Based on a popular graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an entertaining crossover adventure movie. It cleverly explores the idea of what would happen if they had superheroes in the past. It draws its inspiration from the works of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Bram Stoker, and other writers of that era. So you have Captain Nemo, Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll, and others as lead characters in this messy adaptation. I’m not so sure that the younger generations are going to get all these references. And those who are going to get them are not the target audience. This put the movie in a weird category and resulted in poor box office earnings.
I think that The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a movie worth watching and here’s why. Firstly, it’s visually impressive with cool special effects and solid production values. Yes, the Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde transformation is a bit clunky along with a couple of other scenes but not too clunky. Secondly, the main story is creative and original. We’ve never seen something like this before. And you can bet your sweet ass we’ll be seeing it a lot in the future. For example, Van Helsing is another movie featuring similar concepts and it came out just a year after this one. Thirdly, the cast is just awesome led by none other than Sean Connery!
This is his last live-action movie as he retired from acting just a couple of years later. Also, there was a lot of drama between him and the director of this movie Stephen Norrington. Apart from Sean, we also have Stuart Townsend, Jason Flemyng, Richard Roxburgh and Peta Wilson. Finally, I just loved all the strange and steampunk gadgets in this movie. Yes, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one of the rare steampunk movies. Just a couple of years earlier, we had the opportunity to enjoy Wild Wild West also featuring a lot of steampunk contraptions.
I mean, this one opens with a modified British WWI Mark IV tank just rolling through the streets and breaking into a bank. And it looks freaking awesome. Although the main attraction is the NemoMobile AKA The Spirit of Nemo, a custom built car, a fully functional 24-foot-long convertible. They used a Land Rover as a basis and practically went nuts with it.
On the brink of the new century, in the year 1899, a terrorist group called Fantom decides to shake things up a bit. They rob the bank of England and kidnap a German scientist, signaling they are up to no good. Soon, powers that be decide to form a team comprised of experienced individuals with extraordinary skills in order to tackle this global threat. The first to be enlisted is none other than Allan Quatermain! And Captian Nemo and his submarine Nautilus will soon follow with the others…
This is a highly ambitious movie willing to push the limits when it comes to both visuals and storytelling. And it feels much, much older than it actually is. It feels like a sixties movie shot some forty years later. So, if you’re watching it now or in ten years perhaps, I’m certain it’s going to feel even older and weirder. And that’s just going to make it feel more fascinating. Like shit, they were trying to do this back then? Moreover, they were counting on at least a couple of sequels. Sadly, we saw none of them but the hope remains that someone will try to do a reboot of the franchise in the future.
In the end, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a guilty pleasure you can have a lot of fun with. Yes, this is certainly a flawed movie but since its inspiration comes from now almost forgotten classics, it might prompt you to check them out. Or, at the very least, to watch a movie about Dorian Gray, Allan Quatermain, or Captain Nemo. And if you’re looking for similar movies, do check out The Shadow, starring Alec Baldwin and taking place in 1920s New York.
Director: Stephen Norrington
Writers: Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, James Robinson
Cast: Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, Stuart Townsend, Tony Curran, Richard Roxburgh, Tom Goodman-Hill
Fun Facts: After being offered roles in The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings, Sean Connery famously said that he didn’t get what they were trying to do with them and turned them down. When he got the script for this movie, he decided to accept it despite not know what was the “point” of the movie.