Before the commonplace intertextuality, that became conventional in both cinemas and streaming platforms, there was a time that franchise mix-ups were a rarity. In 1999, Alan Moore drew upon some of the tallest tales of the public domain, to fashion intriguing graphic novels dedicated to their interlocking exploits. In 2003, the cinema-going public got a brief taste of the future, by looking into the past. In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
It is 1899, the dawn of a new century brings with it technological marvels, but a masked entity known as the Fantom plans to plunge the western world into anarchy. Stealing top secret plans and the brightest minds of Europe for sinister purposes. It is up to legendary explorer and adventurer, Allan Quatermain, to try to stop him, but he’s not alone as he assembles a team of literary legends to stop Fantom’s dastardly plan. Recognisable names like renowned chemist Doctor Jekyll, and his murderous counterpart Edward Hyde, master criminal Rodney Skinner aka The Invisible Man. Among the group is Nina Hawker, who is now part of the vampiric unlife and uses her newfound martial prowess to hunt them down. Unageing charmer Dorian Gray also joins the group despite some romantic animosity between him and Nina. Finishing off the team is a wily Tom Sawyer, fresh from the Secret Service. Will this group have what it takes to save the world from a new type of terror the Fantom has plotted?
From the first scene, the atmosphere feels like From Hell, with Moore’s depictions of the city of London feeling once again at home on the big screen. But like the films of the era, The League doesn’t skimp on the action, a hectic car chase on the streets of Paris and an assault on a base in Mongolia are some such examples. Though league ends up spending a lot of time on The Nautilus, the famed vessel of Captain Nemo dressed in white. It’s a fun little hub for the adventure. An adventure that is fond of an atlas. Starting from Kenya and ending in the snowy depths of Northern Mongolia, the film sure knows how to make the action feel world-spanning.
Sean Connery is good as Quatermain, considering he was almost going to be a similar character in the precursor to Congo, it’s great to see him live up to that premise, even if it was his final role. Tony Curran aggressively cockney Invisible Man is a fun addition, and Peta Wilson’s Nina feels like she could join the pantheon of butt-kicking heroines, like Aeon Flux and Violet. Those who know their public domain literature will probably enjoy the interplay on the big screen, and where elements playfully interact with each other and fit comfortably despite originating in vastly different circumstances. The reveal of the villain’s origins was one such instance.
The League is an interesting film to look back on, despite being infamous for being Sean Connery’s ultimate role. Offering solid entertainment that doesn’t feel too out of place with its intermedia mash-up and location trailing adventure. One that rewards the viewers who have done the homework beforehand yet doesn’t feel alienating to those fresh to the famous characters before them. In short, The League offers an intriguing adventure, one that is worthy of the characters that it assembles.
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