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I don't know about your city, but I can pretty much guess that the denizens elsewhere in this country don't behave like absolute retards as soon as the first sign of precipitation hits. Here in Atlanta, people act like we're in a state of emergency when the clouds go grey. It's really bad when it snows, with people raiding every grocery store in the metro area for their supplies of bread and milk. This is a concept I never really understood. What is it with bread and milk? I mean, why are those items the first ones to be hoarded at first sign of snowfall? I guess you can eat peanut butter sandwiches and cereal all day in the rare case that the roads ice up for more than a few hours at a time in the dirty south, but I'd be jumping in stuff like Pork N' Beans and Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs. They taste good right out of the can if you ask me.
But yes, Atlantans also freak out when it comes to rain. As soon as the first raindrop hits the car's windshield, it's like a chain reaction with the brake lights, I tell you. Even the slightest drizzle means Keith Callan in the Skycopter is going to be putting in overtime this afternoon. So when we get torrential downpour conditions like we did on Thursday night, the night I had those sneak preview passes to THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN in my hands, traffic is practically at a dead stop. The movie started at 7:30, and thanks to the people who feel that water from the sky merits slowing your motor vehicle to below five miles per hour, we barely squeaked in and got seats. Shittyseats, in the far left corner, almost dead front, but seats nonetheless. And free ones at that. Of course, I was unable to remain seated with the sextet of friends I was with (or quintet of friends, unless I'm counting myself in as a friend,) but I made it in. Other friends who arrived mere seconds later were unfortunately turned away.
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN has a very long title. Not quite as long as another adventure movie that happened to also be released in the same week, THE PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL; but still pretty goddamned long, especially considering the attention span of many Big Ass Summer Blockbuster™ attendees. So the studio thought it would be neat to create what we call a Promotional Abbreviation for it, and the movie is often referred to as simply LXG. Now, while I normally roll my eyes at these silly shortenings, in this case I'm happy that I don't have to type THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN three hundred times now, because I can simply refer to it as LXG. It makes my life a hell of a lot easier. If only Disney had shortened THE PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL to something shorter, because at this point me and my carpal tunnel syndrome are not looking forward to reviewing that one.
Anyway, LXG is yet another film based on a comic book series. It doesn't quite follow in the superhero footsteps of X-MEN or THE HULK or DAREDEVIL, but it's a pretty big comic property. The story in question is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore, who also wrote the graphic novel that the Hughes Brothers' FROM HELL was based on, as well as some revolutionary Batman storylines. And even though it's not the type of story most people think of when they think of comics, it manages to get the comic vibe translated to celluloid much better than a lot of other comic movies have managed to do. Now, I've never read an issue of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (to be fair, I'll not use the abbreviation when referring to the comic property, because no comic book studio exec ever picked up a funny book and thought the title was too long), so I was totally being introduced to the concept anew. MCFTR contributor Jay "Me So" Hornsby reported that the movie itself was nothing at all like the comic, but that doesn't change the fact that the movie felt like a comic. In that sense, I enjoyed LXG. And overall, I did enjoy LXG, at least in comparison to the three other passengers in my car on the way home, none of which were very impressed by the film. Sure, it coulda woulda shoulda been a whole helluva lot better, but for what it was, I liked it.
LXG (man, I love that abbreviation more than ever, now that I can type it instead of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN over and over, so I'm gonna use it as often as possible) stars Sean Connery as former James Bond actor Sean Connery. Oh, wait, scratch that. It turns out he's supposed to be playing legendary hunter Allan Quartermain. If that name sounds familiar to you, then it's probably because you've been one of the unfortunate few who managed to see the 1987 Richard Chamberlain film ALLAN QUARTERMAIN AND THE LOST CITIES OF GOLD. I'm among your ranks, having only watched it at some point during my early teen years in hopes that Sharon Stone (or, hell, Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson, I wasn't being picky) might get naked, but nothing of the sort came out of the deal. Anyway, Quartermain is a literary character from the late 19th century who is contacted in this tale by the British Government to stop imminent war from occuring. It seems there's a pre-terrorist terrorist running around called The Fantom, and he's doing all sorts of dastardly deeds. Quartermain is all hatin' on the British Empire, but decided he's in when they blow up his favorite speakeasy in Kenya.
