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"The League Of ... "

"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" ... execution goes awry.

AFTER THE initial stunning 10 minutes, this 20th Century Fox venture, "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", rapidly descends into the unbelievable and you are constantly asking yourself just what is going on?

Extremely ambitious with substantial budgets and sets, the film is occasionally entertaining, but flawed. Its premise is rather brilliant — it starts off in the 1899s when the menace of the masked Phantom is made known to the viewers.

He commits unpardonable acts of terror designed to pit countries against each other leading to a World War. Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) is the only one who can help prevent this disaster — not of course without the help of some extraordinary people. And they are familiar names and characters from history and literature — Captain Nemo (Nasseruddin Shah), Tom Sawyer (Shane West), the Invisible Man (Tony Curran), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemying), Dorian Grey (Stuart Townsend) and Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), wife of Dracula's nemesis Jonathan Harker. Mina if you must know, is a vampire! A band of great characters from adventure and fantasy fiction thus join to save the world! Now that is a brilliant premise!

Based on the graphic comic books by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, this movie could have had everything — what with all the literary characters popping up like mushrooms in a kind of a boys' club, a fascinating 1899 setting. But translation from the concept to the screen has never been easy.

The League learns that the Phantom is now planning to bomb a conference of world leaders to be held in Venice. They have only four days, but that is no problem says Capt. Nemo, a genius of Indian origin who owns a submarine called Nautilus, which is marvellous from the inside and looks like a sword with a Shivlinga from the outside.

Nautilus is manned by several Indians or so we assume, and even has a grand puja room with a Kali, that Nemo worships, especially in times of crisis. Once in Venice, the Phantom launches his attack, which the League with all its extraordinary powers is able to prevent. So what really goes wrong with this film? It starts off rather brilliantly. Especially, the fight scene in a bar in Africa when Allan is made to agree to save Britain. Though in his 70's now Sean Connery plays his role with the customary Bond élan — indestructible, inscrutable and charming.

And the plot takes some twists as well. But all this gets lost in the mayhem and chaos of the action scenes, which don't really give you a feeling that all are involved in the same mission.

As for the characters, the director and the storywriters (screenplay - James Dale Robinson, Don Murphy, Trevor Albert) assume that everyone would know about them (the characters).

Some of the special effects are good (when Dorian Gray disintegrates) and some seem rather sloppy. Stephen Norrington directs this venture with his eye on fast moving action. However, if you don't really nitpick this could be something you could enjoy.


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