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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen(2003)
A hunter, a scientist, a vampiress, an invisible man, an immortal, a spy, a beast...when a masked madman known as "The Fantom" threatens to launch global Armageddon, legendary adventurer Allan Quatermain commands a legion of superheroes, the likes of which mankind has never seen. Now, despite fighting their own personal demons - and each other - they mush join forces to save the world.
For more about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Blu-ray release, see the The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 8, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Sean Connery, Shane West, Stuart Townsend, Richard Roxburgh, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran
Director: Stephen Norrington
» See full cast & crew
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Blu-ray Review
This below average superhero movie sounds great on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 8, 2008
The Empire is in peril.
What a fascinating concept. Based on a short-lived comic book series of the same name, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen creates a band of superheroes from famed characters from late 19th century literature. Each brings a unique ability to the table, and turning characters who are oftentimes curiosities of fine literature into superheroes is a smart idea and potentially interesting. Indeed, words like "concept" and "potential" are crucial when discussing the 2003 film adaptation of these comic book series. Directed by Stephen Norrington (Blade), whose career as a director seems to have come to an abrupt halt after the release of this film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a case study for how a fine concept with plenty of potential fails to live up to even moderate standards. This movie is by no means "bad," it simply exhibits several shortcomings that make it somewhat of a drag, particularly in between the action sequences, which themselves are not all that interesting. With a decent ensemble cast and plenty of loud action, movie fans looking for background noise might find The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to their liking, but if you are in the mood for action, there are plenty of other movies out there that will satiate your appetite far better than this one.
The year is 1899, and an uneasy peace rests over Europe. That peace is shattered when a tank, supposedly German, runs wild in the streets of London and aids in the robbing of a bank. Later, the Germans suspect the English of destroying several of their airships. On the brink of a World War, the Mysterious M (Richard Roxburgh, Stealth) recruits a group of men with extraordinary abilities -- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- to stop the man behind the attacks, The Fantom, from destroying an emergency summit involving Europe's leaders. The group consists of expert hunter and marksman Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery, The Hunt For Red October), the hero of H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines; Captain Nemo (Indian star Naseeruddin Shah), the protagonist in several Jules verne novels, including Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea; The Invisible Man (Tony Curran, Flight of the Phoenix), a character hailing from H.G. Wells' Science Fiction classic The Invisible Man (that story has been re-imagined in the Paul Verhoeven dud, Hollow Man); Mina Harker (Peta Wilson, Superman Returns), a character in the book and subsequent 1992 film version of Bram Stoker's Dracula); Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend, Aeon Flux), an invincible character who first appeared in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng, Layer Cake), a dual-personality character originally found in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; and Tom Sawyer (Shane West, TV's "ER"), the famed character from Mark Twain's classic novels. Together, the league must use their skills and resources to save the summit in Venice, and along the way unearth a scheme involving their powers and the road to war.
The assembly of so many random literary characters as a league of heroes is a premise ripe with potential. Generally, such an assemblage comes in the form of various comic book heroes teaming up to stop villainy, but to pull characters from classic literature with little in common other than an unnatural ability, be it something within the realm of mortal man (a good hunter, an expert marksman, or a prolific Captain) or something outside the norms of reality (a vampire, an invisible man, an alter-ego that re-shapes one's body) makes for a fascinating premise and may even serve to bring new readers to the classic tales from which these heroes hail as they become fascinated by their personalities and abilities. Unfortunately, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fails to capture and run with this premise, instead making the movie a loud, action-packed extravaganza replete with technology just a bit too far ahead of its time to move the plot along. The film's most glaring weakness is that it never seems to know what to do with itself and its characters. With so many primaries and a sub two-hour runtime, there is only so much character development that can be accomplished in between the film's numerous and large-scale action pieces. Development is haphazard and confused, and outside of cursory background information, the characters merely fill a role in the movie and, sadly, forgettable roles at that. Even Connery's Quatermain is only a decent character in this movie. It's a good character with plenty of angles and opportunities, but there is simply too much else going on to give him time to sufficiently develop, and the writers tried harder with his character than any other. In fact, since the movie takes on a full-throttle action motif, a rather long mid section that sees a pause in the action and the film's best shot at character development slows the film down too much. It's a lose-lose situation, sadly. Framed around the action, there are just too many interesting characters to learn about, and the result is a loud, dull action movie that meanders for almost two hours and never really gets anywhere.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Blu-ray, Video Quality
