Jan 9, 2015

The League of Extraordinarily Heterosexist Gentlemen

  I was looking forward to seeing The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003).  What's not to like about a Victorian England with steam-powered submarines and tanks?  Or a group of secret agents made up of Jules Verne's Captain Nemo, H. Rider Haggard's Alan Quartermain, and other fictional characters of the era?   Including a grown-up Tom Sawyer (Shane West, left)?  I knew that Mark Twain wrote some novels about the grown-up Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn as secret agents.  And Oscar Wilde's gay antihero Dorian Gray?  I heard some bad things about the movie.  Like the stars had a three-picture contract that was scrapped.  And director Stephen Norrington hated it so much that he swore off directing for good.  But I said to myself, obviously some members of the audience haven't read the original novels, and won't get the jokes.  Then I started watching.    The set-up is interesting enough.  The mysterious M, a precursor to the M who heads the British secret service in the James Bond novels, recruits a group of action heroes.  The previously mentioned four, plus:  5. Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng, left, whose Mr. Hyde is an Incredible Hulk clone) 6. Mina Harker (from Dracula) 7. "An invisible man" (Tony Curran, below; they couldn't get permission to use The Invisible Man, by H. G. Wells).      Their opponent, the villainous Darth Vader-like Fantom, plans to start World War I a little early by blowing up Venice.  There are more plot twists, double-agents, and betrayals.  I think.  It's all so very, very tedious that I kept falling asleep.  When I wasn't getting angry about the constant heterosexism.  These Extraordinary Gentlemen are all very, very, very heterosexual.  The older ones are all mourning dead wives, and the younger ones spend their time flirting with Mina Harker, telling each other "She's out of your league," or thinking "She'll never be interested in anyone like me."  The gay subtexts of the original novels are gone.  Even Dorian Gray has been de-gayed.  He gazes at men as unwelcome competition in his quest to get with Mina.    The only gay subtext of any sort comes between Tom Sawyer and Alan Quartermain, who can't keep their hands off each other, and keep talking about the size of each others' "guns."  But lest we get "the wrong idea," Quartermain explains that he lost his son, and he's trying to be a father figure to Tom.  There wasn't even any decent beefcake, just the extraordinarily ugly Dr. Jekyl with his shirt off and whatever CGI muscle they used for Mr. Hyde.  Nothing to take my mind off everyone congratulating each other on being heterosexual and yelling "Aren't you happy that gay people don't exist!"  I hated this movie.  See also: Robert Louis Stevenson; Jules Verne; H. Rider Haggard.