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LXG: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Movie
Reviewed by Jess Nevins, © 2003

Format: Movie
By:   Director: Stephen Norrington, Writer: James Robinson
Genre:   Sci-fi adventure
Released:   2003
Review Date:   July 12, 2003
Audience Rating:   PG-13
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)
On the "Armageddon" to "L'Atalante" scale of films, with "Armageddon" representing soulless, black hearted cynical manipulation and "L'Atalante" representing sublime emotional power, "LXG" lands somewhere in the middle, as a mildly entertaining and moderately agreeable way to waste two hours.

The mistake made by too many fans of "League," the comic book series, is to think of this as the film adaptation of the comic book. It's not, and in fact has only superficial elements in common with the comic. Think of "LXG" as a film which coincidentally has most of the same characters and title as comic, and you'll be able to enjoy it more.

"LXG," as might be expected, looks wonderful. The costuming is very nice, the special effects are efficiently done (aside from the badly directed Hyde transformation scenes), the Nautilus is lovely, and the scenes are properly dank and gloomy. The action sequences are equally good; Norrington shone at those in "Blade" and is equally adept with them here. And there are a few entertaining Easter Eggs in the film, from a briefly glimpsed poster taken straight from the comic book to brief literary allusions.

Unfortunately, the visuals are the high point of the film. The acting is only intermittently good. Sean Connery as Alan Quatermain proves yet again that, in the immortal words of Alan Swann, "he's not an actor, he's a movie star." Naseeruddin Shah, usually an excellent actor, does a decent job with Captain Nemo's quite uninspired lines.

Peta Wilson at least conveys the impression that Mina Harker is a real character, which is more than can be said for Shane West, whose job as Tom Sawyer could have been done equally as well by any number of other pretty boy actors. Tony Curran (the Invisible Man), Stuart Townsend (Dorian Gray), and Jason Flemyng (Dr. Jekyll) do the best at breathing life into their characters, but like Shah have lackluster material to work with.

That is, in fact, the main problem with "LXG": the script. James Robinson's comic book work is usually splendid, but it's clear that his talent does not extend to the screen.

"LXG" shows a sadly predictable over-reliance on unimaginative one-liners, cliched and stilted dialogue, lines written to get cheap and obvious laughs, and generally unimpressively ordinary conversation. There are some amusing moments, but too many of the "funny lines" are obvious attempts at getting laughs.

The main characters (and their nemesis) have occasionally impressive pieces of bravado, but too often lines meant to be impressive or clever are lumbering and trite in the Schwarzenegger manner. Too much of the dialogue is simultaneously explanatory and boring; the former is forgivable, the latter is not. Characterization scenes are written perfunctorily and by the numbers; characters change heart in quite unconvincing fashion; and the film in general gives the impression of being constructed around and for the action sequences.

"LXG" is not a horrible film, and not the fiasco I feared. I was not bored while watching it. But there is a huge distance between "not bored" and "thrilled," and "LXG" does nothing to cross that distance.
Jess Nevins, a reference librarian by trade and geek scholar by practice, is the author of Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Guide to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (MonkeyBrain Books, 2003) and the upcoming Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana (MonkeyBrain Books, 2004).

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