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The UnPopular Opinion: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

01.15.2014

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

In remembering the career of Sean Connery, many will note that his career came to an end unceremoniously with the bomb that was THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. In fact, THE LEAGUE was not only modestly successful but it was a damn fun movie as well. We get so bogged down in gross and budget these days that we fail to remember the product on screen. Like many of the films I review in this column, THE LEAGUE has suffered unfairly from word of mouth and labels rather than the movie itself. Is it a perfect film? No. Is it the best comic adaptation out there? No. Is it a fun movie? Hell yes.

It has become very popular in the last few years to reboot classic characters in new and interesting ways. There are multiple Peter Pan films in development along with the TV series ONCE UPON A TIME, ELEMENTARY, DRACULA and GRIMM. There is a demand for these reinvented stories twisted for contemporary audiences. If THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN had been made now it would have been a massive success, with or without Sean Connery. The steampunk visual style, massive action sequences, and tongue in cheek screenplay all add up for just the type of movie we all love on this site.

You're the man now, dog!

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN gathers classic literary characters the likes of Alan Quartermain, The Invisible Man, Dorian Gray, Mina Harker, Tom Sawyer, Captain Nemo, and Dr Jekyll for what amounts to the equivalent of a Victorian Avengers: a ragtag batch of competing personalities that must band together to fight a greater evil. While none of the cast is quite on par with the star level of Sean Connery, the performances from Jason Flemyng, Peta Wilson, and Stewart Townsend are all fitting with the material. Even Shane West as Tom Sawyer, despite being forced into the script so American audiences had something to connect with in a largely European cast of characters, is better than you would expect.

Keep in mind, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN comes from director Stephen Norrington who had made a name for himself with BLADE. After his experiences working on THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, Norrington would not direct another film. While we could write off this movie as the "bomb" that killed his career, it is likely Norrington's battles with the studio over the final product of THE LEAGUE that gave him a bad reputation around Hollywood. But, the film we all got to see is not a bad movie from a directorial perspective. Norrington choreographs the action with the skill of a blockbuster director while keeping the visual effects from getting too bombastic or unrealistic. Norrington was previously a makeup and visual effects artist on films like LIFEFORCE and ALIEN 3, so the guy knows if something is not working visually. While the Dr. Hyde character can seem a bit like a retro version of the Ang Lee HULK, The Invisible Man effects are spectacular.

So that is how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop!

So far it must sound like I am defending THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN implicity and finding no fault. In fact, there are two glaring problems with the movie. The first one is that the film spends too much time providing origins for each character. When you are dealing with classic literary characters, there is no need for an overlong origin for each. Most folks seeing the movie will know Dr. Jekyll, The Invisible Man, and likely Mina Harker. Alan Quartermain is the least familiar to general viewers, so the movie should have been his introduction with the others quickly added. Unlike the later Marvel movies, this film was by no means a guaranteed franchise to revisit in later films. But, even knowing that, giving viewers something to go back and look up about each member of The League wouldn't have been such a bad thing. As it is, the film slows to a crawl when it should be plowing along.

The other big issue with THE LEAGUE is that it is not faithful to the source material. Alan Moore's comic is a completely different tone and feel than this film. While fans of the comic were undoubtedly turned off by this mainstreaming of their beloved comic series, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN is a unique film all it's own. The years have been surprisingly kind to it in that even though it is now a decade old, watching it again feels like it could have been released just last year. The special effects hold up as does the unique story which is unlike anything else we have seen on the big screen, original or adapted. Many have said THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN would be better served by a small screen, ongoing series, but in the film we all got it still works as an action-adventure that lesser films like VAN HELSING failed to be.

A modern-day warrior Mean mean stride, Today's Tom Sawyer Mean mean pride.

