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Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
2003-07-16 tracking life & times section
Connery extraordinary in 'LXG'
Cletus Turner
He was the quintessential Bond, James Bond.

Since he left that role, Sean Connery has been one of the box office's perennial favorites. With hits like The Medicine Man, The Rock, Highlander and First Knight, Connery has remained one of the biggest draws at the box office.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen looks to continue the trend. This is the story of Alan Quartermain and his latest adventure. For those who are Richard Chamberlain fans, the last time Alan Quartermain was seen was in King Solomon's diamond mines back in the 80's.

Now, it is 1899 and Quartermain is in his 70's and played by Connery. He is living in Kenya and a tribal medicine man told Quartermain that Africa would never let him die. Enter the bad guys. They kill several of his friends and blow up the building Quartermain is living in, all in a vain attempt to kill him. Quartermain agrees to help the British find the man who is supposedly going to bring the world to the brink of a world war.

When Quartermain arrives in London, he is met by M, one of the many references to the James Bond flicks. M, played by Richard Roxburgh, tells Q about all the problems the world is having. Tanks and other superior weapons are being used to make everyone think the Germans and British are attacking each other when they really are not. M tells Quartermain that he will lead The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The league, M says, has been gathered before to confront evil around the world. Q already has Mina Harker, a vampire played by Peta Wilson, Captain Nemo, played by Naseeruddin Shah, and Rodney Skinner, the invisible man played by Tony Curran. M sends Quartermain to get Dorian Gray and Dr. Jekyll. When the group goes to Gray's abode, they are attacked by masked assassins. Enter Agent Sawyer, played by Shane West. Yes, if you wonder, it is supposed to be Tom Sawyer from Mark Twain.

A fight ensues. Naturally, the league wins and Gray, who is played by Queen of the Damn's Stuart Townsend, decides to join the group. After picking up Dr. Jekyll, who is played by Jason Flemyng, the group heads to Vienna. It seems a peace talk will soon be under way and the mysterious bad guy plans to disrupt it somehow. Almost too late do the good guys realize that the evil plan is to set off explosives under the city itself and cause the whole city to collapse.

I'll stop my narrative there because the story would be destroyed if I went any further. However, I must say that critics are doing the film an injustice by saying the plot is rather weak. I happened to have liked the plot. Perhaps that is the redeeming quality of the film, the plot lets us see humanity through the eyes of what most would call monsters. It seems Mina and Dorian had met before and were lovers. This "common" problem set to the tune of such strange circumstances grounded the film like nothing else could. The chemistry between Townsend and Wilson were palpable and made their scenes resonate.

Curran made the invisible man the most fun character of the film. His humor was perfect because it came when the story was in a lull or when the situation was getting too tense. The use of humor in action has really begun to make these types of films fresh and new for those who have seen action/adventure films too often.

The relationship between Quartermain and the young Agent Sawyer is more of a father/son bond than a leader to one of his group. The writers wrote it that way and it certainly came through to the audience. Quartermain's references to his dead son helped, but Connery and West brought a sense of connectedness that was essential to pull the whole idea off. It is obvious that the two actors spent hours perfecting their scenes or are actually "buddies" off screen. Either way, the scenes they share are electric and make the whole movie more human.

The acting was superb. I didn't see one actor or actress that failed to make the grade. After all, when you have acting heavyweight Connery, you better bring your best skills. Director Stephen Norrington brought together a cast that perfectly complimented Connery. The interesting special effects didn't hurt the production values either. It was interesting that the invisible man used makeup to show himself to people and actually getting to watch Curran supposedly spreading the makeup on his face was an excellent scene. Plus, the comedy of the invisible man slipping to other peoples rooms to spy was funny.

The only problems I saw with the film were the lulls that threatened to destroy the pace of the film altogether. It is all right to slow a film down, but when the film slows to a crawl, that is a major problem. You can lose the audience that way. Norrington and the writers should have worked to bring the pace up a notch in certain scenes. The energy the actors, which made you want to watch even more, portrayed couldn't bring the lulls back from near oblivion.

Overall, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a very good movie. The lulls almost killed the film, but not quite. Connery and his fellow actors made the film fun to watch and the action and plot were well worth the time invested in watching the film.


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