Epic Movie (Re)Watch #163 - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Originally posted by spockemon

Spoilers Below

Have I seen it before: Yes

Did I like it then: It’s a guilty pleasure.

Do I remember it: Yes.

Did I see it in theaters: No.

Format: Blu-ray

1) This is (or was, not so sure after this viewing) a quintessential guilty pleasure movie for me. I’m a sucker for crossovers and old monsters, so even though this team isn’t EXCLUSIVELY monsters the presence of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, a why-is-she-a-vampire? Mina Harker, a not-Griffin Invisible Man, and Dorian Grey make the film as much of a guilty pleasure as Van Helsing for me. That’d make for a good guilty pleasure double feature.

2) I get this dude has never seen a tank before, but how stupid can he be?

3) I have a feeling Germany would not actually say this verbatim in a situation like this.

4) So I absolutely love the idea of taking The Phantom of the Opera and making him into the big bad technical war-mongering genius the League has to fight in this film. I love the idea, but I feel the execution is a little sloppy. Combining The Phantom’s with James Moriarty utterly takes away any sympathy we have for the character. In Gaston Leorux’s original novel, The Phantom was a figure of tragedy and heartache. I would’ve loved to see more of that side of him, to understand why The Phantom wants to start a World War and what that pain means for him. But instead we get sort of the cliché, “bad guy wants to start war to get rich,” scheme which may be very much in the vein of Moriarty but not in the vein of the Phantom of the Opera.

5) Sean Connery as…

Originally posted by barbara-stanwyck

According to IMDb:

Sean Connery was offered roles in The Matrix (1999) and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), but said he didn’t understand the scripts. So when offered another screenplay he didn’t quite get, (LEG) he took it.

Connery hated working on this film. Absolutely hated it. There were constant production delays and he clashed frequently with director Stephen Norrington (who also hated working on the film, mainly from studio pressures). Connery has retired from acting pretty much because of this film. It was this film which convinced him that he’d fallen out of love with modern filmmaking. In the 14 years since LXG’s release Connery has only had two other acting roles: voicing James Bond in a video game version of From Russia with Love and as the titular character in the poorly received animated film Sir Billi.

Among the many liberties the film takes with the source material, it removes a lot of Quatermaine’s flaws. Yes the pain of losing his son is a nice source of conflict for the character, but this dude was messed up in the original story. His primary character flaw being his addiction to opium, but Connery refused to play an opium addict. The decision to remove this sort of defining flaw makes Connery’s portrayal of the character sort of a generic action hero, at least that’s how I feel. He’s pretty much playing Sean Connery, for better or worse. He never does anything totally unexpected or unique (again, in my opinion) and that hurts the film I think. Connery’s fine in the part. Again, he’s pretty much playing himself. It’s not worthy of a Razzie or anything. But it’s just…fine.

6) There are some really awful bits of dialogue in this film, not helped by exceptionally wooden delivery on some occasion.

Sanderson Reed [as a shootout begins]: “They’re indestructible!”

Allan: “No, just armor plated.”

7) One of the most interesting aspects of Quatermaine is his skills as a hunter and later his sharing of those skills with Tom Sawyer (more on that later). It is a side to him I wish we could’ve seen more of. Patient, steady, able to get off one good shot instead of a dozen fine ones.

(GIFs originally posted by @mercisnm)

8) There are so many random name drops and references in this film which are just done to remind you you’re in a world of fictional characters. Some of them work, but some of them feel REALLY awkward.

Allan [after Reed says he made good time to London]: “Not as good as Phileas Fogg. Around the world in 80 days? Ha!”

So basically you referenced something and then thought the audience was too stupid to get the reference and just said the name of the book. Great.

