The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

An assortment of characters from fantastic Victorian fiction join together to prevent World War I from starting in 1899. Once involved, they realize the stakes are higher than they imagined. Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, available here and here.


Premise:

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen aka LXG gathers together characters from Victorian Fiction to track the Fantom, a mysterious (and remarkably well-connected and financed, given his origins) figure out to start a World War in order to profit from the resulting arms race.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director: Stephen Norrington

Writers: Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, James Robinson.

Cast: Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, Richard Roxburgh, and a whack of other people.

Second Assistant Accountant: Michele Wright

High Points:

The film makes for a fun ride. I wish we could have become a little more emotionally invested in the characters, but this proves one of the most enjoyable of this summer’s action blockbusters. If you watch it in that spirit, it’s worthwhile.

Jason Flemyng does a memorable turn as Jekyll/Hyde. The League‘s Edward Hyde owes more to Hollywood than to Stevenson. Actually, the greatest debt is to Stan Lee; this is the gray Hulk. LXG does a better job on the Hulk than The Hulk did, but then, Fiziko’s review here at the Bureau was more positive than my alter ego’s take on the film at another site.

LXG boasts great scenery and numerous memorable touches, from Hyde’s outsized hat to the author’s names on a Victorian poster to numerous incidental allusions to various novels.

Low Points:

Occasionally, the dialogue sinks to Attack of the Clones levels of badness, and nowhere do we really become involved with the characters.

The presence of Tom Sawyer (I believe, an addition of the film version) irked me. Never mind that Tom would be nearly Connery’s age in 1899. The person onscreen has nothing to do with Twain’s character, and Twain’s character really doesn’t fit in with this group. I expected they would take liberties with the source material, but at what point does creative adaptation become pointless name-dropping? The Americans don’t need a token representative to relate to, if the choice makes no sense.

The Scores:

Originality: 5/6. Yes, we’ve seen the ragtag team get together for the greater good before, only to run up against evil Plot Twists. The basic premise, and the manner in which it was handled, make LXG original.

Effects: 4/6. Extraordinary mise en scene. Some of the gratuitous spectacle needs work, however. This film’s version of the Nautilus couldn’t possibly ride through Venice; the destruction of Venice is excessively bloodless, and I felt Mina’s “multi-bat” mode was distracting, and less effective than more conventional vampire effects would have been.

Story: 4/6: See “originality.”

Acting: 4/6. Connery’s ability to play an action hero at his age and not look ridiculous is an achievement. The cast do well, but the script rarely requires them to do anything extraordinary in the way of acting.

Production: 4/6

Emotional Response: 3/6 The film delivers thrills, but there’s not much in which to become emotionally invested. The father/substitute son plot involving Connery and Shane West feels spectacularly flat.

Overall: 4/6. Critics have not been kind to this film; I enjoyed it.

In total, LXG receives 28/42.

Additional Comments:

You really have to take this with a grain of salt. Dorian Grey as a super-hero is either literary blasphemy of hilarious perversity on the part of the writers. Mina’s vampirism destroys the ending to Dracula; Either Lucy Westenra or Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (who granted, should both be dead) might have made a more interesting undead woman for the League. I did like the fact that she can move about freely during the day. That’s the way it is in Stoker, and “vampire goes poof at daybreak” has been overexposed and overdone.

Jess Nevins has an excellent page on the original comic, oops, graphic novel here.

21 replies on “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”

  1. Daemonik says:

    Lost Literature
    Considering most Americans educations and interests, I sincerely doubt that more than 20% of the audience for this film will even know who the main characters are. Most might have read some Twain in High School English classes, but characters like Dorian Gray will be out of left field.

    Quatermain they might remember from the Richard Chamberlain film. Maybe.

    Nemo will leave them puzzling over what an animated fish has to do with the story.

    Mina? Dracula’s bride? Huh?

    *sigh*

    If anyone doesn’t already know the address, Project Gutenberg has all of these books for free.

    • y42 says:

      Re: Lost Literature

      Considering most Americans educations and interests, I sincerely doubt
      that more than 20% of the audience for this film will even know who the
      main characters are. Most might have read some Twain in High School
      English classes, but characters like Dorian Gray will be out of left field.

      Quatermain they might remember from the Richard Chamberlain film.
      Maybe.

