Stephen Norrington's "League of extraordinary gentlemen", based on comic writer Alan Moore's popular graphic novel of the same name, opens with a tank in the year 1899 breaking through the walls of the Bank of England, to the surprise of street police desperately trying to stop it. Their marvel at the sight of a vehicle is in distinct contrast to the league's nonchalance, later on in the movie, at the sight of a missile launching from a submarine or the mention of tracking devices.
These and other similar disregards for logic or reason result in the movie being nothing more than scraped scenes of action put together in various locales to amuse its audience. While the movie doesn't work too well for the most part, at least it tries not to let its weaknesses prevent it from slowing down too long for viewers to take much notice, resulting in some trashy summer popcorn fun that, if not entirely forgivable, is at least commendable.
The extraordinary men of the league consist of popular figures from literature, who like mutants, are different in one way or another. Leading this group is Alan Quatermain (Sean Connery), a legendary English adventurer living in self imposed exile in Kenya. He is recruited by M, who is representing the Queen of England, to form an alliance with others, notably the vampiress Mina Harker (once associated with Van Helsing), the invisible man Skinner, seafaring Captain Nemo, immortal Dorian Grey, the infamous Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the brash, out of place Tom Sawyer, supposedly a Secret Service agent.
These individuals meet in what is the midst of the outbreak of a world war like situation prompted by random attacks in Europe organized by the madman villain (are there any other kind?), bent on taking over the world. The problem of the movie mainly lies in the shallow development of characters. Connery's Quatermain only agrees to help organize the group after a botched attempt on his life, hardly the kind of trait you'd expect from a 'hero'. Not helping matters is the lack of any memorable dialogue, at times reduced to people spewing little more than witty comebacks or clichéd innuendo.
The spaghetti faced villain's motivations however is a shallow pretext for the gathering of the above mentioned individuals. While Norrington wisely avoids wasting time in introducing any of these, he also makes the mistake of not letting them developing too much either, which results in the viewers having little care for them. When one of them is revealed to be a traitor, we aren't too surprised. Ditto the identity of the masked bad guy. Much of the movie is spent in a visually impressive submarine where more bickering than resolving of conflicts occur.
The partial saving grace of the movie lies in its insistence on letting things move with a manic pace. One minute we're in Venice, watching the city being destroyed by underwater explosives, with the Phantom and his henchmen right in the middle of this situation for some reason, and the next instant we are in Mongolia. The movie doesn't have the time to pause and take a deep breath. Its less a marathon, more a fast paced race to the finish line. Not that the end has much to offer, unless one is looking for silly effects (Mr. Hyde anyone?). All of this though never distances itself from being anything less than entertaining, like a really old fashioned no-brainer Bond movie. This isn't a full course meal, it's the cinematic equivalent of a fast food meal, and that isn't necessarily such a bad thing, is it? - Faizan Rashid