The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

3 Nov 2003

Usually, "comic book" is a term of derision as far as films are concerned. In this case, though, the source material is Alan Moore's excellent graphic novel, so it'd be more of a complement. Which means we're going to have to find a new term of derision, because the film is appalling. To be fair, I was watching it on a nine inch screen in the back of the seat in front of me, and the tape kept jumping, so I probably didn't get as much from the special effects as I would've done on the big screen, but this just meant that I paid more attention to the script. Oh, the script...

The original graphic novel was multi-layered, intelligent, and the characterization was superb. The film version has none of this; the dialogue rarely rises above merely functional, serving to bridge between one explosion and the next, and at its worst vying with whichever Batman sequel had Mr Freeze in it ("Batman! There's a new villain attacking the museum!"). The story had been almost entirely replaced, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, if the new one wasn't so nonsensical. And the characters have been cut to ribbons. Whereas, for example, Alain Quatermain was, in the comics, a washed-up opium addict, he's been cleaned up for the film, and given a dead son to make up for the morphine. Hyde is reduced to a misunderstood lunk, and the invisible man becomes a mockney thief, straight out of Carry On Up The Twightlight Zone.

The one improvement over the original comes in the form of Dorian Grey, played by Stuart Townsend (of Shooting Fish fame; anyone who knew me as an undergraduate could tell you I'm slightly partial to said film). He has all the best lines, and steals the screen whenever he's on it. This is a marked contrast to Tom Sawyer, who, while not actually bad in any particular way, is entirely superfluous. A marksmen? We've already got Quatermain. A substitute son for the latter? A needle would've been better. Love interest for Mina? Dorian blows him out of the water. About his only contribution is that he's an American in what is otherwise an almost exclusively European League (with the exception of Nemo, who has remained Indian, although he has mysteriously gained Kung Fu).

In all fairness, LXG (as Twentieth Century Fox are encouraging people to refer to it) doesn't nearly approach the nadir of last summer (Head and Shoulders, anyone?), but I was expecting so much more. The concept is intriguing, and the comic is superb. Unfortunately, the film doesn't live up to this.

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