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen gathers on Blu-ray with a 1080p high definition, 2.35:1 framed transfer that is as bleak and uninteresting as the visual style of the movie itself. This is a solid enough transfer, but none of its attributes come across as overly impressive. It's rather bland as far as Blu-ray releases go, which still means it blows every DVD out of the water and looks better than many other high definition discs, but among the elite on the format it is not. The vast majority of the movie takes place in dark, moderately lit interiors, and as such, black levels and shadow detail become crucial to creating a good transfer. Both are acceptable, but not superb. Also, the image falters somewhat by becoming soft in places with little in the way of extraordinary detail or clarity in either the foreground or the background. Flesh tones appear accurately rendered throughout, however. While no print damage was noticed, there is a bit of grain here and there, but its presence is minimal and certainly not distracting. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one of the least impressive offerings from Fox, but considering the rather dark and dreary nature of the movie, there probably isn't a whole lot that can be done to improve on this one. It's still an average at best high definition experience.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen explodes onto Blu-ray with a powerful and exciting DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless surround sound track. The sound throughout the entire movie is engaging with terrifically powerful and rumbling lows, perfectly placed discrete effects, and plenty of surround activity to put a huge grin on your face, and to reassure your sensibilities as to why you purchased your surround set-up. It takes absolutely no time to become enthralled in this mix. Gunshots ring out all across the soundstage, impacting surfaces all around us. A tank rumbles through the streets causing crashes and devastation to great effect both in the movie and through our listening areas. This one is not just all about crazy action, however. In addition to well-placed dialogue that never presents any volume or clarity issues, there is a nice atmosphere created in many scenes. Check out the scene where we are introduced to Quatermain in Africa. There is solid ambience in the form of chirping insects, chatter, and the sounds of dishes and silverware being used and carried to and fro over in the background. Immediately afterwards, a shootout features all the same fine attributes mentioned above: gunfire in every corner of your listening room, solid bass, and a plenty of excitement. The sound of the Nautilus rising from below the surface is another amazing sonic achievement as the water falling off its hull returns to Earth all around us, and a rumble accompanies its rise. Where The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen unequivocally succeeds is in its sound design. It's loud but still clear, powerful but still precise, and engaging but still natural. This lossless track recreates the experience rather well, and would serve as a solid demo disc for discrete effects and gunfire.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen arrives on Blu-ray with a few scattered supplements, highlighted by the inclusion of two commentary tracks. The first features producers Don Murphy and Trevor Albert, and actors Shane West, Jason Flemyng, and Tony Curran. The nasally Murphy leads the track, discussing the cuts made to ensure a PG-13 rating, a discussion of character motivations, changes from comic to film, the pointing out of various effects shots, and occasionally simply discussing the action on-screen. The rest of the participants play second fiddle in this generally dry commentary track. The second track features costume designer Jacqueline West, visual effects supervisor John E. Sullivan, make-up effects supervisor Steve Johnson, and miniatures creator Matthew Gratzner. As expected, this is a more technical commentary that actually manages to be drier than the previous offering. West offers the most interesting comments with regards to the costuming in the film. It's amazing to hear how much planning and work goes into something as seemingly simple as costuming, although her swooning over how good the actors look in the costumes becomes annoying. A Trivia Track is also included on this disc, and is best watched over one of the commentary tracks. Popping up randomly, a small text box offers some solid tidbits but nothing you cannot live without. LXG: Shooting Gallery is a fun enough game that lets you blast away at bad guys with your remote control over one of the film's action sequences. Finally, 1080p trailers for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Transporter 2, The Transporter, Planet of the Apes, Phone Booth, Kiss of the Dragon, and Behind Enemy Lines round out this array of extra materials.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an action movie with the potential to be so much more. Unfortunately, it wanders too much and never settles into a rhythm, leaving too many interesting characters underdeveloped and mismanaged. Even the action is ho-hum, and while bland action is usually the perfect medicine for the rainy Saturday doldrums, what we have here is too choppy for even that purpose. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray presentation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is, like the movie, a mixed bag. Sporting average video, a superb sound mix, and only a handful of supplements, the disc really isn't worth buying for any other reason than the soundtrack, but equally good (and better) tracks are out there in abundance, and attached to better movies to boot. Worth a rental for the curious.
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