'LXG' and 'Alex & Emma' `

Manila Bulletin, August 20, 2003 | Go to article overview

'LXG' and 'Alex & Emma' `


AN ELITE team of superheroes from the Victorian era is recruited to save the world in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, based on the comic book novels by Allan Moore and Kevin ONeill. The movie starts in misty London in 1899. A madman called Fantom has sown the seeds of discord aimed to trigger a world war at the turn of the century.

To fight him, a secret organization headed by M (Richard Roxburgh of Moulin Rouge remember that the name of James Bonds boss is also M), gathers the heroes of l9th century Victorian literature, whose exploits have all been previously brought to life on the big screen by 20th century cinema. Each has his own special skills, like the X-Men. Their mission is to stop Fantom from his plan to sabotage a meeting of European leaders set in Venice.

Chosen as the leader of the group is Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery - performed by Richard Chamberlain in a previous movie), an expatriate in Africa who is haunted by the death of his son. Allan is a creation of H. Rider Haggard in the 1885 novel, King Solomons Mines.

Joining him are Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), a creation of Oscar Wilde from The Portrait of Dorian Gray (1890); Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jason Flemyng) from Robert Louis Stevensons Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886); Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) from Jules Vernes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870); Mina Harker (Peta Wilson of Le Femme Nikita on TV) from Bram Stokers Dracula (l897); and the Invisible Man (Tony Curran) from H.G. Wells novel of the same title (1897.)

The only American joining this British brigade is Tom Sawyer (Shane West of A Walk to Remember), a creation of Mark Twain, who is now with the U.S. Secret Service. All the heroes travel to Venice aboard Nemos famous submarine, the Nautilus, to stop the Fantom. But the threadbare plot actually serves only as a background for the action sequences brimming with special effects overload, like Dr. Jekyll being transformed as Mr. Hyde, a combination of the Hulk and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

There is a twist in the end about who Fantom is, Allan and Tom have a father and son kind of bonding about target shooting, and its revealed that there is a traitor among the group. As may be expected, they get to save the world, but theres a witch doctor in the end that suggests there might be a sequel. That is, if this movie became a blockbuster hit in the U.S. Unfortunately for it, audience reception was lukewarm and it got clobbered by the other U.S. summer releases. Maybe modern viewers do not really enjoy watching period fantasy films with the characters in costumes, unless theyre wittily done like Pirates of the Caribbean.

We really wish the film had a better crafted story to make it truly extraordinary. We read Sean Connery himself is not pleased with the work of the 38-year old director, Stephen Norrington, and theyve been feuding all throughout the shoot. Norrington did not attend the films premiere at Las Vegas on July 31 and when someone asked about him, Mr. Connery reportedly replied: Have you checked the local asylum? Ask me about someone I like. Everyone else in the film was a pleasure to work with. Not him.

But Connery no doubt remains debonaire at 72, giving his aging daredevil role endearing machismo. Townsend gives his role as the narcissistic Dorian Gray much flair and wit. It turns out he and Mina, the undead vampire played by Wilson with controlled sensuality, are former lovers.

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