Sunday, January 04, 2004

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Huh? Whaddaya mean there are no roadways in Venice?

I broke down and rented a couple of DVDs the other day: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or if you will LXG (oy), and George Clooney's filmed version of the memoirs of Chuck Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. I wrote a bit about the latter in my 2003 review below, and now I'll elaborate on what I thought about LXG. I said in my best of 2003 post a while back that this movie wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, and that's true. Judging from the invective hurled at it by not only film critics (one snarky knucklehead said that "they managed to dumb down a comic book"), but film critics who had read the source material and, of course, word of mouth from the comic book readers themselves, who knew better and universally deplored it, I was expecting a trainwreck of biblical proportions. Oh this is not to say that this film isn't a trainwreck, but its proportions are less grandiose. This film is a textbook example of how to take an already high concept and groupthink it into the ground. Heartless, soulless, it defies the attempts of its one or two good actors to be interesting in order to jump from explosion to explosion and ridiculous situation to ridiculous situation, with only token attempts to actually let you get to know the fictional characters involved. You'd think that all the major studios would have learned their lessons after the failures of The Avengers and The Wild Wild West, but apparently that's not the case because this film seems to have followed the blueprint for them to the letter. It blows my mind that James Robinson, so good on DC's Starman, could have scripted this, but I have a feeling that he was in no position to rock the boat, and many hands eventually were involved with shaping the way the film turned out.

But, like I keep saying, I was entertained, in a mindless fashion. The film hurtles from scene to scene, not wishing you to have an opportunity to pause and think, and becomes sort of a rollercoaster ride, which is what major studios seem to think people want. Sean Connery is good, but he's not really asked to do anything but play that standard "Sean Connery" character he now usually always plays, the gruff, capable man's man with that heavy brogue, sort of a haggis-eating John Wayne type. He often comes across here like he's trying to bully the others into acting...Naseeruddin Shah, who plays my favorite comic version character, Captain Nemo, does a great job as well. There are some bits and pieces of clever dialogue, and one or two ideas rear their head in between explosions. Most disappointing was Peta (TV's La Femme Nikita) Wilson's Mina Harker, now an Underworld-style ├╝ber-vamp- she stops every scene dead in which she's required to do more than just pose or jump around. Richard Roxburgh, who was good as the unctuous Duke in Moulin Rouge!, was given absolutely nothing to do, and that's what he did with the role. Especially bad was the wretched Popeye-style prosthetics they used on Jason Flemyng's (as Dr. Jekyll) arms when he became Mr. Hyde- in attempting to emulate the exaggerated style of comic artist Kevin O'Neill, it made The Hulk look like a landmark acheivement in special effects cinema. The completely monstrous thing at the end looked a lot better, but I was amazed at how bad the FX were for Hyde. The rest of the movie was a lot better, effects-wise, although I didn't care for the revamp of the Nautilus.

When they first announced this film, I had a bad feeling about it- I knew that Hollywood wouldn't understand or care to duplicate Moore and O'Neill's understated whimsy and depth, and I was right. So instead we get a compromised, shrill rollercoaster of a movie that was entertaining at its basest level but could have been so much more.