9) Richard Roxburgh as M/The Phantom/Moriarty

Originally posted by spockemon

This film is FILLED with talented character actors and Roxburgh is one of them. In fact, he’s one of the finest character actors around. With notable roles in Van Helsing, Moulin Rouge, and the lead role in “Rake” (Australian TV show), Roxburgh is able to play a wide array of interesting characters. While this film may lack in some plot and structure, there are a number of performances which I find extraordinary (no pun intended). Roxburgh is able to play the calm and collected gentlemen M, the mad warlord The Phantom, and the conniving scoundrel James Moriarty all in the same character. Three different opportunities shown in one character, all of which done totally and excellently. If only the script would support these opportunities and differences better.

10) In continuing the theme of fine (fine as in exquisite, not fine as in “it’s just fine”) character actors in the movie: Naseeruddin Shah as…

(GIF originally posted by @barbara-stanwyck)

Hey would you look at that: an actual Indian actor playing a character who was originally written as Indian in a major Hollywood film from 14 years ago! What a concept!

Shah is another actor who is pretty damn great in the role he plays, if only the script would have supported it more. He is able to portray Nemo’s authority and skill in presence alone. When Captain Nemo enters the room you KNOW he’s someone you don’t want to mess with. He is powerful, reserved, but also able to convey Nemo’s pain when necessary. Honestly for all this films problems there are some members of the cast who I just truly love, and Shah as Nemo is one of them.

11) Another member of the cast I think just freaking nails it is Tony Curran as Rodney Skinner/An Invisible Man (not THE Invisible Man, but more on that later).

Originally posted by spockemon

According to IMDb:

20th Century Fox was unable to get the rights for the literary character of The Invisible Man, created by H.G. Wells. Not only did this necessitate the character in the film have his name changed from the book’s “Griffin”, but that he could never be referred to as “the” Invisible Man, only “an” invisible man.

Honestly the change works much better than you might think as Skinner is one of the most likable characters in the film. Curran is able to make his charismatic, devilish, witty, and entertaining for someone who is typically never seen. Unfortunately he sorta disappears around the middle (and the film is worse for it), but Curran is another talented character actor who does an excellent job in the film.

12) Peta Wilson as Mina Harker.

Originally posted by spockemon

So…Mina…I don’t really know where to start with Mina. She’s the leader of the League in the original graphic novel, not Alan Quartermaine. She also is NOT a vampire, is dealing with trauma over her encounter with Dracula, and is seen to be a bisexual suffragist (or at least, Alan Moore’s understanding of what that is). A lot of that is lost in the film, and while her vampirism does lead to some badass moments Mina’s motivations are…I’m not sure, actually. I would assume she wants to stop the spread of evil throughout the world to prevent another Dracula, but she has some weird past romance with Dorian Gray and gets sassy with Allan when he acts sexist and…that’s it? Wilson is another strong character actor in the film, but I feel the script supports her even less than it supports say Captain Nemo and Skinner. I’m actually not sure what else to say about Mina.

13) Why does Sean Connery play so many sexist characters?

Connery [to Mina]: “I’ve had women along on past exploits and found them at best a distraction.

Maybe if you didn’t objectify them and trusted their competence you wouldn’t be so distracted.

14) So if you pay attention, right before The League visits Dorian Gray there are newspapers plastered up on the wall of a building talking about Mars (pretty much the words “Mars” is really big). This is in reference to the second volume of the comic book which dealt with The League fighting off HG Welles’ aliens from War of the Worlds. I like that volume more than the first personally, but like a lot (if not all) of Alan Moore’s work it can be problematic. Anyway, moving on.

15) Dorian Gray.

Originally posted by ramimalack

Unfortunately I feel like Stuart Townsend is one of the weakest actors in the film as Dorian, but that could also be attributed to Stephen Norrington’s direction (theoretically, it’s not like I was on set or anything). He’s kind of overact-y, portraying Dorian’s self assuredness and vanity in a way which kind of makes him a prick. Another character not originally in the novel, I don’t think the film necessarily needed Dorian Gray. Although he does have one of my favorite lines in the film.

Bad guy [after he shoots up Dorian to no effect]]: “What are you?”

Dorian: “I’m complicated.”

16) Tom Sawyer.

