Movie Night: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

MoviesYes, despite all of the negative press, I went ahead and watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen last week. No, I didn’t pay for it, except perhaps in that I pay monthly for HBO.

Actually, all of the negative press helped. I usually find that’s the best way to see a bad movie — have your expectations lowered so much that it can’t possibly be as terrible as you anticipate. That way, when it’s over, you may not be singing its praises, but at least you won’t be kicking yourself for having wasted two hours of your life.

And I suppose that worked here. I’ll never watch it again, and I can’t really think of anything particularly positive to say about it, but it seemed to fall right into that category of passable but immediately forgettable action flicks.

Of course, the one big negative in this is that — other than the basic premise of uniting various characters from Edwardian/Victorian literature — it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original Alan Moore/Kevin O’Neill book. None at all. As is typical of producer-driven Hollywood, they’ve taken everything about the original that made it great and removed it judiciously — filling the gaping hole left over with whatever crap the hacks could come up with.

Dracula’s Mina Harker (née Murray, a name she reverts to in the graphic novel) goes from being the confident, strong, if frequently insecure leader of the group to a garden-variety vampire (hmm, guess that whole “killing the vampire leader” thing didn’t work after all). Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde go from tortured addict and unbounded beast to cardboard-cutout rational scientist and morally lucid (i.e., poor, misunderstood) creature. The notorious and driven Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea becomes a plain-vanilla submarine captain (oh, and an East Asian-style martial artist to boot). The Invisble Man’s Hawley Griffin — portrayed in Moore’s work as an amoral, irredeemable rapist only helping out in hopes of gaining amnesty for his crimes (and who will eventually answer for them rather gruesomely in Volume 2) is out altogether, in favor of a more likable fellow who just “happened to find” Hawley’s invisibilty formula; after all, can’t have any moral ambiguity in an action movie, now, can we?

But perhaps most egregiously, H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quartermain is changed from a withered, opium-addicted has-been to a vibrant, virile, action hero. In other words, Sean Connery. After all, we can’t have a female lead in an action movie... well, unless she’s really there to serve as eye candy. And we can’t have our lead be a feeble old man.

Oh, I almost forgot — apparently, the characters in the book weren’t enough, so we’ve got to throw in a couple more for good measure — namely, a grown-up Tom Sawyer (gotta stick something in for the American audiences) and Dorian Grey (hey, he had that cool aging-painting superpower, right?). Stick enough people in there and nobody’ll notice that we have no plot to speak of and haven’t developed any of our characters beyond a single-sentence character description. Seriously — what you just read above? That’s it.

The story is ludicrous. Sure, the original was over-the-top fantastical, but just not stupid. Rather than centering around a European investigation, showcasing the idiosyncrasies of English society and worldview, we get a globe-trekking adventure yarn, ending up in the frozen wastes of Mongolia (or something like that — who can be bothered to pay attention). Ah, I can’t even bring myself to talk any more about it. There’s nothing else worth mentioning; even the special effects are substandard.

You know, after reading all of that, I suppose that lowering my expectations really didn’t do all that much to help.


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