      Nemo will leave them puzzling over what an animated fish has to do
      with the story.

      Mina? Dracula’s bride? Huh?

      Dorian Gray, dunno who dat is.
      Quatermain, dunno either.
      Nemo, well, duh, Disney movie about 20 000 leages under the sea, he’s
      well known in pop culture.
      Dracula’s bride? Well, there’s Dracula, he apparently has a bride. Not
      much of a brain teaser. Dracula is known, so she’s known by association.

      And its not like I don’t read.

      Maybe the movie will inspire an urge for reading in a few viewers, you
      should be happy ’bout that.

    • hitch says:

      Re: Lost Literature

      Considering most Americans educations and interests, I sincerely doubt that more than 20% of the audience for this film will even know who the main characters are. Most might have read some Twain in High School English classes, but characters like Dorian Gray will be out of left field.

      Quatermain they might remember from the Richard Chamberlain film. Maybe.

      Nemo will leave them puzzling over what an animated fish has to do with the story.

      Mina? Dracula’s bride? Huh?

      *sigh*

      If anyone doesn’t already know the address, Project Gutenberg has all of these books for free.

      WOW you’re pessimistic. Actually, the ONLY one I didn’t know right off the bat was Quatermain, and quite frankly he’s not exactly considered “literature”. As for the way they treated Mina…my god. I haven’t seen the movie, but in the book it was VERY understated, VERY subtle, there were no vampiric…ANYTHING. Only the insistence that she didn’t want to talk about it, and her constant scarf-wearing. (btw – my wife, who is only recently developing a taste for the classics, at least knew the basics behind everyone in the movie (other than Quatermain). Don’t assume we’re all uneducated heathens). My apologies, btw – the Pirates of the Carribean review will be up as soon as I POSSIBLY can get it together. it’s been a hell-week/weekend for me.

      • Daemonik says:

        Re: Lost Literature

        Don’t assume we’re all uneducated heathens). My apologies, btw – the Pirates of the Carribean review will be up as soon as I POSSIBLY can get it together. it’s been a hell-week/weekend for me.

        I didn’t say that everyone was an illiterate heathen, just that 80% of the audience for this movie would have no idea who these characters were. I’d rather expect people here to have an idea of who these characters are, and that the movie is based on a comic book.

        Some of us know of them, and that’s the pull for us, to see them interacting and to see their ‘reality’. It just saddens me that the majority of the viewers will go to see stuff blow up and never look deeper into these characters than what’s put in front of them.

        • HulkStrongestOne says:

          Re: Lost Literature
          The only reference to Alan Quartermain (?) I was ever aware of was the Richard Chamberlain movie which, if I remember, came out along with half a dozen other Indy-clones, and was best avoided, which I did so.

          Interesting to find out it was a real character and not some dopy Indy-like name they pulled out of a random generator.

    • rickyjames says:

      Re: Lost Literature
      Just for the record, I had heard of Quartermain thru the 1980s Chamberlain movie and had no clue he was a Victorian lit character. Dorian who? Mina I knew but only because my son read Dracula for school and spent months talking about how he’d do it as a screen play. I agree, the others are part of our cultural gestalt – or mine, anyway. I’d rather have had Sherlock Holmes instead of Tom Sawyer, but that would be too much – Homes would have been expected to steal the show.

      • hitch says:

        Re: Lost Literature

        Just for the record, I had heard of Quartermain thru the 1980s Chamberlain movie and had no clue he was a Victorian lit character. Dorian who? Mina I knew but only because my son read Dracula for school and spent months talking about how he’d do it as a screen play. I agree, the others are part of our cultural gestalt – or mine, anyway. I’d rather have had Sherlock Holmes instead of Tom Sawyer, but that would be too much – Homes would have been expected to steal the show.

        Actually, Holmes *is* in the movie. But it’s Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft.

