The shining example of what not to do in a team-up movie.
AT FIRST, I WAS LIKE:
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was the film I remember watching regularly while growing up. I couldn’t fathom people hating on this movie when I was younger. I thought the characters were great and in my young and innocent eyes, the special effects weren’t too bad. The action was fun, the world was interesting, and despite being deathly scared of vampires, Mina Harker was an absolute smokeshow. Admittedly, I never could get into the character of Skinner because you couldn’t see him for most of the movie so I couldn’t process what kind of character he was or what bearing he had on the rest of the film.
I couldn’t tell ya anything going on during the action sequences, but they were fun enough as visual and audio noise to keep me entertained. One of my favorite sequences was the fight between Mr. Hyde and the big purple bad guy because of how bizarre the effects look. It’s a flat-out ugly design especially compared to the costume design for Mr. Hyde, but it was cool to watch big monsters beat each other up. This was also my introduction to Sean Connery and as the leader of the group, he was actually a pretty neat character and he exuded all the traits of the old tough guy. Adventure movies were my cup of tea as a kid, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fit right in with the likes of Van Helsing, which was another personal favorite of mine.
BUT NOW, I’M LIKE:
Alright, alright, it’s pretty bad. I think the biggest problem for me was how rushed it felt. The cuts and edits lack any sort of flow especially during the action sequences where it constantly cuts back and forth between various characters and it ends up feeling chaotic and overwhelming. In a time when we had X-Men and X2, it’s astounding that a team-up film like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen could be executed so poorly. A good chunk of the film takes place in Captain Nemo’s ship, The Nautilus, which would have been the perfect time to fully flesh out the characters and their dynamics, but because there’s no time or interest for any of that stuff, I never got any deeper insight into who these characters were. There was so much potential for the father/son dynamic to develop between Quartermain and Tom Sawyer, but it ends up being half baked in favor of moving the story along as quickly as possible.
That being said, this movie is still pretty fun. Some of the CGI is questionable, but there’s plenty of wicked practical sets and props, especially the German war tank in the beginning of the film. I’m not sure how they executed the transformation for Jekyll and Hyde, but that was a neat bit of body horror that translated really well onscreen. While we’re talking about Dr. Jekyll, both he and Dorian Gray are easily the most enjoyable characters in the film. I love the sequences with Jekyll talking to his alter ego Mr. Hyde through the mirrors and portholes of The Nautilus which is a perfect way to visualize Jekyll’s dual personalities and Jason Flemyng manages to balance both sides of the character’s psyche. As for Dorian Gray, his sassiness was much a much-needed remedy to counteract the serious tone of the movie. It’s a whole mess, but there’s some good stuff to take from it.
IN THE END, I’M JUST LIKE:
I’ve seen the Rotten Tomatoes and it’s safe to say no one’s going to label this as a “so bad, it’s good” movie, but it’s still my guilty pleasure movie. It fails on plot, character, and essentially everything that makes for a good movie, but it still managed to work its ugly charm on me even after all these years. The first half showed some promise and the sequence where we first meet Quartermain shooting down bad guys in Kenya Colony was a fun set piece similar to old school adventure films like Indiana Jones and The Mummy. When there’s not a distracting amount of CGI, League’s practical effects and stunts are the pillars that keep this film from falling apart. As a final feature film, this certainly was a lousy way for Sean Connery to retire, but in a way, his portrayal as Quartermain also serves as a meaningful swan song in the way Logan was for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. For most, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is about as bad as watching your favorite sports team constantly lose, but just like the biggest superfan, I’ll always be there rooting for ’em.