First, a brief rant. Damn you Marvel for making such awesome shows. If it wasn’t for you making Jessica Jones such a compelling show to watch, I wouldn’t be a day behind writing my reviews. That being said, everyone should watch Jessica Jones, but be advised, it is a bit on the dark side. Ok, now that I got that out of the way, on to more serious business.
Sean Connery is arguably one of the most famous actors of all time, or at least would easily make a top 25 list. Whether he was playing James Bond, or Dr. Henry Jones, Sr., or Jim Malone, or Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, the man has been entertaining people on screen for almost 50 years. Then, in 2004/2005, he decided to retire from Hollywood, a decision he has pretty much kept, except for one or two exceptions. Today’s movie, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, is the last feature film the Sean Connery did before retiring.
The plot: In 1899’s London, an armored vehicle breaks into the Bank of England and men, wearing German uniforms ad led by a man known as The Fantom, proceed to rob the bank. Sometime later, the Fantom leads some men, wearing British uniforms, into a factory in Berlin, where they proceed to kidnap some scientists and destroy the factory. With both countries blaming the other for the incidents, the tensions could result in a war. Sanderson Reed, a member of the British Empire, heads down to Kenya to recruit Allan Quatermain to lead a special team to prevent the war, but Quatermain, mourning his son’s death refuses to help. Suddenly, a group of armed men arrive and attempt to kill Quartermain but he is able to kill them and agrees to go with Reed back to London in order to keep the war from spreading to Africa. In London, Quatermain meets with M, who informs Quatermain the the world leaders will be meeting in Venice in four days, and he must head to Venice to stop the Fantom from attacking the city. M then explains that Quatermain will be leading a 6 man team of unique individuals, which includes himself, Captain Nemo (a famed captain and inventor), Rodney Skinner (a thief who stole the formula for invisibility), Mina Harker (a chemist with some other “gifts”), and two others whom they must collect on the way. As they leave the meeting room, they get in Nemo’s vehicle, which he calls an automobile, and drive off, unaware that they are being watched. They head to a house near the London Docks and meet Dorian Grey, who was approached by M to be a member of the team but he turned him down. When Dorian sees Mina with them, he invites them inside and they make small talk, where Quatermain reveals that he met Dorian once before, when he was a boy at Eton College and Dorian was a guest lecturer. Suddenly, armed men appear in the balconies above them and the Fantom appears, telling the League to either join him, or die. When a stranger, disguised as one of the Fantom’s men, begins shooting at the armed men, the rest of the League begin fighting back. and in the process reveal both Dorian and Mina’s special abilities. The stranger introduces himself as Tom Sawyer, a member of the U.S. Secret Service, and Quatermain accepts him onto the team. The group then board Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus, and head off to collect the last member of their team. In Paris, Quatermain and Sawyerchase the monstrous Mr. Hyde across the Paris rooftops, eventually managing to capture him and bring him aboard the Nautilus. Inside, Quartermain explains to Hyde that England will offer him amnesty for his past crimes if he helps them, and Hyde agrees, then shocks everyone as he transforms into Dr. Jekyll. On route to Venice, Nemo finds a strange powder on the bridge, which Mina identifies as flash powder from a camera, and a vial of Hyde’s formula is missing, which points towards a traitor being on board, and the group suspects Skinner. They also have figured out the Fantom’s plan, using blueprints that were stolen from the Bank of England, he plans to sink the entire city of Venice. When they arrive at Venice, they arrive just as bombs go off, causing the buildings to start collapsing. Quatermain, Sawyer, Mina, and Dorian take off in Nemo’s automobile in an attempt to stop the collapsing buildings. When the come under fire from the Fantom’s men, Dorian and Mina leave the car to handle the shooters, while Quatermain goes after the Fantom himself, leaving Sawyer to drive the automobile and signal the Nautilus to take out a building ahead of the destruction in order to stop the collapsing buildings. Quatermain battles the Fantom and manages to knock off his mask, revealing the Fantom to actually be M, who manages to escape. Quatermain heads back to the Nautilus, where he meets up with Mina, Sawyer and the others but there is no sign of Dorian or Skinner. Suddenly, Nemo’s