The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen review by Mike Long

Many of the movies that I watch on DVD were either critical or financial failures at the box-office (or both), and at least once a year, one of these movies reveals itself to be a true "diamond in the rough". The latest film of this nature to grab my attention is The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. While the film did make back over 80% of its budget during its theatrical run, and will most likely turn a profit once it hits home-video, it was certainly a financial disappointment and clearly got lost during the mid-summer movie shuffle. Now that the movie is hitting DVD, a larger audience can discover this intelligent, rousing film.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman is set in 1899, in what is clearly an alternate universe. During this time, a villain known only as "The Fantom" is wreaking havoc in Britain and Germany, apparently attempting to incite a world war. The British government, represented by an agent named "M" (Richard Roxburgh), recruits a group of famous heroes to combat The Fantom. Each of these characters is a famous icon of 19th century literature. This group, which will be known as "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" consists of: Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), the famed adventurer and safari leader; Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), former pirate and commander of the immense submarine, The Nautilus; Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), also known as the Invisible Man; Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), wife of Jonathan Harker, who fought Dracula, and who is now a vampire herself; Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), a mild-mannered man who turns into the monstrous Mr. Hyde, and Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), a conceited dandy who is also immortal. The group is soon joined by young American agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West). Once the team is formed, they begin a trek across Europe to stop The Fantom. But, the impromptu alliance amongst these great personalities grows tenuous as they differ on philosophies, and it becomes obvious that one of their ranks may be a traitor.

Movies like this always baffle me, because I can't imagine why The League of Extraordinary Gentleman wasn't a huge hit, as I absolutely loved it. The only other review that I've read for the film came from Roger Ebert, and it made no sense whatsoever, as he slammed the film for having unrealistic geography in Venice. It's a fantasy! Who cares about geography? The bottom line is that unlike big-budget hits Terminator 3 and Bad Boys II, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman attempts to bring an intelligent story and characters to the audience. I can only assume that the movie didn't fare very well because so many people don't know who any of these characters are. For those who are familiar with English literature, you will find a fun, well-made movie that delivers on many levels.

I've always been a sucker for stories in which established literary characters are placed into new situations (for other examples, see the novels: The List of 7 by Mark Frost, Nevermore by Harold Schechter, or Nevermore by William Hjortsberg ) and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman does an fantastic job of bringing the these characters to life and placing them in a story which feels very organic. The film is based on a graphic novel from writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill (with a script by James Dale Robinson, writer and director of the underrated Comic Book Villains), and the movie does a good job of mixing comic-book action with a interesting story. True, the plot is somewhat simplistic, as it focuses on the heroes attempting to stop The Fantom, but it offers enough twists and turns to keep the audience engrossed. Director Stephen Norrington keeps things moving along at a very nice pace, save for a few slow scenes aboard The Nautilus, which are used to hatch a few subplots. The special effects in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman are great, most notably Mr. Hyde, who is a combination of special-effects make-up and CGI, showing what The Hulk could have looked like. It's a shame that there most likely won't be a sequel to The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, as there are so many more characters which could be incorporated into the story. As it stands, we are left with an entertaining and imaginative film which breathes new life into some moldy old characters.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman explodes onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film is being released in separate widescreen and full frame editions. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as it is very clear, showing only the slightest amount of grain at times. The film is fairly dark, with most scenes taking place either indoors or outdoors during adverse weather, and these scenes are never too dark on this DVD. The color-scheme is quite mono-chromatic, but the flashes of colors look great. There are some minor examples of artifacting, but these aren't overwhelming. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which is quite good. The dialogue is always sharp and clear, and the nearly constant action creates a blanket of surround sound effects. The soundfield is quite wide and the bass response is fantastic.

The DVD carries a handful of extras. There are two audio commentaries on the disc. The first features producers Don Murphy & Trevor Albert, and actors Shane West, Tony Curran, and Jason Flemyng. All of the participants here were recorded separately (save for Curran and Flemyng, who are together) and their comments were edited together. This sucks any spontaneity out of the commentary, but there is some good information here, as the actors talk about their experiences making the film, while the producers speak more of the logistics of the project. The second commentary has costume designer Jacqueline West, visual effects supervisor John E. Sullivan, make-up effects supervisor Steve Johnson, and miniatures creator Matthew Gratzner. As with the first chat, the speakers here were recorded separately. This commentary will most likely prove to be far too dry and technical for most listeners and is down-right boring at times. Still, if you’re interested in FX, there’s a ton of inside information here. "Assembling the League" is essentially a standard "making of" featurette which has been chopped up into six sub-sections. These featurettes explore the origin of the film, the costumes, and the special effects, specifically Mr. Hyde and the events in Venice. The extras are rounded out by 12 deleted & extended scenes. All are very short, but there is some interesting material here.

9 out of 10 Jackasses

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