The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 2, 2003
- pp. 77-78
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Film Reviews | Regular Feature of tremendous human suffering. And as Hayek suggested in her interview, there is, indeed, much about which to marvel in the life and work of Frida Kahlo. Unfortunately, those qualities are all too often missing in this cinematic representation ofFrida, which tends to reduce a great artist, libertine, revolutionary, and feminist to a woman dependentupon the male gaze and approval. Frida would be disappointed. Ron Briley Sandia Preparatory School firstname.lastname@example.org The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen When Alan Moore's graphic novel From Hell was adapted to filmin 2001, it faced a considerable challenge. The book, which explored the legend ofJack the Ripper, was a sprawling, complex examination of not only a series of homicides, but also of a time and of a place and of a history of conjecture regarding those murders . From Hell, with its deliberately convoluted storytelling and copious illuminating endnotes seemed doomed to reduction on the big screen. And, indeed, the film failed to capture a story that was told in such a way that it seemingly demanded the comic book form to succeed. Moore's The League ofExtraordinary Gentlemen, however, is an altogether different kind of story. Although set in roughly the same late nineteenth-century period as the Ripper murders, the ends of The League seem considerably simpler. This is an adventure yarn. The twist ofthe book is that Moore took a classic comic book motif, the superhero team, andpopulated it with characters from fantastic literature ofthe period: Captain Nemo, Allan Quartermain, Dr. Jekyll, the Invisible Man, Mina Harker, and others . This concept, combined with the decidedly cinematic designs ofillustrator Kevin O'Neill, makes the bookcry for cinematic adaptation perhaps more than any of Moore's other works. Yet with the summer 2003 arrival of director Stephen Norringon's film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen , Moore's work again appears to have been diminished. The premise ofthe film is much like that of the book—though with a few alterations , most notably the addition of Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) and a grown up Tom Sawyer (Shane West) to the cast—but the storyline is considerably different. In the movie, the team is brought together to safeguard England, and indeed the entire world, from the machinations of a villain who intends to launch a world war and profit from the military buildup of all industrial nations. The plot changes are of small concern as the real pleasure of the League lies in the various personalities and their interaction. The fun lies in considering how a hero of Empire like Quartermain (Sean Connery) and Empire's enemy, Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), might interactifobliged tojoin forces, or how Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), menaced in Bram Stoker's Dracula, might face up to those other great Victorian monstrosities , the Invisible Man (Tony Curran) and Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng). The movie even throws in some personal dynamics that do not appear in the graphic novel, that between the American Sawyer and the otherwise largely English team, and that between social classes. The movie begins well enough on this front, and has fun with the personality conflicts. Quartermain's chauvinism, towards Harker, for her gender, and towards Sawyer, because he "shoots like an American" is a particular pleasure to watch. Unfortunately , while the bookcontinued milking these dynamics throughout the unfolding of the plot, the movie, by mid-film, has largely forgotten them. Instead, the characters begin to fall into traditional action movie patterns. Quartermain is the retired adventurer forced back into action, who despite his resistance to the call nevertheless rises to the occasion. Sawyer is the wild but good-heartedAmerican, flying in the face ofEuropean stodginess. Nemo is the martial arts master whose Kung Fu overwhelms tremendous odds. In short, the literary qualities that make the premise a delight take a backseat to the action movie standards. The personalities created by Haggard, Stevenson, Stoker, Twain, Verne, Wells, and Wilde (and supplemented by Moore) become less important than the powers and skills employed by these characters. Indeed, some of the characters are made decidedly more super heroic in the interest of creating more dynamic visual effects. Though impervious to aging in Oscar Wilde...