The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a frustratingly flawed 2003 comic book adventure from director Stephen Norrington (Blade). This screen adaptation of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s comic book series is notorious for being the film which made star Sean Connery want to retire (he clashed with director Norrington) and while it’s far from great, it does have an intriguing concept and some very impressive visuals.
It’s 1899 and a mysterious villain is trying to start a war between Britain and Germany that will end all wars. The mysterious M (Richard Roxburgh) puts together a crack-team (of public domain literary characters) to save the world. The team consists of Allan Quatermain, (Connery) Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), Dr Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), Invisible Man (Tony Curran) and Tom Sawyer (Shane West).
Stephen Norrington’s film isn’t as bad as its reputation would have you believe. Yes, the pacing is off, the action is too frenetic and Jame Dale Robinson’s script gives many characters the short shrift, but this film looks great. There’s a wonderful steampunk style to proceedings and it makes good use of its Prague locations. If it has a problem, it’s that there’s simply too much of…everything, crammed into less than two hours. If they’d tried to make something a little smaller and more focused, then this could have been a huge success commercially and critically.
Sean Connery was born to play Allan Quatermain and like Ben Affleck’s recent turn as Batman, it’s a shame he never got to star in a solo film for his character (it’s not like there wasn’t enough source material). Still, it’s a good showcase for Connery’s iconic, gruff movie star charisma. You’ll come away disappointed but you can’t deny that The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is flawed fun. It’s the final film in a late-career run of action movies for the former James Bond but sadly it’s not quite up there with The Rock (but few action movies are), or even Entrapment. But at least it’s better than the 1998 mis-fire The Avengers. They really don’t make movie stars quite like Sean Connery anymore – and that’s a damn shame.
For a film with a troubled production, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen comes with great extras. You get an informative commentary from producers Don Murphy and Trevor Albert and actors Shane West, Jason Flemyng and Tony Curran and a plethroa of behind the scenes material. Good stuff.