Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Film Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Released: 2003

Starring: Sean Connery
Stuart Townsend
Richard Roxburgh

Synopsis: In an alternate Victorian Age world, a group of famous contemporary fantasy, SF and adventure characters team up on a secret mission

OK guys, this is going to be a short review because I have been staring at a blank screen for three weeks now, absolutely unable to write anything about this film! I watched this film for the 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' 2012 challenge and I really did enjoy it, I just (weirdly) have nothing to say!

The film differs greatly from the graphic novel. it's more of an 'inspired by' film than an adaptation, which is actually probably better in the long run. This way they had more creative freedom and didn't need to worry about fans getting cranky that they changed small aspects here and there. Is it better than the graphic novel? Probably not, but I still enjoyed the film and the direction they decided to take.

There are a heap of new characters added to the movie, branching off from the original team made up of Mina Harker, Alan Quartermain, Jekyll/Hyde, Captain Nemo and the Invisible man, Rodney Skinner (known as Hawley Griffen in the graphic novel). Joining the ranks are Tom Sawyer, a brash American working for a government agency (I can't remember which), and Dorian Gray (played by the handsome Stuart Townsend), while the Phantom now accompanies Moriarty as a bad guy. I actually really liked the addition of these extra characters, it isn't always the case, but in this instance a larger cast worked well for the tension and story build-up.  Unlike the graphic novel, everyone in the film is much more civil with one another and there doesn't seem to be as much distrust or animosity swirling around them...at least at first.  As kind as everyone is in the beginning, none of them really want to be there; they were coerced, in their own ways, into participating in this hodge podge of a group and the greater number swells the animosity and highlights their differences.

The team are united under the watchful eye of 'M' who informs them that the dastardly Phantom wants to sink Venice, and that it is their job to foil his plan. There are obvious complications along the way, both involving the Phantom's group of lackeys and within the group itself, but the pacing is fairly quick and the action scenes are exciting and well done. The story is a little silly, but I felt like the real interest in the film was of seeing the literary characters placed into situations that were removed from their traditional settings. Perhaps that has something to do with me being a reader, but I could forgive the film-makers deciding the story needed to be more 'Hollywood' than the original graphic novel because I felt like the characters were fleshed out enough. Although,it kind of sucked that they removed the love interest between Mina and Quartermain and replaced it with the younger, hotter couple of Mina and Gray, but I understand why they did that (I just hate it!).

Visually the film was fantastic. This was one of the earliest  mainstream films to utilise the Steampunk aesthetic, and it was really gorgeous. This was probably the film's real strength, the locations, props and costumes were all done to perfection. Similarly, the actors were all top-notch, it's just a pity the story was so unnecessarily extravagant in parts. Fun fact, did you know this was the film that made Sean Connery decide to retire? Apparently life on set was a nightmare, although it seems more to do with the director (Stephen Norrington) and less about anything else.

So a pretty decent film all in all. It wasn't the greatest ever, but it flowed well and it definitely wasn't hard to watch. I think most literary fans can find something in this film to enjoy.


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