Originally posted by spockemon

Tom Sawyer is pretty much Tom Sawyer in name alone. He has little-to-nothing in common with Mark Twain’s original character, being a secret service agent instead of a devious little trickster who’s always getting out of work. The studio asked for him to be included as they felt the movie needed an American character to be interesting to stateside audiences. Since he’s not in the original work and he’s not really Tom Sawyer, he ends up being kind of another generic action trope. A shoot-em-up rookie who learns from the more experienced Quatermaine and that’s it. They cut a line which explains that Tom is so desperate to get The Phantom/M/Moriarty because he killed his partner (one Huck Finn) but that’s literally his only unique motivating character factor. And it got cut. It’s done and gone. So we’re just left with…this. Shane West is OK in the film, but the script doesn’t give him much to do in the first place.

17) I’m disappointed with the design of the Nautilus.

Originally posted by mirkokosmos

Nemo calls it, “The sword of the ocean,” and I’m just wondering if they couldn’t have let that be a bit more metaphorical instead of looking like a giant sword.

18) At one point Mina does an impression of Allan/Sean Connery. According to IMDb:

According to Wilson, this was a last-minute addition to the scene, and she felt nervous doing it, since Connery impersonations were considered a no-no on the set. Before the shoot she called Connery and offered not to do the accent, but he insisted she should. Afterwards, she asked him what he thought. He replied, “You were great!” She was taken aback and asked if he really meant it. He said, “Yeah, it’s terrible! It’s the worst impersonation I have ever heard, and it’s perfect.”

19) Jason Flemyng as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

Originally posted by besmirchthis

Jason Flemyng is another one of my favorite character actors - having notable post-LXG roles in X-Men First Class and 2010′s Clash of the Titans - and may tie with Tony Curran as my favorite actor in this film. Flemyng is able to capture both Jekyll and Hyde very well, making them unique in and of themselves. I have to remind myself that they’re the same actor considering the heavy amount of makeup Flemyng is put into for Hyde. But he brings a wonderful physicality to the part which I think is just spectacular. Unfortunately - again - the script does very little to support his performance and the actor gets a little lost in the middle. A great performance even if I wish it were better written.

20) Gathering the League feels totally inorganic, unfortunately. Literally the first half of the film is, “let’s get him and let’s get him and let’s get him,” without actually contributing to the overall plot with The Phantom and the impending World War. It is very telling of the film’s biggest problem and that is the one it has with structure and pacing. Everything feels very messy, with not much thought put into why some scenes exist or play out the way they do. Which is unfortunate again because you have a mostly-stellar cast who are already pretty damn good with a crummy script. Imagine what they could do with a better one.

21) Allan teaching Tom how to shoot maybe my favorite part of the film. It not only connects to Allan’s own internal conflict with the loss of his son but it also taught me - at 13 years old - how important patience can be. Just breathe and take your time. It’s better to get off one perfect shot than a dozen shitty ones.

22) So in the course of about ten minutes it is established that both Tom and Jekyll are into Mina even though nothing from before gives them reason to be and they never once revisit it after. Remember how I said this film had some structural issues? Well it has some developmental issues too.

23) This film is an hour and fifty minutes. It takes them fifty-five minutes to get to Venice - where they’ve been trying to get to the whole time - and then the bomb goes off right away (literally) and they have to stop it. The plot is literally: assemble the league, go to Venice, get to Venice and stop the disaster. Nothing in between. Again: this film has some major structural issues.


Jekyll [after he’s asked to bring Hyde out]: “No! Hyde will never use me again.”

Dorian: “Then what good are you?”

(GIF originally posted by @marshmallow-the-vampire-slayer)

Seriously, why did they bring Jekyll around? Did they only need Hyde? And if so, for what? I know M wants the serum for Hyde but what about the rest of them? What convinced them to bring Hyde along and then be okay with him not doing anything on their big mission?

25) Another example of an extremely wooden delivery. This line hurts my soul every time, although in fairness Dorian himself is supposed to be faking it.

Dorian: “Damn Skinner! He must’ve told them we were coming!”

