Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA/Germany/Czech Republic/United Kingdom, 2003. Angry Films, International Production Company, JD Productions, Mediastream Dritte Film GmbH & Co. Beteiligungs KG, Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by James Robinson, based on the comic books by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill. Cinematography by Dan Laustsen. Produced by Don Murphy. Music by Trevor Jones. Production Design by Carol Spier. Costume Design by Jacqueline West. Film Editing by Paul Rubell.
It’s the end of the nineteenth century and the nations of Europe are constantly threatening to tear the continent apart with a great war. This leads the British government to recruit an assortment of superheroes to stop a particular force of evil named the Phantom, who is planning to undermine an upcoming summit meeting between the leaders of arguing countries. This newly christened “league of extraordinary gentlemen” travels from London to Paris on a giant, beautifully imaginative ocean liner in a race against time to help save the entire world from disaster. Most of the characters who make up the league will be recognizable to audiences, from Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery) to Mina Harker (of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, played by Peta Wilson), Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), the Invisible Man (whose name had to be changed because of copyright disputes) and Captain Nemo. The producers also thought to add Tom Sawyer, as they felt American audiences wouldn’t be able to fully identity with British heroes and villains and would need a Yank in there to help out; their efforts were ragged at best, and Sawyer (played by Shane West) never manages to fit in to the story comfortably. The rest of it is a distraction that is always fun despite some of the gaping drawbacks and obvious plot holes: how is it possible that an ocean liner can fit into a Venetian canal? Why do characters who have never seen an automobile before keep referring to the one that Nemo owns as a “car”? Why does Peta Wilson’s hair keep changing styles in the middle of scenes? Why does the Invisible Man have five o’clock shadow? Why are we supposed to believe that Sean Connery can jump out of a moving car when he looks old enough to need help out of a stopped one? Why is it that none of these things ever stop you from enjoying this movie? Some of the visual effects backfire, but mostly it’s fun and inventive and never pretends to be anything but a slim adventure for the summer-movie set.