leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Bloated and incoherent, this big-budget adaptation of Alan Moore's brilliant graphic novel jettisons the source material's clever amalgamation of 19th-century pulp fictions in favor of 21st-century Hollywood action formulas. The product of this reverse alchemy is numbingly ordinary. London, 1899: Acting on behalf of Her Majesty's government, the mysterious M (Richard Roxburgh) assembles a group of peculiar and uniquely talented individuals: aging African adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), shape-shifter Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), immortal dandy Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), invisible cut-purse Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), enigmatic submariner Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), vampire Mina Harker (Peta Wilson) and American detective Tom Sawyer (Shane West). Their mission: To go to Venice, where a top-secret summit of world leaders is convening to avert a world war, and protect them from the nefarious Fantom, who seems determined to fan the flames of international conflict for his own benefit. The issue isn't that screenwriter James Dale Robinson and director Stephen Norrington made radical changes to Moore's intensely literary, densely allusive work of steam-punk meta-fiction in the name of making it palatable to people who don't even read comic books, let alone 19th-century novels. It's that they turned an engaging story filled with flawed, complicated characters into a series of CGI-heavy action set pieces, each duller than the one before, and flattened the extraordinary personalities into one-note caricatures. Connery, who also served as executive producer, delivers the "I'm the coolest, toughest white-haired sex symbol alive" performance with which he regularly delights fans to whom he remains the only true James Bond. But his derring-do seems rather too athletic for a character his age even a legendary one. Only Wilson's steely, damaged Mina achieves any sort of depth, though Townsend makes hay with the silkily wicked Dorian Gray who, ironically, isn't even in Moore's original story. For a big-budget effects extravaganza, the CGI is surprisingly fake looking, and much of the production design is less than wondrous. The League's custom-designed car a sort of 19th-century Batmobile is simply ridiculous looking, and the first appearance of Nemo's submarine, the scimitar-like Nautilus, is a terrible disappointment. The misshapen Mr. Hyde's torso and arms are so grotesquely overlarge that he looks as though he'd fall over in real life, and the disparity between the computer-generated invisible man and stubble-faced actor Curran in whiteface make-up is so striking it seems amateurish.