I have to admit, I was prepared to not like (OK, hate) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The commercials looked lame and centered on Sean Connery’s Schwarzeneggerian bon mots and special effects. Even the title, later acronymed to “LXG”, cried out poseur.
When Connery’s Alan Quartermain boasted “I’m waiting to be impressed” during the exposition I was sure I had my opening line for this review. Perhaps it was my low expectations, or maybe some unexpectedly decent filmmaking (or, to quote Grandpa Simpson, it was possibly “a little from column A, a little from column B”), but I kind of liked this movie.
Although it is based on comics deity Alan Moore’s book of the same name, the story is sort of screwy at points. And the plot hole involving (no pun intended) the Invisible Man’s disappearance was deeper than the Chunnel. But, having checked my disbelief at the door, I sat back on my old blue plaid sofa and enjoyed 110 minutes of goofy fun.
It is 1899 and a crazed mask-clad villain is wreaking havoc in Europe. Quartermain is asked by the English government to lead a group of odd heroes to save the day.
Odd indeed. Dorain Gray, The Invisible Man, Mina Harker, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and Tom Sawyer all join forces to foil The Phantom’s plot.
It turns out in the end that The Phantom, later revealed as Holmes’ archenemy Dr. Moriarty, was the very person that had assembled the League for his own nefarious purposes.
Pretty standard superhero stuff, but the look of the film is really what elevates the material. The design of Nemo’s Nautilus is stunning. Every time it was on screen I found myself marveling at it. The costumes were wonderful too. I especially liked The Invisible Man’s somewhat pointy hat.
The special effects are also very nice. The Invisible Man’s face painting was a wonder, and the flashy jump cut transformations back and forth between Jekyll and Hyde were simple but elegantly effective.
Even some of the trite writing eventually appealed to me. Nemo’s first mate introduces himself to the group by asking them to “call me Ishmael.” How fun is that?!
I think perhaps this is one of the first movies I’ve seen wherein the art direction takes such a load off the rest of the film. And somehow that was enough for me.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen isn’t a great movie. It isn’t even a great superhero film. But as an excuse for filling the cracks of that old blue plaid sofa with more of Jiffy Pop’s slightly sweet kettle corn, it performs extraordinarily.