        I’m surprised how few people here have heard of Dorian Grey… I actually sought out the book on my own (it’s exceptionally short, as are jekyll and hyde, and most of the books printed back then that weren’t paid by the word) because of NUMEROUS cultural references I encountered growing up (and I’m not really that old). most notable was a far side cartoon called “the portrait of dorian grey and his dog” which only makes any sense if you know something about him. (I had to have my parents explain it first time I read it)

    • Boglin says:

      Re: Lost Literature
      First off, I have read all the stories in question (ok, I admit to quitting half way through Dracula; couldn’t stand the writing style. Oh, and I’ve only read a few of the Quatermain novels.) Still, I think these characters are more a part of pop-culture than you would expect. Specifically, I’d swear I’ve heard Dick Clark joke about having a very old and ugly portait of himself. Even I would have trouble just given the name Nemo; Captain Nemo puts things in a much clearer light for most people that I know.

      Still, I guess my main complaint is the assumption that the average American would be undereducated if he had not heard of these people. Assume I am making a similar type of movie. The heroes are Dr. Susan Calvin, David Bowman, Michael Valentine Smith, Gerry, Hiro Protagonist, Guy Montag, and Andrew Wiggins. These are all lead characters in very famous works by famous authors, yet I wouldn’t find it fair to expect a well educated person to know half of these. Not because I’m smarter or because these books are inferior, but simply because there are too many good stories out there to assume a person has read any given seven of them.

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a killer screenplay to write *g*.

      • hitch says:

        Re: Lost Literature

        First off, I have read all the stories in question (ok, I admit to quitting half way through Dracula; couldn’t stand the writing style. Oh, and I’ve only read a few of the Quatermain novels.) Still, I think these characters are more a part of pop-culture than you would expect. Specifically, I’d swear I’ve heard Dick Clark joke about having a very old and ugly portait of himself. Even I would have trouble just given the name Nemo; Captain Nemo puts things in a much clearer light for most people that I know.

        Still, I guess my main complaint is the assumption that the average American would be undereducated if he had not heard of these people. Assume I am making a similar type of movie. The heroes are Dr. Susan Calvin, David Bowman, Michael Valentine Smith, Gerry, Hiro Protagonist, Guy Montag, and Andrew Wiggins. These are all lead characters in very famous works by famous authors, yet I wouldn’t find it fair to expect a well educated person to know half of these. Not because I’m smarter or because these books are inferior, but simply because there are too many good stories out there to assume a person has read any given seven of them.

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a killer screenplay to write *g*.

        Maybe I’m not the person to talk to about this, as I know everyone on that list (other than Gerry, who might have just slipped my mind) but the primary difference here is the “classic” factor. These characters are all from books that have stood the test of time and are supposed to have been considered part of a strong, classical, education. Alan Quatermain is the exception to this comment. Some of the characters you referred to (notably Andrew Wiggin and guy montag) may one day be on this level – but they still would have the problem that they were all set at VERY wildly disparate times. The people in this movie were all contemporaries. so….shrugs…that’s just my opinion.

      • y42 says:

        Re: Lost Literature

        The heroes are Dr. Susan Calvin, David
        Bowman, Michael Valentine Smith, Gerry, Hiro Protagonist, Guy Montag,
        and Andrew Wiggins.

        Gerry?
        Guy Montag…rings a faint, distant bell…
        Andrew Wiggins…Ender?

        Help me out here!

        • eclectric says:

          Re: Lost Literature

          The heroes are Dr. Susan Calvin, David
          Bowman, Michael Valentine Smith, Gerry, Hiro Protagonist, Guy Montag,
          and Andrew Wiggins.

          Gerry?
          Guy Montag…rings a faint, distant bell…
          Andrew Wiggins…Ender?

          Help me out here!

          Guy Montag: protagonist in Fahrenheit 451.
          Andrew Wiggin: Yes, indeed, Ender.

          Oddly enough, these are the only two I knew. Except for David Bowman.

        • Boglin says:

