The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

Rating: D+

Dir: Stephen Norrington
Star: Sean Connery, Richard Roxburgh, Stuart Townsend, Peta Wilson

The high concept here is great: take a number of famous characters from novels (Mina Harker, Allen Quartermain, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll, Tom Sawyer, Dorian Gray and Captain Nemo), and form them into a task-force – think Mission Impossible for the literate. Here, their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to prevent Europe plunging into war. Behind these machination is the Phantom and his super-advanced technology, the result of a lot of late nights pulled by his team of kidnapped scientists. The subsequent chase goes from London, through Paris and Venice, to the outer wastes of Mongolia. Or, at least, CGI versions thereof.

Let’s be charitable and assume these unconvincing FX are part of the rather cool retro-futuristic styling. If that was the only problem, I’d be happy, but the story-line is far too “evil overlordy” – the Phantom has an amazingly complex scheme to kill the heroes, and leaves a gloating recorded message to reveal the details. This is scriptwriting as practiced by primary school kids, and I expected better, given its origin in an Alan Moore comic book. But from what I’ve seen, that was a lot darker than what we have here: par for a Hollywood adaptation, really. And how many average cinema-goers have read The Picture of Dorian Gray? I suspect most will have no idea why he has a portrait which never ages. No wonder this flopped: nice trailer, shame about the film.