the conceit is ripping good, but Norrington, fine action director that he is, never allows his film to stop hurtling forward long enough to let his audience or his characters breathe. Vast, sweeping digital panoramas of Victorian London are followed by vast, sweeping battles that drag on endlessly. Simply put, it''s too much of a good thing, this unreined tumult of chaos.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen [2 stars]
Directed By: Stephen Norrington
Starring: Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng
(Rated PG-13, 110 min.)