Released July 11th, 2003

Director: Stephen Norrington

Starring: Sean Connery, Shane West, Stuart Townsend, Jason Flemyng, Richard Roxburgh, Naseeruddin Shah, Tony Curran, Max Ryan, Tom Goodman-Hill, David Hemmings, Peta Wilson

Premise: Based on the Alan Moore/Kevin O'Neill graphic novel miniseries. Set in Victorian England, the film centers around a team of extraordinary figures culled from great adventure literature who are recruited by a mysterious caller to stop a villain intent on turning the nations of the world against one another. This remarkable coterie of heroes is led by Allan Quartermain (Connery) and comprises Dracula vampiress Mina Harker (Wilson), the Invisible Man (Curran), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (Flemyng), Tom Sawyer (West), Captain Nemo (Shah), and Dorian Gray (Townsend).

Theatrical adaptations of famous comic books are becoming the new trend these days in Hollywood. The major studios are digging out every comic book superhero imaginable even the lesser known ones and so far the films have been successful. So it isnít surprising that 20th Century is stepping up to the plate for the third time this year. Daredevil was a moderate success garnering $100 million against a $75 million budget and X2: X-Men United kicked off the summer season with a bang gathering $210 million against a $100 million budget. Fox is hoping that The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will be just as successful but it will be a hard sell. The League is a much lesser known comic book mini-series then big profiles superheroes like Spider-Man or X-Men, so there wonít be as big of a fan base to rely on. Another problem for the film is the down trend the comic book adaptations are looking to take. Though The Hulk set a new opening weekend for the month of June, the film dropped seventy percent from its opening weekend and was poorly received by both critics and the public. Rumors of fights breaking out between Sean Connery and director Stephen Norrington helped generate bad buzz for the film. The lackluster trailer and television ads have not been helping stop the bad press going against the film. But can The League fight against the odds and rule the box office or will the gentlemen be less then extraordinary?

The story centers on the formation of a team of extraordinary individuals that must fight an evil man who has plans for the world. During the year 1899, an evil individual by the name of The Fanthom has gone around the world capturing scientists and causes major catastrophes in order to have the European countries blame each other. This, he hopes, will cause the countries to create a world war and with his advanced military weapons, the European countries will have to buy from him creating a huge profit for himself. The British Empire, determined to avert a world war, calls upon a man named ďMĒ to assemble The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Allan Quartermain, the hero of such tales as King Solomonís Mines, is chosen to lead the team. Other members of the team include Rodney Skinner (The Invisible Man), Mina Harker (Vampire), Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll, and Dorian Grey, each of which holds a special ability unique to the team. Joining along for the ride is Agent Sawyer (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) from the United States. Each individual seems to have a hidden secret and donít get along with each other but they must put their scrabbles aside in order to save the world from the brink of war. The story for The League starts off well enough but slows down in the middle before picking up once again in the end. The dialogue is pretty serious for the most par but most of it seems too comical at times, which hurts the overall effect. Backgrounds on several characters are missing which would have been helpful to connect better with certain individuals but with most being famous literary characters, the film makers probably figure the audience knows who they are already.

The cast that makes of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a mixed bag at best. Sean Connery, who takes the role of Allan Quartermain, is great as usually as he seems to really to get into the role. Despite rumors of fights between Norrington and himself, Connery does a fabulous job with the character showing that Quartermain is beginning to show his age but desire to go out fighting. Connery can still kick butt like his young co-stars as his fight scenes show. Tony Curran, who plays the role of The Invisible Man, does as best of a job as he can but this character has its share of problems. The Invisible Man seems to be nothing more then a comedic special effects diversion and seems to just plain disappear for a good portion of the movie with little explanation or care. Jason Flemying does his best with the role of Dr. Jekyll, which is pretty good for the most part, but his character is also a special effect diversion when he becomes Mr. Hyde. Shane West is great as Agent Sawyer, though the film could have done a better job explaining how this care free boy from Mississippi came to be in the secret service but that is a minor squabble. Peta Wilson, from La Femme Nikita fame, does a pretty good job as Mina Harker but there really isnít much presented to the character. What is the deal with her and Dorian Grey? That is never really explained and causes confusion for the audience. Speaking of Dorian, Stuart Townsend is moderate as the character though most of the problems with him involve the background of the character rather then the acting.

Overall, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a good film but is really more for fans of the comic book mini-series or those who seriously know their literary figures. Too much background information on many of the characters is missing for most of the main stream to truly understand on where these characters are coming from what and what is going on based on their actions. The specials effects for the films, which seem to be focused on in several scenes in the film, are moderate at best. If you want superior special effects then go see Pirates of the Caribbean or even The Hulk, though with The Hulk you have to endure a very slow story. In that case, just stick with Pirates. The CGI work, especially with the Nautilus is some of the worst that has been seen this summer. The timing for the film seems perfect though the story itself slows down in the middle. The action sequences keeps the audience entertained and that should be sufficient enough for at least one showing. If you really want a film that can be seen numerous times then pick Pirates over The League. But if you just want to see something different for one night then stick with The League. It may not be fantastic but it is worth the price of admission. For a matinee at least.

My Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 (Grade: B-)