The premise of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is fascinating: take some of literature’s most famous wounded heroes and team them together to fight a specific crime, kind of like a literati version of X-Men. Unfortunately, the execution is overshadowed by two solid hours of gunfire, explosions, and weak one-liners (“Call me Ishmael,” says a limo driver—in 1899). There is a slight bit of fun to be had as each new member of the League is recruited, but forget trying to find in-jokes and allusions in most scenes, except for the most groaningly obvious (“You’re missing a picture, Mr. Gray”).
While Sean Connery is clearly the star (and the exec producer), Stuart Townsend is the cast standout, gloriously smarmy as the abovementioned Dorian Gray. Jason Flemyng (Snatch, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels) gives a powerful, tortured performance as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, eliciting an empathy beyond even what readers of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel might feel. The rest of the cast ranges from simply not very good to utterly boring; additionally, the director couldn’t decide whether his Skinner (Tony Curran) is more Hollow Man (CGI) or Powder (an actor with white makeup). Even venerated Indian superstar Naseeruddin Shah looks more ridiculous than sublime as Captain Nemo.
Somewhere in the mess of fires, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, and timeline anomalies is a story about redemption, facing one’s own demons, righting old wrongs. But the noise and pace don’t give the viewer any time to reflect on these themes, and by the time the film is over, we’re left with more questions than insights (the largest of which is, “Okay, but what does Tom Sawyer have to do with anything?”)
USA | Fox
Running Time: 110 minutes
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Director: Stephen Norrington