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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Audio commentary by producers Don Murphy and Trevor Albert, and actors Jason Flemyng, Tony Curran and Shane West. Audio commentary by Jacqueline West, John Sullivan and Matthew Gratzner.
Disc Two: Pre production featurettes: Matters of Pre-Visualisation; Stills Gallery; Production documentaries: Assembling The League; 17 deleted and extended scenes; Post-production featurettes: Behind The Fantasy; European premieres; 3 trailers; 12 TV Spots. Posters.

For a film which boasts such an extraordinary premise, the disappointment that is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is all the more frustrating.

For starters, it squanders the potential offered by its scenario, while seeming content to perform well within itself, thereby turning what should have been one of cinemas blockbuster thrill-rides, into a fairly routine adventure that never fully realises what it is aiming to be.

Sean Connery heads this particular league, as legendary adventurer, Allan Quatermain, who is set the task of stopping The Fantom, a madman bent on world domination, with the help of seafarer/inventor Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), vampiress, Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), an invisible man named Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), American secret service agent, Tom Sawyer (Shane West), the ageless and invincible Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), and the dangerous split personality of Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde (Jason Flemyng).

The ensuing quest takes them around the world, and places them in all sorts of danger, before the inevitable face/off with their nemesis, and an effects-laden finale.

Yet anyone anticipating the start of a franchise in the X-Men mould, for instance, is likely to be sorely disappointed, for this is curiously lacking in the charisma, or spectacle, of better graphic/comic novel to film translations.

The film has clearly suffered from the bickering between director, Stephen Norrington, and star and executive producer, Connery, which, according to certain reports, virtually escalated to blows, and remains a curiously lacklustre affair which, while nowhere near as bad as the word from America suggests, seldom feels like the romp it should be.

The use of legendary fictional characters such as Quatermain and Mr Hyde should have provided plenty of ammunition for Norrington and the scriptwriters to have fun with, yet aside from Townsend’s suitably suave Dorian Gray, and Wilson’s vamp, the league members are a dull bunch, who seem merely content to utter their lines in between each burst of action.

The inclusion of West’s gun-ho American, Tom Sawyer, also does the film no favours, given that he doesn’t appear in the novels, and was only put in for the American market, while Connery does what he can with the one-liners, but is ill-served by a poor script that fails to deliver the type of quip that his Bond persona would have done with relish.

And while the special effects are good in terms of the characters and their powers, they are not so impressive during the main set pieces, which arrive thick and fast without ever managing anything jaw-dropping.

Fears that the film may have provided Connery with another blockbuster misfire in The Avengers mode prove unfounded, however, for this does at least entertain for the right reasons. It’s just that it may be better appreciated on a small screen in the run-up to Christmas, in the mid-afternoon, rather than on the Big Screen, where it really ought to have thrived.

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