Awfully Good: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Hopefully JUSTICE LEAGUE is better than the last "league"-based comic book movie…




The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)


Director: Stephen Norrington
Stars: Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, Shane West

At the turn of the 20th century, literature’s most iconic characters are called together to fight a mysterious madman hellbent on starting a world war.

History and audiences have mostly forgotten 2003's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, although it should be remembered for bringing about two major milestones in Hollywood history—ending the careers of BLADE director Stephen Norrington and James Bond himself, Sir Sean Connery.


Norrington was a hot commodity after the surprise success of BLADE and had his choice of projects. A summer tentpole comic book movie starring one of the world's biggest stars seemed like a natural next step, but production was anything but smooth. The director reportedly did not like working with a massive budget and crew, nor the strict studio notes that came along with it. He also famously clashed with his leading man, who himself also had something to prove. Connery had turned down lead roles in THE MATRIX and LORD OF THE RINGS and signed on to LEAGUE thinking it was the next big thing. Once he realized it wasn't (probably around the time the final script came in), he clearly stopped giving a Scottish shit about any part of it. (His performance is less "sleepwalking" and more "narcolepsy.") Things eventually got so bad between Norrington and Connery that both men decided they were done with Hollywood and neither ever made a movie again. Unless you count Connery's voiceover role in SIR BILLI, although I think everyone tries to forget that exists.

If complicated means you have three extra nipples, then yes, you are complicated.

With such a troubled a production, it's not surprising that LEAGUE didn't end up being very good. But as a whole, the film is not so much terrible as it is disappointing. With Alan Moore’s clever graphic novel at its disposal, it feels like a tremendous missed opportunity to turn LXG in to a brainless Hollywood blockbuster. (First offense: referring to the film as "LXG" in all the marketing materials.) The script fails to recognize (or blatantly disregards) everything that made the original comic special. For example, Mina Harker and Captain Nemo, the ostensible stars of Moore's story, are put on the back burner as sexy vampire window dressing and a kung fu sidekick. Instead, you get CGI monsters and a high speed car chase in 1899.

"Excuse me, do you have a size XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXL shirt I can borrow?"

At least the screenwriters kept the cast of beloved fictional characters the same—Allan Quatermain, Dorian Gray, Captain Nemo, Mina Harker, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and An Invisible Man (not THE Invisible Man, as the studio couldn't get the rights)—with just one noticeable exception. Since LXG was made for American audiences and American audiences automatically reject anything not firing an automatic weapon while riding a bald eagle, the studio mandated that a character from the United States be shoehorned in to the movie. So out of the pantheon of great American adventure characters they threw a dart and it landed on… Tom Sawyer? Yes, Mark Twain's precocious childhood creation is now grown up and goes by "Special Agent Tom Sawyer." (Allegedly, the original script included a subplot where Sawyer joined the team so he could get revenge for the death of his partner, Huck Finn, but thankfully that did not make it in to the final film.)

Thankfully even the Invisible Man knew better than to wear blackface.

Sadly, the title group of characters are sketched paper thin and there's no real chemistry between any of the cast members, especially Connery and Shane West, whose father-son relationship is supposed to be the emotional crux of the entire film. Somehow they come across as generic stock characters, which is impressive considering they each have an entire literary history behind them. In fact, an hour in, the movie also introduces the idea that one of the League's members may be a mole, but you don't really know any of them well enough for this to be an exciting or interesting turn of events.

Iron Man's Mark 0.5 armor was less impressive.

Some things about LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN do work. Stuart Townsend is the only actor who's having fun as Dorian Gray. ("Growl.") And I give the filmmakers a lot of credit for going practical with Mr. Hyde. The hulking body suit is fun and fairly convincing (much more effective than the CG behemoth at the end of the movie) and his horrific transformation is probably one of the best things about the film.

Some things are just lazy. Like when the team finds a recording where the villains lay out their evil plan step-by-step and the reasoning for it.

And some things just flat out make no sense. Like why any of the title heroes would eagerly join a team put together by someone they never met. (SPOILER: He ends up being the bad guy.) And why does this bad guy need to put the League together at all? He claims it was to get close enough to steal their blood to clone an army of Mr. Hydes, invisible spies, and vampire assassins, so why include any of the other members? And for the love of God, who designed the laughable Fantom—with his fake scarred face, mullet and goofy mask—and why weren't they immediately fired?

Seriously, this is the bad guy in this movie.

By the time LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN ends and an African shaman is bringing Sean Connery back to life, immediately undoing the film's biggest emotional beat, you'll realize you wasted two hours on this big wet fart of a movie.

This script is definitely not winning any awards.

Some of the best (and worst) action moments from Connery and Co.

The Invisible Man is naked a lot.

Okay with a League of Ordinary Gentlemen? Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Quatermain talks about his son
  • Someone mentions a tiger or a "game"
  • Captain Nemo does kung fu
  • A plot point doesn't make sense

Double shot if:

  • Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde transform


Thanks to Jeff and Jaimie for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Extra Tidbit: Somewhere out in the world, if you listen very carefully, you can hear Alan Moore actively hating this movie.
Source: JoBlo.com



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