The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Imagine the "greatest hits" of Victorian era literature, and you'll get a small inkling of the idea behind The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
When the once acclaimed but now retired British adventurer Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery) is called upon to serve his country, he will only go as far as extending his ale upward for a toast to Her Majesty. Ignoring the persuasive promptings from the messenger sent all the way to Africa in hopes of soliciting his support, Quartermain's ears suddenly become more attentive after an assassination attempt on his life destroys the Nairobi bar where he's been hiding from the searing heat and public attention.
Brought back to London, he meets "M" (Richard Roxburgh). This mysterious government agent has resorted to assembling a committee of the most diverse individuals of the time in hopes of thwarting a conspiracy that has begun pitting countries against each other. Besides Quartermain, the elite membership includes Captain Nemo (who also contributes many of his technological inventions, such as his fabled submarine, The Nautilus); The Invisible Man, Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran); immortal being Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend); Dr. Jekyll and his persistent alter ego Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng); grown up American adventurer-turned-secret agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West); and the lone female and once victim of Dracula's bite, Mina Harker (Peta Wilson).
Together they are directed to stop a mysterious being, known only as The Fantom, from sabotaging a conference of world leaders in Venice. Considering the already fragile political stage, the nefarious criminal's plans to set off a domino chain of explosions that would sink the entire city could have globally catastrophic consequences.
The "novel" idea of combining fiction's greatest characters into one setting pays off with a literary action-adventure that will make the recent Hulk turn a new shade of green... especially after watching Dr. Jekyll down a gulp of his transformation poison. The resulting Mr. Hyde is a visual feast of real special effects with few digital manipulations.
Typically movies with casts this large spend far too much time introducing characters and fail miserably at telling a story. Fortunately these writers literally "cut to the chase," allowing us to better understand these people by watching their interactions. There's also an assumption audiences will already know these famous personages (and hopefully young audience members will be inclined to read more about them when the movie is over).
Nearly free of even mild profanities and only one nude scene played (fortunately!) by The Invisible Man, this movie might be recommendable for your older teens. However, it has many scenes with guns (including on-screen shootings), knives, and fist-to-fist combat along with many more large-scale depictions of bombs and destruction. While most of this fantasy violence is bloodless, that can't be said about the unwitting bloke Mina sinks her teeth into. Caught in the hold of her would-be assassin, the woman's Dracula DNA takes over and she kills her aggressor with a gruesome bite to the neck.
Pegged as one of the more unusual releases of Summer 2003, this movie truly sits in a league of its own by delivering a strong story that's not diluted with the usual sequel possibilities. However, families sensitive to violent portrayals may not find these men (and woman) all that gentle and should carefully heed the PG-13 warning.