League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Film Anniversary: Celebrate or Not?

By Cat Eldridge: Eighteen years ago today, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film premiered. It was  bastardized off the first volume of the series of the same name by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. It was produced by committee, I think to keep anyone from being blamed for what happened, and Sean Connery is listed as one of the producers. I doubt he actually did anything. 

Speaking of Connery, he one of the cast which also including Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng and Richard Roxburgh. The casting was one of the places where it went awry wrong from the source material as Pet Wilson’s Mina Harker character is a vampire even though in the novel she’s freed from the curse, the second is Shane West as Tom Sawyer, a casting done at the insistence of the studio as they wanted a character American audience would connect with. Apparently the studio had forgotten about the Bond series…

Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”

It’s been a cursed film for some involved as director Stephen Norrington and screenwriters Kevin O’Neill and James Dale Robinson have not worked again on a live action feature length film. (In 2020, Robinson was credited as the writer for an episode, “Brainwave Jr.”, of the Stargirl TV series.)

Need I say that the critical response was hostile? Well it was. Ebert for one said it had “inexplicable motivations, causes without effects, effects without causes, and general lunacy.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a forty-four percent rating which I think is being generous. 

It actually did well at the box office earning well over two hundred million by the time global earnings were tallied. And it’s been a steady seller on DVD. Maybe a lot of folks like a train wreck. If you’re interested in reading the source material, it’s available from the usual suspects for a reasonable twelve bucks. 

13 thoughts on “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Film Anniversary: Celebrate or Not?

  1. I saw it in the theater and was very disappointed. In particular, if you must have Tom Sawyer in the movie, why not make him an accomplished liar and conman (which is more or less in character), rather than a gunfighter? The submarine in Venice’s water was not very believable.

    (P.S. I won’t hold one mistake against them – everyone seems to think that Mr. Hyde is a Hulk-like entity (the literary Hyde was shorter than Jekyll “Mr Hyde was pale and dwarfish”))

  2. Andrew (not Werdna) says (P.S. I won’t hold one mistake against them – everyone seems to think that Mr. Hyde is a Hulk-like entity (the literary Hyde was shorter than Jekyll “Mr Hyde was pale and dwarfish”))

    Even genre writers makes that mistake. Simon R. Green in his Nightside series has Hydes who are described as hulking bests of limited intelligence after they take the drug that makes them so. The drug is so valuable that dead Hydes are extracted of the drug.

  3. I just remember yelling at the screen “No, you idiots, the Invisible Man isn’t the traitor, it’s Dorian Gray! Haven’t you read the f***ing book?”

  4. I’m not convinced anyone read the f***ing script, let alone the the source material. I’ve watched it at least three times snd I’m still amazed just how little of the original graphic novel ended up in the film.

    If you can afford it, and it costs serious money now,
    The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Absolute Edition
    is absolutely f***ing amazing. It’s the sort of product that gets done rarely but is worth seeking out when it’s published.

  5. Penny Dreadful did the same thing, but so much better. (Even if the ending was controversial.)

  6. Iain says Penny Dreadful did the same thing, but so much better. (Even if the ending was controversial.)

    I heard Very Good Things about it. I’ll likely watch it at some point.

  7. @Cat Eldridge on July 11, 2021 at 8:01 pm said:
    I’m not convinced anyone read the f***ing script, let alone the the source material. I’ve watched it at least three times snd I’m still amazed just how little of the original graphic novel ended up in the film

    For instance, amazingly the movie seemed to have left out the child rape scene played for laughs, and the massive amounts of anti-Asian racism. Why is that do you suppose?

    Honestly, I think the movie is the absolutely perfect adaptation of the comic, because it did the same thing to the comic that the comic did to the source stories. Consider that Moore’s “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” takes characters from assorted literary novels, bunges them together with a contrived plot, has them act completely out of character, and then has them have sex with each other. In short, Moore wrote bad fanfic, of a quality that would get out laughed out of AO3. It’s only just and proper that the movie ignored the comic.

    And of course the movie is also far better than the comic in regards to the whole humorous child rape and anti Asian racism. It says a lot about the sensibilities of the comic audience that Moore kept his career after that comic.

  8. As you can no doubt guess from my preferred nom de plume and avatar, I quite liked the movie myself. As a lifelong fan of (preceding from the specific to the general) the Allan Quatermain stories, Haggard’s works, and Victorian adventure stories, I found Connery’s cantankerous old tiger much preferable to Moore’s emaciated and drug addicted geriatric. Nor was I a huge fan of Moore’s lazy deconstruction of so many of the works I have loved.

    And considering his treatment of those works, I find Moore’s attitude towards the cinematic versions of his works ironic at best. Especially since, in my opinion anyways, the cinematic versions of Moore’s work are usually better (or at least more entertaining) than the actual works themselves.

  9. @Rose Embolism: now, now, if you take away Moore’s spite and projection, he’ll disappear in a puff of foul-smelling smoke.

    @Quartermain: what your last paragraph said, and also see my response to Rose.

  10. The League movie had a lot of problems, but I personally preferred it to the original graphic novel. I have to admit, I tend to despise anything by Alan Moore. He seems intent on making his heroes so flawed that they are helpless. Connery’s Quartermain at least had initiative, as opposed to the GN’s version where he was still dealing so much with overcoming a drug addiction that he was practically the load.

  11. “To be fair, Hyde as the Hulk comes from the graphic novel.”

    Yes. In the novel, it is explained that as Hyde becomes the dominant personality, he grows in size while, at the same time. Jekyll shrinks.

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