Lackluster league

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Rated 2.0

Filtered from the highly enjoyable graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, this film fantasy also posits the “what-if” scenario of 19th-century fictional characters co-existing in the same universe. And a fairly fantastic universe that is, too.

Here, Sean Connery portrays an elderly but still tough Allan Quatermain, the creation of 19th-century writer H. Rider Haggard beginning with King Solomon’s Lost Mines and ultimately the inspiration for Indiana Jones. Persuaded by the British government to lead a team of special operatives to save the world from a diabolical genius, the cantankerous Quatermain returns from Africa to Blighty, fuming and fussing the whole way.

Once back, he meets the mysterious M, who introduces Quatermain to the ingenious Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) and the devious Invisible Man (Tony Curran). Along the way, they pick up invulnerable Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), vampiric Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), U.S. agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West) and a Hulk-like Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng).

The movie starts off compellingly enough with its evocation of retro-'future shock"—images of a 1916-style tank plowing through 1899 London’s streets and over helpless Bobbies. And the scenes where the characters are allowed to interact for more than a few seconds through dialogue and their own genuinely unique situation are a lot of fun. However, even after some promising instances of 19th-century wit, League unfortunately winds up floundering in an action-for-its-own-sake maelstrom of special effects.

Director Norrington, whose previous works include the first Blade picture, seems to lose control of the project once the team is assembled. And a highly destructive jaunt through a Venice-that-never-was adds up to generally pointless activity signifying little. By the time the villain’s true identity is exposed, one could scarcely be less impressed.