first mate Ishmael, having been shot, staggers out from the ship and tells them that Dorian is actually the traitor. Dorian escapes in an exploration pod and Nemo and the other’s head off in pursuit, but a high pitched noise directs them to a record. On the record, M and Dorian explain their plan, how they assembled the League in order to get the secret to their abilities and then sell them to the highest bidder, just as bombs, armed by an ultrasonic signal from the record, explode and send the Nautilus sinking to the depths below. Jekyll transforms into Hyde and manages to drain the water from the ship, and with everyone pitching in, they are able to make repairs and continue after Dorian and M. They reach Northern Mongolia and meet up with Skinner, who had snuck aboard the pod with Dorian, who tells them what M is up to in his fortress. Quatermain assigns Nemo and Hyde to rescue the scientists and their families, Skinner plants explosives to blow the factory up, Mina deals with Dorian and while Sawyer and himself capture M. They make their way into the fortress then separate to go about their tasks. Nemo and Hyde start to rescue the hostages but a guard sounds an alert and they come under fire, but Hyde uses a metal door as a shield while Nemo and his men continue the rescue. Meanwhile, Mina confronts Dorian and the two begin to fight but when Mina spies Dorian’s painting, Dorian uses the distraction to stab her in the chest. Quatermain and Sawyer locate M, who Quatermain addresses as Prof. Moriarty, and M runs. Quatermain and Sawyer follow him but when Sawyer bumps into an invisible man, he tells Quatermain to keep going, thinking the man is Skinner. However, the invisible man turns out to be Sanderson, who attacks Sawyer but he manages to chase him off, just as an armored man with a flame thrower arrives and begins attacking Sawyer. Skinner shows up and pieces the fuel tank but gets set on fire in the process and Sawyer knocks the armored man down. Meanwhile, Hyde faces off against some of M’s soldiers but M’s enforcer, Dante, drinks a large vial of Hyde’s formula, transforming into an even larger monster than Hyde. Dorian pulls his sword from Mina’s chest but she recovers and stabs Dorian in the chest with his sword, pinning him to the wall, where she then shows him his painting, undoing the spell and causing him to age until he turns to dust. Sawyer goes to help Skinner but ends up captured by Sanderson. Nemo goes to help Hyde fight Dante, and but they find themselves overmatched and are saved when Skinner’s explosives go off, bringing the roof down on top of the creature. Meanwhile, Quatermain fights M and prepares to kill him, but when Moriarty points out that Sawyer is about to be killed, Quatermain kills Sanderson and M uses the opportunity to stab him in the back and then run. Quatermain hands Sawyer his rifle, which he uses to kill Moriarty, just as Quatermain dies from his wounds. Sawyer and the League carry Quatermain back to Africa, where he buries him next to his son, and then they head back to the Nautilus. After they leave, the witch doctor that blessed Quatermain begins to perform a ritual and the grave begins to shake, just as a bolt of lightning hits it.
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen was pretty much panned by the critics, holding a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus seemed to be that while the effects and sets were good, the storyline wound up being too convoluted and fell into complete lunacy. The movie was not without it’s share of controversy either as a lawsuit was filed against 20th Century Fox, stating that the company plagiarized a script called Cast Of Characters, an idea that had been repeatedly pitched to Fox back in the mid 90’s. The case would wind up being settled out of court. In spite of the bad reviews, the movie was a box office success, earning over $179 million off a $78 million budget.
This is not a good movie but this an entertaining movie to watch and definitely a great “guilty pleasure” movie. The acting is decent among most of the cast, though I will say I was a little disappointed with Sean Connery’s performance as I thought he could have brought more to the character. That being said, I did like how the had Quatermain bonding with Sawyer, somewhat adopting him as a sort of surrogate son. The concept looked interesting, and it started out ok, but the plot ended up feeling like they were just throwing ideas on the wall to see what stuck. I am mixed on the special effects because I felt like several of the effects, particularly the monster version of Dante, looked really cheap, but some of the props and set designs, like the Nautilus, were incredible. It can be fun to watch, but you definitely have to be able to put your criticisms aside.
Rating: 3 out of 5