A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 255 – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – November 10th, 2010

Oh, this movie makes me so confused. Not in that I find the plot confusing. Messy, yes, but it’s not rocket science. It makes me confused because I enjoy it, but when I poke it a little I wonder why that is. And then I come up with answers, but none of them seem to be quite enough to explain it all. And some of them I’m sort of ashamed to admit to anyhow. Like admitting to them will make someone, my thesis advisor perhaps, teleport into my bedroom and revoke my English major cred. I always feel like I’m on shaky ground anyhow, with my love of film and my insistence that no, I don’t need to read anything by Jane Austen. Ever. But then, my thesis advisor loved movies and preferred modern literature, so maybe I’m safe.

The thing is, while I largely skipped over the classics in my college coursework, I know enough to know that there are some severe liberties taken with the characters in this movie. The whole concept of it is like one big crossover party, and I do love a crossover. This movie delivers, gathering a host of Victorian characters into one plot. The one big exception is an invisible man. Not The Invisible Man, since he’s from a considerably more recent work and therefore not public domain. But the rest? All firmly Victorian. Allan Quatermain, Mina Harker, Tom Sawyer, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo, Dorian Gray, even the eventual villain. And they all band together to face off with a mysterious bad guy who’s been attacking various European countries and building some sort of super weapon. To be honest, I tune out when it comes to the specifics of what the dude’s up to. He’s a villain and he’s doing villainy things. Now put Sean Connery back on my screen. Or Stuart Townsend. He’ll do too!

And here is one of my points of confusion. You see, the whole conceit of the story, that this group of famed characters from our classics, which are all real in the world of the movie, will get together and use their combined skills and powers to overcome some sort of evil? I am on board with that. It makes for a difficult set-up, since the characters need to be introduced and the team put together, and that leaves little time for things like actual character arcs and plot development. And that’s a genuine issue with the movie. We get little snippets of each character, but not much else. And those snippets? Not necessarily true to the source material for each character. I can’t speak to them all, but I can speak to the one that confounds me: Dorian Gray.

I took a single Victorian literature class in college. I needed a class at the higher level offered by the department and I needed it that semester and I think my other choice was heavy on the Steinbeck, so it seemed the lesser of two evils. I suffered through Trollope, faked my way through Austen, skimmed Gaskell and then reveled in Wilde (and the bizarre book we read that featured a health spa that offered electric tonics for rejuvenation). I loved The Picture of Dorian Gray. So I know I should be outraged at the Dorian in this movie. I mean, look at his hair! But I can’t help it. I love the movie’s Dorian. I love him passionately. I love how he strides around in the shootout at the beginning, sword in hand, ignoring the bullets around him. I love how he’s an utter jackass, but charming all the same. He’s a scoundrel. I do like scoundrels. And I like Mina Harker too. I like that, unlike in the comics, she does have supernatural powers and displays them right in front of the others. So she’s not canonically accurate. Who gives a damn, when she gets to point out that she in no way needs the protection of the men in the group? And she’s a scientist! She wears glasses and plays with vials of chemicals and she really is a wonderful female hero.

It’s very frustrating, this movie. I love Sean Connery, but Allan Quatermain as a character can be a bit annoying. I could watch Stuart Townsend’s suave scoundrel Dorian for hours and hours, even though he’s inaccurate. And I will cheer on Mina as she flies up the wall of a building with her fangs bared. I love Nemo a hell of a lot (though I can’t speak to whether he’s accurate or not) and the Nautilus makes me swoon about as much as Dorian does. The movie has fun characters, for all that they’re not deeply explored, and it has fun action, for all that it’s based in a hole-filled plot that meanders more than a bit. But it has so many flaws! And they’re flaws that ruined the movie for many other people. So why is it that they don’t ruin it for me? I’m really not sure. It’s not just Sean Connery’s presence, or Dorian Gray or Mina Harker. It’s not just the Nautilus or the crossover conceit. It’s a weird alchemy of all of them together. I can live with that.

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November 10, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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