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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

from Film Forum, 07/17/03

Using a popular series of elaborate comic books as his foundation, director Stephen Norrington (Blade) has constructed another special effects-heavy superhero fantasy for the screen. (Have you had enough of those yet? Because there are several more on the way.)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemenis a sort of X-Men for bookworms. It is a fantasy that brings together such legendary figures as Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), Dr. Jekyll and his famous Hyde, the Invisible Man, Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's Dracula, and, exclusively for the movie version, an American character: Tom Sawyer.

The results are provoking fans of the comic books to voice their disappointment with the way the film alters the comic narrative. Critics, regardless of its faithfulness to the source, are not much impressed. Religious press critics view it as just another noisy, violent, indulgent summer entertainment.

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) writes, "Despite an intriguing premise and imaginative effects . . . Norrington's comic book-inspired film is the most recent example of Hollywood genuflecting at the altar of excess—justifying megabudgets with tedious, over-the-top action sequences at the expense of a well-crafted story and three-dimensional characters."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) reports, "Norrington . . . opts not to explore or exploit these rich and vibrantly described characters. They, for the most part, appear flat and uninspired in LXG—something of which they have never been accused in the context of their original stories. Additionally, the action scenes have been filmed and edited (or rather chopped) in such a way to make viewing them difficult. As a result, the film feels rushed and often disjointed. Much of the final third of the film is simply confusing."

Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) says, "What we have here is a bunch of quasi-heroic Victorian literary characters who've been thrust into a very busy, very violent action movie and forced to adopt all the postmodern traits needed for that context. I can't help but wonder what Oscar Wilde, H. Rider Haggard, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain, Bram Stoker, Jules Verne, and Robert Louis Stevenson would think of someone turning their beloved creations into a pulpy excuse to blow stuff up."

Gareth Von Kallenbach (The Phantom Tollbooth) writes, "The film will be different things to different people. It is very easy to note the absurdity of plot, continuity errors, and actors that seem at times to be going through the motions. One can also say it is a silly yet fun romp that is not meant to be taken seriously. Fox is said to be in production of a sequel and that they see LXG as a franchise. That being said, if you want a no-brainer summer popcorn film then LXG may just be your cup of tea."

Mainstream critics are hoping this series does not become a franchise.

"This is an unusual movie," says Holly McClure (Crosswalk), "in that it reminded me of the old adventure movies like Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or Sinbad. I found the story interesting, the overall appeal of the movie entertaining and enough action to keep your teenagers entertained. Parents, I don't recommend this movie for children under 13 because of the complicated plot, violent fights scenes, and scary special effects."

She adds: "I wouldn't call this one of Connery's best performances, but I did enjoy seeing him in this kind of role—he just gets better with age!" (So, it's not his best, but he keeps getting better?)