You don't watch movies like this expecting Oscar caliber acting, but to see something pulpy achieved with a high level of craftsmanship. If you approach THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN with that point of view you will walk away having enjoyed the roller coaster it was designed to be. Could it have been better? Of course, what movies couldn't be improved with some tweaks here and there. I am sure if left to their own devices without studio interference, Stephen Norrington and the cast would have delivered something more that the film we got. But, we can't judge a film based on what ifs. Instead, give yourself over for a couple of hours to the greatest alternate universe superhero movie we will ever see on the big screen.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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Source: JoBlo.com

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12:38AM on 06/03/2014
Well I would rather watch this than read the second graphic novel again. Were Mr Jekyll raped the Invisible Man.
Well I would rather watch this than read the second graphic novel again. Were Mr Jekyll raped the Invisible Man.
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7:14AM on 01/16/2014

Love this movie

Didn't read the graphic novel so didn't have any preconceived notions going in. As it stands, a fun movie and one I'll re-watch here and there or stop at when channel surfing.
Didn't read the graphic novel so didn't have any preconceived notions going in. As it stands, a fun movie and one I'll re-watch here and there or stop at when channel surfing.
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10:13PM on 01/15/2014
I love this movie. And I think it has one of the best trailers ever. I still use Sean Connery's one-liners in everyday situations.
I love this movie. And I think it has one of the best trailers ever. I still use Sean Connery's one-liners in everyday situations.
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9:37PM on 01/15/2014
There's a deleted scene as well as a novelization of the movie that discusses Tom Sawyer's motive which should have been kept in.
There's a deleted scene as well as a novelization of the movie that discusses Tom Sawyer's motive which should have been kept in.
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6:10PM on 01/15/2014

nope, sorry

Where there are good points to it (Nemo is spot on, Invisible man is fun, fight between mina and gray is cool and humorous) it kills me that if they had just followed the book, we could have had something really great. I wanted to see adventures of all the past leagues, and it would have worked better as a cable show ala Walking Dead That's just my feeling, though. Hell, I'm the guy who thinks The Watchmen film is better than the book
Where there are good points to it (Nemo is spot on, Invisible man is fun, fight between mina and gray is cool and humorous) it kills me that if they had just followed the book, we could have had something really great. I wanted to see adventures of all the past leagues, and it would have worked better as a cable show ala Walking Dead That's just my feeling, though. Hell, I'm the guy who thinks The Watchmen film is better than the book
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4:54PM on 01/15/2014

If you're going to have the "unpopular opinion"...

With all the angsty whining on the Internet regarding movies raping people's childhoods, it's nice to see something positive.
With all the angsty whining on the Internet regarding movies raping people's childhoods, it's nice to see something positive.
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2:50PM on 01/15/2014

Totally agree

I find that this is one film that if it is on tv that I always stop and watch the rest. Not a great movie but entertaining.
I find that this is one film that if it is on tv that I always stop and watch the rest. Not a great movie but entertaining.
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2:13PM on 01/15/2014

I love this film !

Stunning and fun
Stunning and fun
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+3
2:12PM on 01/15/2014

Indeed

A flawed but underrated, beautiful film
A flawed but underrated, beautiful film
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12:06PM on 01/15/2014

o:

Any time someone uses fun or ride when referring to a movie, it usually means it's dumb. This movie was so horrible.
Any time someone uses fun or ride when referring to a movie, it usually means it's dumb. This movie was so horrible.
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12:14PM on 01/15/2014
Fun = dumb? Man, I dunno about that, there are plenty of movies that manage to be both fun and smart.
Fun = dumb? Man, I dunno about that, there are plenty of movies that manage to be both fun and smart.
1:07PM on 01/15/2014
It's just a trent that I have been noticing. When these horrible cheesy movies like Van Helsing, or Gi Joe come out, and nobody can say that they are any good, somebody always says it was a fun ride.
It's just a trent that I have been noticing. When these horrible cheesy movies like Van Helsing, or Gi Joe come out, and nobody can say that they are any good, somebody always says it was a fun ride.
10:54AM on 01/15/2014
To be fair I haven't revisited this movie since I saw it in theaters, but I agree wholeheartedly with every point you make about it.
To be fair I haven't revisited this movie since I saw it in theaters, but I agree wholeheartedly with every point you make about it.
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10:37AM on 01/15/2014
Honestly, I didn't expect much from this movie but I enjoyed the heck out of it. With this kind of movie, you forget logic and just enjoy the ride.
Honestly, I didn't expect much from this movie but I enjoyed the heck out of it. With this kind of movie, you forget logic and just enjoy the ride.
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10:31AM on 01/15/2014

