THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a 2003 super-hero movie loosely based on the comic book series by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil. That is not entirely accurate but we’ll go with that for now. Directed by Stephen Norrington it stars Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng, and Richard Roxburgh. Set in 1899 it features a wide assortment of famous fictional literary characters who come together as a Victorian era super-hero team.
Jason Flemyng as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde; Stuart Townsend as Dorian Gray; Naseeruddin Shah as Captain Nemo; Sean Connery as Alan Quatermain; Peta Wilson as Mina Harker; Tony Curran as Rodney Skinner; and Shane West as Tom Sawyer.
Richard Roxburgh as M
The head of British Intelligence – known only as M – recruits a team of extraordinary individuals that eventually includes the vampire Mina Harker, an invisible man Rodney Skinner, the seafaring Captain Nemo, the ageless Dorian Gray, Secret Service agent Tom Sawyer, and the man-monster Doctor Jekyll/Mister Hyde, all lead by hunter/explorer/adventurer Alan Quatermain. Together they battle a plot by the villainous Fantom to start a world war for profit. The action goes from Africa to London to Venice to Mongolia and in the process our heroes discover that the Fantom is in reality the Napoleon of Crime – Professor James Moriarty. The evil plot is eventually thwarted, the world is saved, and our heroes remain united to battle evil another day.
Production for the script for this film actually began before the comic book was published. That is why the film story and the comic book story are so different. That is also why I said that claiming that the movie is loosely based on the comic book is inaccurate. The screenplay was written based on what comic writer Alan Moore intended to do not what he eventually did do.
There is a scene where Peta Wilson as Mina does an impersonation of Quatermain that was not in the original script. That came about when they discovered that she could do an impersonation of Sean Connery and they put it in the movie. She was nervous about offending Connery but he encouraged her to do it and afterwards said he loved it.
The studio could not obtain the rights to the Invisible Man. Which is why the character was renamed Rodney Skinner and he is called an Invisible Man and not the Invisible Man.
It has been reported that the artist (and I use the term with some dread) of the comic book Kevin O’Neil criticized the film because it deviated from the source material. He felt that the comic book Quatermain (an opium addict) was better than the movie version. He also said that making Mina Murray into Mina Harker the vampire disempowered her. I think Mister O’Neil should stick to making bad drawings and refrain from speaking about things he knows nothing about. One of the most dreadful aspects about the LXG comic book is the way Quatermain is presented. And making Mina Murray the leader does not empower her if she keeps having to be rescued. The film versions of Quatermain and Harker are 1,000 times better than the comic. But then again, cave paintings are better than the comic.
The director Stephen Norrington and Sean Connery did not get along while making this film. Norrington is a young filmmaker often led by inspiration and improvisation. Connery is old school, the last of the golden age of Hollywood. It was almost inevitable they would clash. There was a point in the filming in Venice where Norrington wanted to have the League walk ala The Right Stuff. When Connery balked at the idea the director threw it in his face that it wasn’t asking too much for him to walk considering he was getting 18 million dollars for playing his part. Later, when Norrington did not attend the opening party and someone asked where he could be Connery told them to check the nearest asylum.
Richard Roxburgh had already played Sherlock Holmes. With this film he becomes the only actor to have played both Holmes and Professor Moriarty in a live-action production.
It was reported in 2015 that plans were underway to reboot the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Supposedly the reboot would be more in line with the comic books. Thankfully those plans were scrapped. I spend enough time watching bad movies made from even worse comic books. Let the fans of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book stay reading their comics and let that dreary comic never be made into a movie.
I am not a fan of the LXG comic book – as you can by now see. I realize this flies in the face of popular opinion. I do not care! I think the comic book is a self-indulgent mess with poor art, even poorer writing, and virtually nothing of interest going on. The one good thing it has is the idea of uniting Victorian era heroes into a super-hero team.
After watching this movie in order to write this review I went back and reread the original comic book. I have no idea why I put myself thru that. I hated the comic book even more the second time around. I decided to take my one and only copy of the comic book and use it as toilet paper thereby giving it some kind of good use.
I am however a fan of this movie. Again I realize that I am flying in the face of popular opinion. I liked this movie very much. I think it was well made, well thought out, and well played. I love the Victorian setting. I love Nemo’s automobile and I love his Nautilus. Sean Connery is my favorite actor and I find him in fine form in this movie. Despite his age he looks good. I am also a fan of Peta Wilson having watched her on TV in La Femme Nikita. Tony Curran is an amazing actor and I fell in love with him when he played Vincent Van Gogh in an episode of Doctor Who. Stephen Norrington previously directed Blade – a movie I absolutely love! Everything was there for me to love and it worked. I love this movie!
Now I am not saying this movie is perfect. Not by any means. Like many super-hero movies it is long on action and short on characterization. But it is a good movie. It does what I ask a movie to do – pull me in to your universe and make me lose myself for two hours. That this film delivered – in spades!
I recommend this movie. If you haven’t seen this film check it out you can find it on Amazon Prime. If you like super-hero movies, if you like period pieces, if you like diesel-punk, if you like action/adventure, if you like having a good time with a film then see this movie you will not be disappointed. I give this film four Grey Geeks on our rating scale.
That’s all for now. Thank you once again for letting me take up so much of your time. I hope you enjoyed yourself. I know I certainly did. Until next time, Hasta la vista! And remember, it is still dangerous out there. Keeping wearing your mask. If it works for The Green Hornet it is good enough for us.