It hurts my ears, that line. I hate it. So much.

26) I have so many questions about the car chase through Venice. How does Tom know to drive a car? Why is the car designed like it’s American with the wheel on the left? How can Nemo track the car’s “frequency”? Who does the car have a frequency, it is never seen using the radio? I’m so confused.

27) This is the weirdest James Bond movie ever.

Allan: “Vampire lady has us covered.”

28) The scene where Alan faces off with The Phantom in the Venice graveyard is close to interesting. If The Phantom were more developed as an individual and it took its time to peek into Alan’s internal conflict, it could’ve been an excellent character moment.


M [revealing his entire plan via a record]: “It was a ruse to get me closer to my goal.”

(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)

So M wanted the technology to the Nautilus, Hyde’s serum, Mina’s vampirism, and Griffin’s invisibility. And here’s how that plan worked: rob an English bank disguised as Germans, kidnap German scientists disguised as the English, try to convince Quatermaine to join a fake League I made up, try to kill Quatermaine to show him the danger is real, send the League I have already to get Dorian who is a traitor in their midst, try to kill them all with Dorian to convince them the danger is real, have Dorian steal what I need from everyone, blow up Venice, have Dorian escape.

(GIF originally posted by @dailydctv)

If you already had Dorian and an army of minions at your service, couldn’t you have sent them to get what you need from everyone? Wouldn’t that have been easier and less expensive? I’m just…I think I need to move on.

30) The best part of the sinking Nautilus is Jason Flemyng really gets to shine as Hyde. Except it makes no sense that Hyde suddenly doesn’t want to betray and murder everyone for his own personal gain but actually wants to work with the team. There was absolutely nothing to change that character motivation. At all.


Quatermaine [after the Nautilus is trashed, about pursuing Dorian]: “We were the faster, but now we’re the tortoise to his hare.”

Except the tortoise won that race. Did you not understand the point of the story?

32) And then a random white tiger shows up, stares at Quatermaine, and leaves.

Originally posted by mirkokosmos

(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)

I know it’s supposed to tie into how Allan feels his an old tiger sensing the end but it’s also just totally random. And like, did you need an actual tiger? There’s no subtly to that. At all. You’re just taking the metaphor literally and not trusting the intelligence of the audience. I just…gah.


Skinner [after slapping Mina’s as while invisible]: “I’ve been waiting all week to do that.”

To sexually harass her? Well, you’re still not as awful as how Alan Moore wrote The Invisible Man in the story.

34) Like all the set pieces in this film, the climax is poorly paced and sort of dull. You keep cutting between Hyde and Nemo fighting a weird Hyde clone (which, btw, is not how the serum works in the original novel; it’s not Hulk juice), Mina fighting Dorian in a bedroom because she claims, “You broke my heart once,” (really?) Allan and Sawyer chasing down M who is revealed to be Sherlock Holmes’ Moriarty, and Skinner just being somewhere and then getting burned. It’s just…meh.

35) Also should looking at the painting kill Dorian? Is that how it worked in the original novel? I thought if you stabbed the painting it killed him or something.

36) In an actually somewhat developed part of the film, Sawyer shoots Moriarty remembering Allan’s teachings about patience.

Originally posted by spockemon

37) And then Alan dies, but not really because they wanted to do a sequel and totally set up him coming back from the dead. Too bad this killed the potential of a franchise.

This film was a lot less enjoyable as an adult than it was when I was in high school, but I’m also analyzing it for the (Re)Watch. Yes the story is a muddled mess with underdeveloped characters and concepts which just really don’t make any sense. Yes Sean Connery is sort of just showing up. BUT it’s largely well acted and come one! It’s a film where Tom Sawyer shoots James Moriarty in the back after being taught by Allan Quatermaine how to do it. I’m a sucker for crossovers so this is still a total guilty pleasure. Don’t watch it if you’re not interested, because it’s pretty crummy. But it might be enjoyable for the individual who’s interested in these kind of stories.