          Re: Lost Literature

          • Dr. Susan Calvin: The robopsychologist heroine of Asimov’s I, Robot collection of short stories. Contributes a rational, analitical mind and serves as group’s leader.
          • David Bowman: Astronaut from Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. He brings his wisdom and knowledge gained through his encounter with the monolith to the group. (I would have prefered to have used Nicole de Jardins from Clarke’s Rama series, but I didn’t think as many people would have read those books.)
          • Michael Valentine Smith: The human martian from Heinlein’s Stanger in a Strange Land. His character bring his telekinetic abilities to the group (he would be brought in from just before he had joined the military, meaning that he was still not entirely familiar with human society).
          • Gerry: The head of Homo Gestalt from Theodore Sturgeon’s More than Human. His telepathic abilities are of great use to the group, though they must deal with his sociopathic tendancies (he would be taken from part two of the book. I also admit that it was pretty unfair including him, as it’s harder to remember a character with no last name.)
          • Hiro Protagonist: The protagonist from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. He aids the group with both his computer hacking abilities and his combat training from delivering pizza.
          • Guy Montag: Fireman from Fahrenheit 451. His years on the lamb from law enforcement due to his reading habit have given him an expert knowledge of stealth, evasion, and combat.
          • Andrew Wiggins: Ender from Ender’s Game. Provides tactical knowledge and martial arts experience. Would have to be taken from when he was still a child training for the Bugger Wars, so as not to draw too much attention to himself. (Not that anyone cares, but my high school economics teacher was also named Andrew Wiggins.)

          I put way too much thought into this.

    • Trekkie says:

      Re: Lost Literature

      Considering most Americans educations and interests, I sincerely doubt
      that more than 20% of the audience for this film will even know who the
      main characters are. Most might have read some Twain in High School
      English classes, but characters like Dorian Gray will be out of left field.

      Quatermain they might remember from the Richard Chamberlain film.
      Maybe.

      Nemo will leave them puzzling over what an animated fish has to do
      with the story.

      Mina? Dracula’s bride? Huh?

      *sigh*

      If anyone doesn’t already know the address, Project Gutenberg has all of these books for
      free.

      Quartermain? Who’s that? I thought it was Sean Connery and a bunch of
      people.

      I mean from the previews all you know is it is Sean Connery and a bunch
      of people.

      Seriously though, I’d heard of all but Dorian Grey. I have no idea who/
      what he is. It’s not like I’m some one who doesn’t read either. I read on
      average 3 – 5 books a month. Granted I keep it to stuff written this
      century most of the time, but still, I read.

      • Babbster says:

        Re: Lost Literature

        Seriously though, I’d heard of all but Dorian Grey. I have no idea who/what he is. It’s not like I’m some one who doesn’t read either. I read on average 3 – 5 books a month. Granted I keep it to stuff written this century most of the time, but still, I read.

        I’m surprised nobody has mentioned having seen at least one of the film versions of The Picture of Dorian Gray. I thought the 1945 version was pretty much required viewing for anyone into older films, particularly those of the scary variety. I admit that I haven’t read the book, though now I just might. :)

        PS – I haven’t seen the movie yet, though I talked to my parents who went and saw it on Sunday (they’ll go to see anything with SC in it) and they liked it quite a lot. Oddly enough, their LEAST favorite thing about the movie was Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

  2. mbourgon says:

    Our group’s thoughts on it.
    We liked it, despite itself. The quick cuts, the editing: atrocious. The characters: fun. The director: should be shot. The script: decent. The Villian: Cool.

    The biggest problems we had (possibly due to the fact that the projector focus was off) was that until the Nautilus showed up, it was _very_ apparent where the sets were. Heck, I think that London and Venice were the same shot, but one had the road in the middle. Effects were good, though I died laughing at the top of the Nautilus (it’s a high-end Moen faucet – Doh!). Some of the suspense was lacking, especially when the record was playing… and what was Mina doing there when they were recording?(Huh?)

    But we liked it. Apparently it’s not doing anywhere near what Pirates is doing, unfortunate but understandable – the editing was _atrocious_. They cut some of the cool scenes from the commercial, the fight scenes cut too quickly between the groups, and was jerky besides.

    Ebert did have one good comment: suspension of disbelief was sometimes hard to pull off. The Nautilus rising in the Thames, etc, etc. Points to the script writers for some of the clever lines (“you missed a spot”), although minuses in the same scene for forgetting about the whole “vampire” thing (she reflects, she stands out in the sun, she crosses water, etc, etc). Lots of suspension of disbelief, though not as bad as Ebert thought.

    Actors were credible, it all seemed to come together in the end, though the editing was still atrocious.

    I hope there’s a sequel, and I hope they keep the cinematographer away from the fight scenes.

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Our group’s thoughts on it.

