The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
—About this Film
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was not what I expected. I suppose in the back of my mind, I was envisioning Indiana Jones meets Ghost Ship. What I got was X-Men meets 007 in the year 1899. It was an odd mixture of past/present, comic/opera, technology/skill, reality/folklore and for that it gets at least ten points for originality. I didn’t absolutely love the movie, perhaps because it had too much range—it traveled over so much time and space, and connected too many unrelated events and characters. However, the themes were clear, the character development was good, and it was an enjoyable movie overall.
The overriding theme of the film (other than the dangers of world domination by an evil ruler) was that of character flaws. Each of the gentlemen (and the lady) had a flaw that the evil Fantom wished to duplicate and the character wished to eradicate. Hence we see that these unnatural occurrences are both a blessing and a curse to their bearers.
For Skinner, the invisibility allows him to stealthily perform his task as a “gentleman thief.” However, with the effect being irreversible, it makes it hard to carry on a normal life. The crew’s tendency to blame the ills of the endeavor on Skinner is a keen example of how easy it is to be misunderstood when you cannot be seen.
As a vampiress, Mina Harker has a degree of immortality, extraordinary strength, and an unusual ability to morph into a legion of bats. While this power has obviously transformed her character into a more formidable foe, it has stolen elements of life from her—namely her husband and her ability and desire to love again. She says to the young Sawyer, “You’re sweet, and young – neither of which I hold in high regard.”
Dorian Gray faces a similar conflict, the bitterness and cynicism of having lived too long. His immortality though effective in warfare seems to have driven him further into corruption, arrogance, and deception. In a moment of feigned honesty with Mina, he claims that he secretly wishes to face his character flaws and to undo his demons. However, we find out soon enough that his motives were elsewhere.
Allan Quartermain represents the good side of experience and time. His journeys provided more knowledge, skill, wisdom and self-assurance to his life. Yet the many losses of friends and the onset of old age have worn him out. Lacking any desire to get involved in another adventure, Quartermain agrees simply because the war has come home to Africa and he cannot escape it.
Sawyer, the American spy, has the opposite problem. His youth gives him a heart full of courage and adventure. However, the disadvantage of youth is a lack of experience, for which he needs the services and instruction of the experienced Quartermain.
Dr. Jekyl/ Mr. Hyde has the obvious advantage of great strength, but the conflict always rages within as to how best to control and manage that power. With the Hyde character’s passion for brutality, the Jekyl character must always work to keep him in check.
Captain Nemo’s extraordinary knack for invention gives him a strong military advantage. He rivals the adversary, the Fantom, in the arena of technology. However, his use of these same weapons for piracy in the past casts a dark shadow on his character. When he is discovered paying homage to his goddess, Mina asks if a man who worships the goddess of death can be trusted.
Interestingly, each character’s motive for joining the League is to return to a life that once was. The British agent, M, for Mystery, has promised them an opportunity to return to the state of contentment before their extraordinary powers/flaws entered their lives. However, as we see, that promise was a lie and an unattainable goal at best. It is an interesting reflection on man’s inability to remove his past flaws. Humanity’s only option is to move forward, either succumbing to weakness or using it for a greater good. Much like the characters in this film, the desire of most humans is to somehow improve life and return to a state of grace and peace we once knew. Fortunately, God seems to have the same goal. And His plan for our lives is to take the weaknesses of our past and use them to a greater good in the future. These dynamic individuals did learn to take their “extraordinary” characteristics to the next level and work together to defeat evil. They even left together at the end of the movie for more adventures, seeing themselves as a new team, a sort of new family they never expected.