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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

In this summer of sequels and more sequels, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is like the ultimate sequel. Not only do we have super heroes popping up all over the place but I’m a little fatigued at the amount of special effects I’ve seen this year alone. I’m afraid if I walk out of my front door, I’ll explode!

But then I saw THE LEAGUE. This extraordinarily entertaining movie isn't a sequel at all. It's a film adaptation of the high-toned comic-book series by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill.

But the movie feels like a sequel because it continues the stories of such literary icons as African-adventurer Allan Quatermain and undersea-explorer Capt. Nemo as well as Dr. Jekyll and his hideous alter ego, Mr. Hyde.

It's 1899, and these legendary figures, plus others, are brought together by the mysterious M, (a nod to Connery’s James Bond roles I guess) to help the British government avoid a world war.

Moore and O'Neill's amusing conceit is that the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as the charmingly antique group is called, is the forerunner of such contemporary superhero teams as the Justice League and the Fantastic Four.

The heroic-but-bitter Quatermain, for example, is rather like Batman while Nemo, with his sensational gizmo-packed sub, the Nautilus, is like Reed Richards -- and maybe Aquaman. Jekyll/Hyde, meanwhile, comes off as an earlier version of the Hulk. He was my favorite.

Also in the league are such X-Men-esque heroes as Mina Harker, a vampire with "blood" ties to Dracula, and an invisible man called Rodney Skinner. Dorian Gray, another recruit, is invulnerable because a magical painting of him absorbs all his injuries.

"What are you?" asks an astonished attacker, as bullet holes instantly heal on Gray's torso.

"I'm complicated," replies the enigmatic Gray -- a line that's worthy of his witty creator, Oscar Wilde.

There's also an American on the team, a Secret Service agent who is also a rootin'-tootin', straight-shootin' cowboy. His name is Sawyer. Tom Sawyer.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which opens today) contains an amazing amount of what Hollywood calls "backstory." And like Gray, the narrative is complicated.

Director Stephen Norrington (Blade) and James Dale Robinson, a comic-book writer-turned-screenwriter, seem to assume that we have at least a nodding familiarity with most of these characters. And, really, who doesn't at least know something about vampire legends or Jekyll and Hyde or Tom Sawyer?

The more you know about the league members, the more exciting it is to see them all assembled in the same movie. It makes perfect sense, for example, that the blood-sucking Harker and suave, debonair Gray might once have had an affair. And it's touching to watch Quatermain taking Sawyer under his mighty wing.

Jekyll/Hyde, with his astonishing transformations, might have dominated the movie, but Norrington and Robinson are careful not to let that happen. Each icon gets his or her due, and the super-charged whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.

If anyone does sometimes dominate, it's Quatermain, who becomes the group's de facto leader. Sean Connery brings his shaggy, rip-roaring presence to the part, and you can sense the former 007's physical delight in being back in a larger-than-life role.

The Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah (Monsoon Wedding), with his turban and bushy black beard, brings an impressive dignity to the role of Nemo while Shane West (A Walk to Remember) is both sweet and cocky as Sawyer. Tony Curran is appropriately mysterious as the transparent Skinner, gimlet-eyed Peta Wilson is dangerously alluring as Harker, Jason Flemyng is heart-tuggingly tormented as Jekyll/Hyde, and Stuart Townsend (Queen of the Damned) is enticingly aloof as Gray.

If you've seen the miserable trailers for this movie, please ignore them. Because the action often takes place at night, much of the film is visually dark. That makes for murky trailers. The backgrounds of 19th century Venice is stunning.

And if this movie sounds too good for its own good, relax. It works wonderfully as a popcorn picture. It has its faults, slow points, unbelivability (cars, rockets, subs, etc.) but remember to let all that go and just enjoy the damn action!

There are nicely choreographed fights, bone-rattling explosions and, again, those chilling Jekyll/Hyde transformations. Not only is this film a sort of honorary sequel, but it succeeds in a way that the summer's other action sequels -- and comic-book adaptations -- don't.

I didn’t like the Germans being used as bad guys again. That’s gotten a little old but sense this is sort of a prelude to the future World War, it may or may not be appropriate. That’s a ruling for the historians, not us peace loving human beings of all colors, creeds, religions and sexual orientations.

So go ahead. Join the club -- or, rather, the league.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is more fun than any smart movie this summer and smarter than any fun movie out there. I suspect 40% of you may not like it. The other 60% will just judge it as it is.

My Score: 7.5 out of 10.

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  • Hallo Gast - Aufgrund des vielen Spams müssen leider ein paar Fragen beantwortet werden.

    Bitte der Reihe nach durchführen, sonst kann das Captcha nicht erfolgreich abgeschlossen werden...
    Schritt 1: Wenn Picard ein Captain ist, sollte hier ein Haken rein...
    Schritt 2: und wenn es in der Nacht nicht hell ist, sollte hier der Haken raus!
    Schritt 3:
  • Neu erstellen...

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