Love it

I love the action and it has a decent plot along with Sean Connery. A real treat. Sad both Star and director stopped working after this movie.
I love the action and it has a decent plot along with Sean Connery. A real treat. Sad both Star and director stopped working after this movie.
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+2
10:22AM on 01/15/2014
If I were a writer for this column, this would have been one of the movies I'd have written about. I know it's not a good movie, but I still love it anyway.
If I were a writer for this column, this would have been one of the movies I'd have written about. I know it's not a good movie, but I still love it anyway.
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9:04AM on 01/15/2014
I actually don't hate League, even though I'm hesitant to say I like it. It was a decent way to kill a couple of hours--you know, one of those kinds of movies.
I actually don't hate League, even though I'm hesitant to say I like it. It was a decent way to kill a couple of hours--you know, one of those kinds of movies.
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+3
8:59AM on 01/15/2014

Thought it was good

I never read the graphic novel to which was a beloved item for many. Coming late to the party made me watch this movie with an open mind. & enjoyed it. Loved Peta Wilson & Sean Connery. Thought they were awesome
I never read the graphic novel to which was a beloved item for many. Coming late to the party made me watch this movie with an open mind. & enjoyed it. Loved Peta Wilson & Sean Connery. Thought they were awesome
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8:27AM on 01/15/2014

This film is shit.

This is one of only a few filmsI have never finished in my life. I switched off halfway through.
Apart from the fact it wipes its arse on the source material (no wonder Allan Moore has such a bug up his arse about adapations of his work) it is poorly plotted, the acting is lame and it just doesn't hold your interest. Christ they haven't even got all the original characters.
I appreciate a direct copy would be tough given how messed up the comic is but this was so sanitized as to be
This is one of only a few filmsI have never finished in my life. I switched off halfway through.
Apart from the fact it wipes its arse on the source material (no wonder Allan Moore has such a bug up his arse about adapations of his work) it is poorly plotted, the acting is lame and it just doesn't hold your interest. Christ they haven't even got all the original characters.
I appreciate a direct copy would be tough given how messed up the comic is but this was so sanitized as to be offensively dull.
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8:22AM on 01/15/2014

I really like this extrememely flawed movie.

I think 'Van Helsing' succeeded at providing some goofy fun, and Sommers just going for it. One thing 'Van Helsing' didn't have: Connery. That man is a gem! He always gives his all, even in dreck.
I think 'Van Helsing' succeeded at providing some goofy fun, and Sommers just going for it. One thing 'Van Helsing' didn't have: Connery. That man is a gem! He always gives his all, even in dreck.
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8:20AM on 01/15/2014
Hey, I'm all for "fun" movies. I actually love Van Helsing to this day, even though I know it's a bad movie. But League? League is just horrible and not fun.
Hey, I'm all for "fun" movies. I actually love Van Helsing to this day, even though I know it's a bad movie. But League? League is just horrible and not fun.
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8:08AM on 01/15/2014
It deviated a lot from the source material in an attempt to make it more accessible to audiences at large. This involved greatly dumbing down the story, such that the plot we ended up with in the movie was essentially nonsensical and ridiculous. The graphic novel was sophisticated, wry, dark and somewhat cynical and displayed a great understanding of the literary basis for each of the characters. The film added in Tom Sawyer, with the thinking that American audiences wouldn't want to see a
It deviated a lot from the source material in an attempt to make it more accessible to audiences at large. This involved greatly dumbing down the story, such that the plot we ended up with in the movie was essentially nonsensical and ridiculous. The graphic novel was sophisticated, wry, dark and somewhat cynical and displayed a great understanding of the literary basis for each of the characters. The film added in Tom Sawyer, with the thinking that American audiences wouldn't want to see a film unless a young, dashing American hero was in it, as well as Dorian Gray - it's so painfully obvious that he's the traitor that it just kills any suspense or tension whatsoever, and the portrait doesn't work that way - looking at it does Gray no harm, it's destroying it that does him in. And Mina Harker, not Allan Quartermain, was originally the leader of the team, but Sean Connery wanted a bigger role and it was perceived that audiences at large wanted the wise, cool mentor guy to lead the charge. Connery repeatedly clashed with director Stephen Norrington and both had such unpleasant experiences that they retired from making films altogether after making The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Norrington declared he would never direct another movie again, though he has since changed his mind (and Connery lent his voice to that awful-looking "animation" Sir Billi). And let's not get started on the appallingly primitive visual effects - unforgivable given the film's sizeable budget and that effects powerhouse ILM did most of the work. It has its entertaining moments for sure but I can understand why it's not well regarded.
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8:04AM on 01/15/2014
I agree wholeheartedly, it is an enjoyable if flawed film
I agree wholeheartedly, it is an enjoyable if flawed film
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