Tarry for the Nonce

July 25, 2003

Do You Believe, Marcus?

Filed under: Entertainment — lmwalker @ 12:49 pm

I don’t always agree with Roger Ebert, but his review of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (sent to me by Brian Weichel) is a stroke of genius:

. . . the leaders of Europe are going to meet in Venice and that the mysterious villains will blow up the city to start a world war. The League must stop them. When is the meeting? In three days, M says. Impossible to get there in time, Quatermain says, apparently in ignorance of railroads. Nemo volunteers his submarine, the Nautilus, which is about 10 stories high and as long as an aircraft carrier, and which we soon see cruising the canals of Venice.

It’s hard enough for gondolas to negotiate the inner canals of Venice, let alone a sub the size of an ocean liner, but no problem; “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” either knows absolutely nothing about Venice, or (more likely) trusts that its audience does not. At one point, the towering Nautilus sails under the tiny Bridge of Sighs and only scrapes it a little. In no time at all there is an action scene involving Nemo’s newfangled automobile, which races meaninglessly down streets that do not exist, because there are no streets in Venice and you can’t go much more than a block before running into a bridge or a canal. Maybe the filmmakers did their research at the Venetian Hotel in Venice, where Connery arrived by gondola for the movie’s premiere.

Bombs begin to explode Venice. It is Carnival time, and Piazza San Marco is jammed with merry-makers as the Basilica explodes and topples into ruin. Later, there is a scene of this same crowd engaged in light-hearted chatter, as if they have not noticed that half of Venice is missing. Dozens of other buildings sink into the lagoon, which does not prevent Quatermain from exalting, “Venice still stands!”

Now back to that speeding car. Its driver, Tom Sawyer, has been sent off on an urgent mission. When he finds something–an underwater bomb, I think, although that would be hard to spot from a speeding car–he’s supposed to fire off a flare, after which I don’t know what’s supposed to happen. As the car hurtles down the non-existent streets of Venice, enemy operatives stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the rooftops and fire at it with machineguns, leading us to hypothesize an enemy meeting at which the leader says, “Just in case they should arrive by submarine with a fast car which hasn’t been invented yet, I want thousands of men to line the rooftops and fire at it, without hitting anything, of course.”

Later, there is a sinister encounter in a Venetian graveyard, among the crumbling headstones. But hold on: Venice of all cities doesn’t have graves because the occupants would be underwater. Like New Orleans, another city with a ground-water problem, Venetians find it prudent to bury their dead in above-ground crypts.

But never mind. The action now moves to the frozen lakes of Mongolia, where the enemy leader (whose identity I would not dream of revealing) has constructed a gigantic factory palace to manufacture robot soldiers, apparently an early model of the clones they were manufacturing in “Attack” of the same. This palace was presumably constructed recently at great expense (it’s a bitch getting construction materials through those frozen lakes). And yet it includes vast neglected and forgotten rooms . . .

I think he is being harsh. The movie wasn’t that bad. It certainly wasn’t good, but I am inspired to acquire the graphic novel. So I figured it fulfilled its marketing purpose.



1 Comment

  1. Laura, thank you for that link.

    Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde was about the same size as Dr. Jekyll, but here Hyde expands into a creature scarcely smaller than the Hulk, and gets his pants from the same tailor, since they expand right along with him while his shirt is torn to shreds. Hyde looks uncannily like the WWE version of Fat Bastard.

    The last line alone made the whole thing worth reading. Thanks again.

    Comment by Toly — July 25, 2003 @ 1:34 pm

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