      We liked it, despite itself

      for forgetting about the whole “vampire” thing (she reflects, she stands out in the sun, she crosses water, etc, etc). Lots of suspension of disbelief, though not as bad as Ebert thought.

      I won’t be going back to see it again, but I’m 99% sure Mina wasn’t present during the recording. I think the cross-cutting may be confusing matters here. As I point out in my review, Stoker’s vampires can stand out in the sun; Dracula does so three times in the novel. It’s true they don’t reflect and Mina here does, but that’s a (from a modern perspective) silly convention which not all myths/writers have followed. Also, vampires can’t cross water on their own power. Dracula crosses water, but someone has to take him. I don’t see how Mina violates that convention by riding on the Nautilus, though she arguably violates it in Venice.

      Some of the editing was shaky…. But Venice and London were very different shots. I agree this movie is seriously flawed (though entertaining), but I think some of the comments being made by critics (generally) miss the mark.

      Yeah, I hope it makes more people pick up some of these books. I’ve read’em, so I’m finally going to pick up the League comic.

  3. AceCaseOR says:

    Regarding the movie…
    I didn’t think it was really that bad…

    I could see Tom Sawyer being put in. Most viewers might remember Mina Harker-Murray from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, and possibly know where Capt. Nemo was from. They’d definatly know about Dr. Jeckal and Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man. On the other hand, they definatly wouldn’t have heard of Allan Quatermain and Dorian Grey.

    Regarding Mina Harker-Murray’s powers – they’re much greater in Vol. 2 then they are in Vol. 1 of the League of Extrodinary Gentlemen.

    I’m glad they kept in the little twist regarding M. Shame that Fu Manchu didn’t make an appearance though.

    IMHO, it was nice to have Dorian Grey be a member of the League. He’s somebody the viewers haven’t heard of, and that would (hopefully) get them to get out and read).

    I liked the poster which gave a little cameo for Alan Moore (sort of). I also liked the little name dropping of Jack the Ripper and woss-his-name, from Round the World in 80 days.

    Well… here’s hoping that the sequel handles either The War of the Worlds or the strange case of Dr. Fu Manchu, as well doing a little name dropping of Randolph Carter.

  4. eclectric says:

    Mina Harker as a vampire?
    Think it destroys the end of Dracula? Try reading “The Dracula Tape” by Fred Saberhagen. Then you’ll see perfectly how Mina Harker could be a vampire (though, not in 1899, according to that book.)

    • hitch says:

      Re: Mina Harker as a vampire?

      Think it destroys the end of Dracula? Try reading “The Dracula Tape” by Fred Saberhagen. Then you’ll see perfectly how Mina Harker could be a vampire (though, not in 1899, according to that book.)

      why does it seem I’m one of the VERY few who’ve heard of Dorian Grey? I can understand being one of the few who READ him…but to know about him? blah. Anyway – my biggest problem with the whole Mina/Vampire thing was a) she was a strong female character, the LEADER of the group, and a non-vampire in the graphic novel(gn). Then for the movie, they make her a vampire (someone told me they actually went to the authors of the gn and okayed that change.), make QUATERMAIN the leader (who was a recovering opium addict in the gn), etc. completely blows the whole feel of the story for me.

      • Timeshredder says:

        Well, that was different

        actually went to the authors of the gn and okayed that change.), make QUATERMAIN the leader (who was a recovering opium addict in the gn), etc. completely blows the whole feel of the story for me.

        Mina’s the least of the changes, I see, now that I’ve read the original source. Not much alike, are they? The gn features an ironic tone, more references to all kinds of pre-1900 literature (from Oliver Twist to Victorian porn), a steampunk environment, and a completely different plot. Still, I’m afraid if I had created the original, I would have taken the “lay back and think of Mammon” approach, too, in this particular case.

      • Gcdh says:

        Re: Mina Harker as a vampire?

        Think it destroys the end of Dracula? Try reading “The Dracula Tape” by Fred Saberhagen. Then you’ll see perfectly how Mina Harker could be a vampire (though, not in 1899, according to that book.)

        why does it seem I’m one of the VERY few who’ve heard of Dorian Grey?

        I find a similar problem in talking about certain forgotten realms characters but hey i didnt know who dorian Gray is either. Still havnt seen this movie so i’ll refuse to comment on it although based on all other comments ill be trying to pick up certain books

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