What’s Wrong with the League Movie?

It was recently announced that 20th Century Fox plans a reboot of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, news that has been welcomed by many fans and Steampunks alike, but what was so bad about the 2003 movie version?

League Poster

Based on the graphic novels by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil et al., the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a promising movie when it first was announced, however, since its actual release in 2003, it has become somewhat of an embarrassment to many Steampunks, or is it more of a guilty pleasure?

LeagueOfExtraordinaryGentlemenThe source material is widely respected as one of the greatest examples of Steampunk that one can find, and Alan Moore was a genius in taking Victorian fictional characters, that are all public domain, and reworking them into a hybrid with the James Bond secret agent genre. In fact, the Moore invented character of Campion Bond is the first person we meet in Volume One, but he did not make it into the film. The plot of the movie deviates greatly from the graphic novel, dropping characters, and adding new characters like Dorian Gray and Tom Sawyer . . . actually aside from the origins and recruitment aspect, the movie completely abandons the plot of the graphic novel!

Sean ConneryBut the change in plot is not the greatest sin of this movie, it is the change in characterization that creates the fatal flaw that robs this film of its potential glory. Aside from voice work, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was Sean Connery‘s last film and he is the reason that this film is not as amazing as it could have been. Connery plays the aging Allan Quatermain, the quintessential adventurer explorer. The graphic novel’s plot presents all the members of the League as an ensemble cast, but the film becomes a star driven story to elevate Connery’s presence and justify his cost, and this is where it begins to unravel. In the graphic novel Quatermain is a wreck of his former self, we first encounter him as a drug addict in an opium den in Cairo, Egypt. The storyline witnesses his recovery and restoration as a result of his work with the League. This could have provided Connery with some great material with which to work, but instead Connery’s Quatermain is without character flaws and is supposedly superior to the rest of his team which he constantly moans about and just comes across as a grumpy old man apathetically making what would be his last movie . . .

Remove Connery and the rest of the film is a good adventure with excellent performances from actors who claim ownership of their roles such as Naseeruddin Shah as Captain Nemo, Peta Wilson as Mina Harker, Tony Curran as the invisible man Rodney Skinner, Jason Flemyng as Jekyll & Hydeand Stuart Townsend as Dorian Gray. Visually it is a great film with wonderful sets, great costuming, and special effects. 

If the new version can utilize the ensemble nature of the graphic novel and present a dynamic akin to what we’ve seen in The Avengers movie series then this could finally be the great Steampunk movie we’ve for which we’ve been waiting.


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