After the X-Men found themselves leaping off the pages of comic books into the cinemas for the second time with X2 in 2003, another comic book entity — or graphic novel, to be exact — decided to do the same with the release of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill started in 1999, the film stars a “Justice League” ensemble of characters from well-known Victorian novels lumped together in an attempt to save the world. Of the bunch, we have Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Captain Nemo (20,000 Underneath the Sea), Alan Quartermaine (King Solomon's Mines), Rodney “The Invisible Man” Skinner (The Invisible Man), Dorian Gray (The Portrait of Dorian Gray), Tom Sawyer (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), and Mina Harker of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
At first, it seems the team isn’t going to get along so well — especially when they realize there is a woman in their midst. When every other character’s supernatural capabilities are the reason for their presence in the group, we’re introduced to Mina as just a chemist whose gone through the trenches in Transylvania. However, an incident occurs where Mina shows she’s not as vulnerable as they think she is when she disarms and kills with her “vampirism.” Oh yes, in this film, Mina Harker is not cured of her vampiric bloodlust following the events of Dracula and has many a trick up her sleeve. Sadly, we don’t get to see much of them.
There are approximately four sequences wherein Mina’s “hidden talents” are used in the film, despite being quite possibly the most lethal player amongst the men. In addition to the scene mentioned above, Mina gets an opportunity to shine during a wild car chase through Venice where she flies onto the side of the building and partially turns into a swarm of bats to attack snipers positioned atop several buildings. Though moderately entertaining, this is probably the only time we really see Mina work her vampire skills, sadly leaving viewers with a severely underused female heroine.
As the crew continues with their mission to stop the mysterious “M” (aka Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame), they face a few hardships where each character taps into their expertise. Instead of continuing the play on Mina’s strengths, it’s her penchant for “bad boys” that makes her complicit in the group’s major setback when she literally falls for and sleeps with Dorian Gray, a double-agent for “M.” Though there’s a fight scene between the two revealing her agility, fighting skills, and immortality, all of this is held very close to the vest for the majority of the movie.
At best, Mina had the capacity to kill each member of her team with her combined stealth, agility, apparent combat skills, shape-shifting, and vampirism, and yet we mostly remember the Hulk-like Hyde, ingeniousness of Captain Nemo, and the sharp-shooting Quartermaine. She could've been the most useful on her team and her opportunity to shine was dimmed.
Though this may have been done intentionally to give Mina the guise of a conservative supernatural being (and keep the viewers on their toes), the idea of a “demure” Mina during an end-of-the-world crisis was rather problematic.
Was this really a rouse to keep her deadly side a secret until the perfect moment — or poor writing for a female character they did not know how to use? It’s understandable for Mina to want acceptance from her peers for her scientific background; however, in times when cities are exploding, I expected more of her aside from being the sole woman in the group.
While this movie is called The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it absolutely fell short in making the most of its sole extraordinary woman Mina Harker.