Allan is taken to meet a man named "M", who is heading up a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Oh, duh, that's where they got the title. Here, Quartermain meets up with other literary characters, all written by other authors than he himself was written by. There's the legendary Captain Nemo, from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's Dracula, Rodney Skinner, who picks up the reigns from H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, Oscar Wilde's title character from The Picture of Dorian Gray, The two faced star of Robert Loius Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and even a good ol' yank steps in in Mark Twain's own Tom Sawyer. The team assembles to take on The Fantom, but soon learn that a traitor is within their ranks, and do their best to stop the nefarious plans of those out to fuck shit up.
Now, the plot of LXG is extremely simple, and yet, it seems to confuse the hell out some people. Everything is done rather subtly, and the director and writers assume that while you may not have read all the source material that these characters are based upon, you'll at least know the basics. And face it, you haven't read them all. I haven't, you haven't, only a well-read English scholar probably has, and chances are they just picked up the Cliff's Notes on a few of them or read the comic book adaptation. Oh, sure, I'm pretty familiar with most of the references, but that's only because I took great strides in making myself seem far more cultured than I really was in my high school days. Anyway, there's a pretty predictable twist or two, and then some narrow scrapes from seemingly unavoidable death, and then Sean Connery teaching Tom Sawyer how to shoot a rifle leading to a pretty predictable climax, and then a witch doctor does some dancing to get the credits rolling.
Yeah, this isn't exactly groundbreaking stuff. It's a pretty standard story, with some peppy Hollywood dialogue thrown in, and it looks pretty and stuff, and it's not a terrible movie, but it ain't a great one either. It did do a pretty good job of killing an hour and forty-five minutes or so, and moves at a breakneck pace to get there. A lot of the complaints I have heard about the movie can be easily defended if you look at it in certain context. For instance, there's a scene where Dorian Gray stabs Mina with a sword and makes some lame quip about nailing her. And yeah, it's an eye-roller in the movie, but It's totally comic book stuff. Comic books get away with such things, and if you go into this expecting one, you'll actually get what you bargain for.
The anachronisms gone wild are fun if you look at it in the sense that this is supposed to be fantasy. Yeah, I realize that a century ago people didn't talk this way. I realize they didn't have the technology to create the gadgets that they employ in 1899. It's fantasy. Get over it. Yeah, I know the Nautilus is this gigantic ship and isn't going to be able to navigate the canals in Venice. Yes, I realize that the entire Venice sequence is completely over the top. There are a lot of flaws in the film, the slightest of which are the the fun little bits that might seem out of place and stretch beyond the realm of realism. LXG uses this to its advantage, and in the process manages to make a fun, big-ass action movie out of what could actually be a dull story. The movie sure does really neat, is chock full of breathtaking special effects, and in fact, the Jekyll and Hyde sequences totally out-Hulk THE HULK. Take that, Ang Lee.
Sure, LXG could have been a better movie, but what movie can't? Maybe it's because I saw it for free, but I was at least entertained. It certainly wasn't the best of the Summer movie crop this year, but I can also say with certainty that it's not gonna be the worst. I heard that Executive Producer Sean "You're the Man Now, Dog!" Connery publicly trashed the director and wasn't big on the final product, but this is a man who has MEDICINE MAN, DRAGONHEART, FIRST KNIGHT, and THE AVENGERS under hsi belt, so you can pretty well assume that there's no accounting for taste on his part. I'm just glad the movie is finally here, because I was going to puncture someone at 20th Century Fox's brain if I had to sit through the trailer for LXG one more time this year. Crimony, I think this film's preview has honestly played before each movie I've seen this year. If anything, there's a reason to go see it: the more money it makes, the less they'll have to resort to advertising it.
So now I'm off to bed, hearing the rolling thunder in the distance, and just thinking about how friggin' glad I won't have to be driving in the morning when the stupid Atlanta weather freaks are clogging up the highways.
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