The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Review

Posted: December 10, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

Release Date: July 11th, 2003

Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Written by: James Dale Robinson

Directed by: Stephen Norrington

Starring: Sean Connery, Shane West, Richard Roxburgh, Stuart Townsend

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an absolutely god-awful, terrible, horrendous and whatever-other-synonym-for-bad-you-can-think-of movie.  It’s an insult to leagues, an insult to anyone or anything extraordinary, and while I’m at it, it’s an insult to gentlemen as well.  But perhaps its most egregious offense is that it’s an insult to the well-liked graphic novel upon which it’s based.  I haven’t read the source material myself, but I’m more than willing to take the word of those that have and thus add another reason to the list of why this film is so bad.  Going on the weaknesses of this movie as just a movie — and believe me, there are a lot of those — it’s no wonder why author Alan Moore has such a distaste for Hollywood.  If something I’d written myself was turned into such a waste of time, talent and film, I’d be pissed off, too.  Get settled, ladies and gentlemen, because this is only my opening paragraph.

The year is 1899, or at least the steampunk version of it, and mysterious and monstrous armored devices are staging attacks throughout Europe and the soldiers carried in these devices are dressed like German officers, even though Germany denies affiliation.  In the opening sequence, these “soldiers” storm The Bank of England, making off with Leonardo da Vinci’s original blueprints for Venice.  Shortly thereafter, men dressed as British soldiers attack and destroy a German factory, kidnapping many German scientists in the process.  This creates heavy tension between the two nations, and pretty soon, a shadowy individual who calls himself The Fantom claims responsibility.  Rather than turn to military forces to combat this threat, a secret group known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are instead re-activated to stop The Fantom.  Brought together by the enigmatic M (Richard Roxburgh), The League consists of Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery), Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Secret Service agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West), invisible thief Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng) and vampiress Mina Harker (Peta Wilson).  Always nice to know that despite the name of the League, there’s no gender discrimination.  Their mission is to get to Venice before The Fantom can detonate a bomb in the city that would disrupt a peace summit between the leaders of the world and thus start a third World War while in effect controlling the arms race.  In short, it’s all basic action movie stuff.

As I’ve made clear, this film is a disaster, but here’s the sad part, though: if you had asked me anytime from 2003 to 2010 (the last time I watched this movie before now) what I thought of it, I would’ve qualified it as a guilty pleasure.  Chalk that up to the naiveté of a young movie fan who, ten years ago, hadn’t yet fully developed his tastes in movies.  Thankfully, I’ve finally seen the light, and I’m left to wonder just what the hell I was thinking back then.  Let me tell you something, when a movie actually makes you start web-surfing halfway through it out of boredom while only devoting half of your attention to what’s playing out on-screen, then you know it’s got to be a bad movie — whether you’ve seen it already or not.  I’m just amazed I’ve seen it as many times as I have by this point.

The only thing about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that I can say I sort of enjoy still is Sean Connery as Allan Quartermain.  Connery’s charm and general badass-ness manage to rise above the dreadful material on more than one occasion, and I suppose that’s something worth commending.  But he’s the only one in this entire cast who’s able to do so.  For a movie called The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, there’s nothing even remotely close to extraordinary about either the rest of the performances or the characters themselves.  The League of Extraordinarily Boring Gentlemen seems like a more appropriate title for this turkey.  Jason Flemyng really feels like the only other actor in the cast to be trying, but even he ends up just being bland.  As for the rest of the actors, apart from Richard Roxburgh, I wasn’t familiar with the work of anybody else in the cast.  Not only do they fail to leave any impression, but I haven’t seen any of them in any other film since, so I guess that says more about their effectiveness in this film than I ever could.  And while on the subject of not seeing these faces anywhere else in the past ten years, this movie all but forced Sean Connery into retirement.  Remember that list of things that make this movie so bad I mentioned earlier?  Well, that right there would be on the list.

Apart from Connery, I’m extremely hard-pressed to pinpoint anything else about this movie that I thought worked in any way. The writing in particular is ter-ruh-ble.  What starts out as a plot with a lot of promise quickly degenerates into an absolute mess of clichéd and hackneyed dialogue, endless action that’s also an assault on the senses and character motivations as thin as a piece of paper.  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is what happens when Hollywood has too much control over a property.  And director Stephen Norrington can’t escape blame, either.  He directs this thing in extremely perfunctory fashion, giving the film no heart or excitement whatsoever and instead just strings the audience along until the next structure blows up or the next bullets fly.  Haven’t seen him direct much of anything since either, eh?

This movie is loud, stupid, unexciting, stupid, unamusing, obnoxious, stupid, poorly written and directed, and did I mention stupid?  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen ranks right down there with such “gems” as Batman & Robin, Ghost Rider, Jonah Hex and R.I.P.D. as one of the worst comic book/graphic novel adaptations ever made. It also really sucks as a movie in general, which is an even bigger crime.  I would mock this movie even more, but frankly, I don’t care enough about it to.  Just the fact that it sucks big time is enough.

1/2 /****

  1. I can tell you just loved this one.

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more. It could have been interesting but as you say, it was a disaster. I remember reading Connery hated it and was embarrassed to be in it. There’s a lot of films that fall in this category–not art, just muck out of Hollywood.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      It’s no wonder Connery hated it, and why it pretty much killed his career, as well as those of the others involved in it.

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