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Thursday, November 29, 2007

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The film opens in 1899 with dramatic thefts taking place in both London and Berlin. A Mark I tank, piloted by German soldiers, assaults the Bank of England to steal a set of plans drawn up by Leonardo Da Vinci for the foundations of Venice. One soldier from the unit assigned to protect the bank is left alive to tell the story. In Berlin, German scientists are abducted and a zeppelin hangar is destroyed by British troops. The governments of each country threaten war. Behind both crimes is a masked, scarred figure, The Fantom.

An emissary of the British government, Sanderson Reed, arrives in a gentlemen’s club in Kenya to recruit the legendary, but now aged, hunter and adventurer Allan Quatermain. However, Reed finds that Quatermain has no great patriotic concerns and refuses to return to London. At this moment, a group of armoured men armed with machine guns appear, killing several club members. Quatermain defeats the attackers single-handedly, and before he can interrogate the last survivor, the assassin takes poison and dies, followed by the destruction of the club by a bomb planted before the fighting began. Quatermain agrees to return to England, deciding that a full scale war between the nations of Europe will quickly spread to Africa.

Quatermain arrives in London and is taken into the bowels of an impressive Whitehall building. There, in a darkened underground meeting room, he meets the mysterious "M".

M explains his plan to recreate a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to combat the threat of The Fantom and ensure world peace, by stopping him from destroying Venice. "M" has his roster planned and we first meet the legendary Captain Nemo, followed by the invisible gentleman thief Rodney Skinner. Finally, Mrs. Mina Harker, a chemist of some note. It is then stated that Skinner stole the invisibility formula and is now helping the government so they will search for an antidote.

Before they can set off to save the world, two more members must be rounded up, so they climb into Nemo’s six-wheeled "automobile" driven by Nemo's first mate and set off to London’s East End to the home of Dorian Gray.

Once inside Gray’s dockland home Quatermain points out that a painting is conspicuously absent on one wall and we learn that Mina Harker and Gray have some history together and that Gray was chosen for his "experience". Just as Gray turns down their request to join them in their efforts, The Fantom and a dozen of his men arrive. A momentary stand-off takes place, during which Quatermain notices one of the henchmen giving him a look. The whole room erupts in a blazing gunfight when the henchman shoots another of The Fantom's men, which ignites a firefight. During the fight, Dorian Gray's invincibility become apparent, and The Fantom escapes. The fight ends with Mina being held, knife at her throat, by the last remaining thug. Out of the shadows steps the winking henchman, whom we learn is American Secret Service Agent Sawyer, ready to come to her aid. Mina's eyes suddenly turn red and she rips the throat from her assailant and feeds from his neck, while her rather stunned teammates look on. Mina then explains her background from Dracula and reveals her scarred neck. The previously reluctant Dorian agrees to join the League when the other members suggest that Agent Sawyer would be a good replacement for him.

At the nearby docks Nemo unveils his submarine – the Nautilus. Looking like a giant scimitar without a hilt as it rises, the group is stunned by the vessel. A panel opens, a plank is lowered and Nemo’s first mate welcomes them aboard before they head off to France to round-up the League’s last recruit.

In the streets of Paris at night where Quatermain and Sawyer are stalking a beast leaping from building to building up on the rooftops overlooking the Rue Morgue. The beast is knocked from a roof and dragged back to the Nautilus in a net, where we find the huge beast is actually Mr. Hyde who quickly reverts to the meek and haunted Dr. Jekyll. He is happy to help when he learns that the Queen will allow his return to London if he does so.

The team is now complete, so the Nautilus sets off for Venice. Quatermain bonds with young Sawyer while teaching him to shoot effectively rather than in "the American style, all out gunfight" and we learn that Quatermain is haunted by the loss of his son. Sawyer hits on Mina, but his clumsy advance is quickly rebuffed. Mina and Dorian then reveal a bit of their past as the anxious Jekyll looks on, taunted by the voice and image (visible to Jekyll in any reflective surface) of Hyde all the while. Seeds of a traitor in their midst are planted when flash powder is found in the wheel room of the Nautilus and a vial of Jekyll’s serum is determined to be missing. Naturally, all think that invisible thief Skinner is the culprit, but nothing can be done about it since Skinner is nowhere to be found.

Later a carnival in the Piazza San Marco is fully underway as the Nautilus sails up the narrow canals of Venice, until it comes to a stop under a bridge where it can go no further. We are shown that a series of bombs are somewhere under the city, the League's members have no idea where, until they start to detonate and begin toppling buildings in a domino effect, one explosion after another. To stop the total destruction of Venice, they decide that knocking one of the buildings out of the sequence is the only way to stop the chain of explosions. To achieve this, Nemo has a missile that can be fired from the Nautilus at the building in question, but only if a beacon can be set in place. So, since Nemo can track his "automobile", the League piles in with Sawyer at the wheel and go racing along the streets of Venice.

Dozens of The Fantom’s gunmen appear along the rooftops and start firing on the speeding vehicle. Dorian drops out of the car to fight the gunmen and disappears. Moments later, Mina too takes her leave by flying into battle and becoming a swarm of bats, which provide cover from the gun shots overhead.

