Go to Homepage   The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Passable Popcorn Fodder

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Twentieth Century Fox (DVD), ASIN B00005JM5B

One of many films made in the continuing comic book boom, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen delivers exactly what filmgoers have come to expect -- dazzling special effects and thrilling fight scenes, buoying a threadbare but well-patched plot. But unlike the risible Van Helsing, this film rests on something more substantial than Hugh Jackman's considerable charisma.

dvd: the league of extraordinary gentlemen Based on Alan Moore's cult graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen offers an imaginative reworking of the standard "deranged megalomaniac threatens the world, with only an intrepid band of heroes between him and ultimate doom" plot. Our heroes hail from the pages of much loved 19th century literature. The disparate group features a luminous, wonderfully louche Dorian Grey (the nattily turned out Stuart Townsend), Dr. Jekyll, Captain Nemo and Mina Harker, among others. Persuaded out of retirement by the threat of imminent destruction, jaded adventurer Allan Quartermain of King Solomon's Mines (the ever-dependable Sean Connery), agrees to lead a mission contrived by a shadowy British secret service against an equally shadowy villain called "Fantom."

As the league's members struggle to adjust to one another and the obligatory personal baggage, a mole works secretly amongst them to undermine all efforts, keeping the evil Fantom one step ahead. The psychological wrangling on board Nemo's gleaming and lethal-looking submarine often slows the pace, but the action scenes remain well choreographed and entertaining, coupled with an erratically engrossing script and CGI-laden production. The ensemble cast work well together, giving workmanlike performances.

In fact, I can make only one true complaint. Okay, two complaints: first the sentimental subplot involving Quartermain's grief and guilt over a lost son, and subsequent bonding over the barrel of a gun with laconic master marksman Agent Sawyer (ER's Shane West) seems forced. Second -- and this is the big one -- would-be genre script writers take note; the flaccid sexy-scientist shtick just doesn't appeal. Can't we, for once, show a female character with a brain who doesn't need glasses to prove it? Couldn't she be interesting and funny without turning into a leather clad, corset-popping, butt-kicking-chick by the end of the film? Please?

While I can enjoy popcorn fodder as much as the next person, the proliferation of two-dimensional eye candy in science fiction and fantasy doesn't cut it; especially when the male eye candy routinely gets better lines. Still, since my dissatisfactions won't change the pretty face of film anytime soon, I reckon we can make do with this highly watchable caper in the meantime -- at least until Hugh Jackman makes his next screen appearance!

Maysa M. Hattab

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