Superhero Month: "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Superhero Month: "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of fantasy violence, language and innuendo)
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: July 11, 2003
Directed by: Stephen Norrington
Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy

Imagine if some of the most iconic characters from British literature jumped off the page and into a movie. Now imagine that they all jumped into the same movie and interacted together to save the world. This is the premise of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," a film based on the comic books by the same name, which were first released in 1999.

The film begins in Nairobi, where adventurer Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery) has been called upon by men representing the Queen of England to come back to his native country to assist with an urgent matter. It seems a group of highly trained thugs has robbed the Bank of England and put the responsibility for the theft on Germany. Around the same time, several violent demonstrations happen in Germany, for which England gets the blame. People are whispering that if the tension between the two countries continues, it could lead to war. Because it is 1899, no world wars had yet been fought, making the prospect of one even more frightful. Quartermain refuses at first, but after being nearly murdered, he realizes that he has to help stop the crisis from further escalation.

He returns to England, where he teams up with the rest of the extraordinary gentlemen, including the retired pirate Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah); the Invisible Man, who goes by Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran); the immortal and eternally youthful Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), from Oscar Wilde's famous novel; and Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), who does his best to control his evil alter ego, Mr. Hyde. There is also one extraordinary gentlewoman, vampire Mina Harker (Peta Wilson) from Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula" and one American, Tom Sawyer (Shane West) for good measure. They are brought together by Agent M (Richard Roxburgh), who has intel that the terrorist who started this mess plan to blow up a meeting of European superpowers that is to take place in Venice. The League must travel to Italy to stop the explosion and prevent the deaths of any heads of state.

The Victorian Era, which ended in 1901, was a time of great prosperity, growth, and pride for the British. It is no surprise that during this time of prominence, quite a few authors wrote some of their best works that are still being read by adults and children today. With so many wonderful stories from the likes of people such as Sir Author Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens, it is no wonder that the comic book "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" was inspired by this era. Creator Alan Moore took some of the more interesting characters from famous novels like "Dracula" and put them in the same story, which is a true delight for the audience to witness. It is an inventive premise from the mind that also created "From Hell," "V for Vendetta," and "Watchmen," all of which have unsurprisingly been adapted into films.

The film has tons of special effects in its action sequences, which cost quite a bit of money. When a movie has to have a big budget like this one did, coming in at $78 million, the producing studio will often insist on several big name movie stars on the marquee to ensure that enough tickets are sold to recoup production costs. Thankfully, Twentieth Century Fox didn't make director Stephen Norrington cast big names, instead letting him cast actors who were suited to the part. Sure, Sean Connery is a famous actor, but the rest of the cast were not exactly household names when the film was released in 2003. Yet all of them perfectly fit the parts they were hired to play, with Wilson standing out as Mina. It's important to note that she doesn't stand out because she is the only female lead in a male-heavy cast; instead, she stands out because her acting is superb, and she plays Mina as equal parts seductive, charming, cunning, and just plain fun to watch in action.

The production values are truly stunning in the film, with Victorian-era England and Africa looking very accurate for the period. From the clothes to the furniture and the art on the wall, everything looks authentic. Even the score is moving and haunting, fitting the darker themes of the movie like a glove. Put all of these factors together, and they equal a movie that is entertaining, fun, and unlike any other comic book adaptation.

Rating: 3 out of 5