Quatermain also bails from the vehicle to give chase to The Fantom on foot. The two fight in a graveyard where Quatermain dislodges The Fantom's mask who, before he makes his escape, is now revealed to be none other than the mysterious "M". At the same time, we see Sawyer crash the car into the target building, while firing a flare, which signals Nemo to launch his missile. The building is destroyed, the chain of explosions stops and Venice is saved. Meanwhile, back at the Nautilus, the first mate is met by Dorian Gray and blames Skinner for their troubles, but is proven wrong when Gray shoots him.

The League regroups at the Nautilus, where Quatermain reveals that "M" is behind the whole thing, when the near-dead Ishmael reveals that Gray is the traitor, not Skinner. At that moment, a small submersible vessel breaks from the Nautilus and Dorian makes his escape with a smile and wave to the assembled team.

Nemo sets the Nautilus in pursuit, but moments later, a record is found and played on a gramophone. The voice of "M" floods the room, and we see the recording session as black and white footage in flashback, while he reveals the scope of his plans. Everything leading up to this moment is revealed as a ruse so that "M" could steal elements from each of the League members to construct an army of super-powered soldiers; Jekyll's formula, Mina's blood, and a sample of Skinner's invisible skin. He also explains that he needed Quatermain only to capture Mr. Hyde. Dorian Gray also managed to photograph the Nautilus.

While the record plays on, Jekyll sees his Hyde persona reflected in a porthole, the beast has his hands clamped over his ears and pleads with Jekyll to stop the record, just as 'M' discloses that another track has been playing on the record at a frequency outside human hearing which is set to trigger the bombs planted by Gray. Nemo immediately smashes the gramophone - but it is too late already, and bombs planted by Gray go off in the bowels of the submarine.

Chaos ensues as lower decks flood, with Nemo’s crewman trapped by the water. Hyde's reflection explains that he is the only one who can save their lives. To release the water, Jekyll takes his formula and dives into the flooded chamber. Transformed into Hyde, he uses his massive strength to save the vessel by forcing open a set of vents that drain the water. Once again in pursuit of Gray, a Morse code message is received from Skinner, who has stowed away on Gray’s escape vessel, revealing the coordinates of M’s hideout somewhere in a remote and frozen Mongolian sea.

The Nautilus breaks up from under the ice and the League travel across the frozen wastes to a cave overlooking M’s industrial fortress. The league decides to stay in a cave for the approach of Skinner. Skinner appears and tells them that "M" has a number of scientists and their families held as hostages and slaves in his munitions factory. The workers are constructing Nautili (from the Latin plural of Nautilus) while the scientists are working on an army of Hyde-like brutes, invisible spies and vampire assassins.

Splitting up, the League infiltrates the factory. Nemo and Hyde attempt to free the scientists and their families while Sawyer and Quatermain go after "M", Mina goes for Dorian, while Skinner sets off to plant some explosives.

Sawyer, thinking that he’s met up with the invisible Skinner, breaks from Quatermain, only to discover that it is one of M’s men who has become invisible. To further complicate matters, an armored soldier with a flamethrower also turns up and attacks Sawyer, but is defeated by Skinner, who stabs the soldier's gas tank. The soldier spins, throwing flame, and Skinner is caught in and illuminated by flame. He runs, screaming in pain. Skinner is later found by Sawyer, collapsed on a pile of scrolls, his skin raw, bleeding and scorched.

Meanwhile, Nemo and Hyde run up against M's right-hand man, Dante, leading yet another group of armoured machine-gun wielding men. When the gunmen are quickly beaten by Hyde and Nemo, Dante desperately downs a full beaker of Jekyll's serum that quickly turns him into a massive, powerful, monster several times bigger than Hyde. The heroes make their escape from the factory moments before it explodes. Simultaneously, Mina has her showdown with Dorian, who decays before her eyes when she shows him his portrait.

Quatermain confronts M in his lair and reveals his deduction that "M" is none other than the supposedly dead Professor James Moriarty, at which he declares himself the "Napoleon of Crime", who did not perish at Reichenbach as the world believed, and seeks to profit from starting a world war by selling the powers of the League to the highest bidding country. Quatermain, holding Moriarty at gunpoint, sees in a reflection that an invisible man has Sawyer held at knifepoint behind him. He turns and shoots the invisible villain, only to be stabbed in the back by Moriarty just before making another escape and fleeing across the ice. This is the point where Sawyer has to use what Quatermain had taught him and shoot Moriarty before he can get into the submersible vessel with a suitcase containing all he needs to rebuild his empire. Sawyer kills Moriarty with a bullet to the back of the head just before he reaches the vessel. Moriarty's box containing the items Gray stole from the League falls into the ocean.

The group assembles in Africa to bury Quatermain. After the group departs a tribal witch doctor grabs the dirt that was over Quatermain's grave and begins a ritual chant. The earth shakes violently, making the rifle that Sawyer had left on the grave shake. Lightning strikes Quatermain's grave right before the screen cuts to black.

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