The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, abbreviated "LXG", is a short comic book series by Alan Moore (The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell) and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill (2000 A.D., Marshal Law)1 and also, as you might have guessed, a movie based on it directed by Stephen Norrington (Blade).2 While it cannot exactly be referred to as great theater you could definitely describe it as an amusement.

LXG's characters are an eclectic bunch gathered from, essentially, a pile of eighteenth century novels. The lead protagonist is Allan Quatermain, "the protagonist of H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and its various sequels and prequels."3, played by Sean Connery. After being recruited by the shadowy "M" (Richard Roxburgh) he is paired up with an invisible man (Rodney Skinner, played by Tony Curran) and a Vampiress (Mina Harker from Dracula, played by Peta Wilson.) They continue to round up a cast rounded out by Dorian Gray, Captain Nemo, Tom Sawyer (as an American Secret Service agent) and finally Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

This bizarre cast of characters is probably the primary reason that the movie was made. As the director says in an interview included on the disc, it was a movie that simply had to be made. While it was not carried off as well as many of your big-budget blockbuster action films, certain aspects of the film are really quite astounding. This movie is a rarity for its time in that it makes very heavy use of miniatures, and that Mr. Hyde is not full-CG; They actually built various appliances to pad him up, and then he is digitally twiddled; but the scenes where he's running across rooftops and such are very low on the digital retouching. The collapsing venice set is actually all modelwork and was resettable so that the destruction of the city could be shot repeatedly. Even the car stunt scenes are model work.

Other interesting revelations on the DVD include a somewhat hilarious mini-interview with Sean Connery about why he took a role in this film; He was offered parts in both The Matrix and Lord of the Rings, but he turned them down because he didn't understand the roles. He said he didn't understand this film either, but he didn't want to have the same thing happen and took it. He also said that it was (to date) probably the largest film he had ever been in, which is saying something because at that time he'd been in about 75 movies. It's a fair assessment if you think both about the more limited scope of most of his prior movies, and the scale of this thing; they went to Prague and built an approximately 600 yard long set with two streets, one of London and one for Venice. The two are connected by somewhat anonymous side streets so that there is depth to the experience. The Venice set was then reconstructed (and then some) in modelwork, and every model is mounted on a hydraulic scissor lift so that it can appear to fall into the waters of Venice. A Bond movie in Connery's day, by comparison, is shot on location in a variety of houses, country clubs, and the like; probably the largest single expense (besides film) would be a helicopter scene or similar.

All in all, I'd give this a miss if I hadn't already seen it twice. Boredom can do strange things to your judgement... You'd probably get a lot more mileage out of reading the comic book, which can be had in graphic novel form - especially if The Watchmen is any indication, as it's one of the finest stories in comic book history.

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