The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (film)
|The League of
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Norrington|
|Produced by||Sean Connery
|Screenplay by||James Dale Robinson|
|Based on||The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by
|Music by||Trevor Jones|
|Edited by||Paul Rubell|
20th Century Fox
International Production Company
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release dates||July 11, 2003|
|Running time||110 minutes|
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, also promoted as LXG, is a 2003 superhero film loosely based on the first volume of the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. It was released on July 11, 2003, in the United States, and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It was directed by Stephen Norrington and starred Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng, and Richard Roxburgh.
It is an action film with prominent pastiche and crossover themes set in the late 19th century, featuring an assortment of fictional literary characters appropriate to the period, who act as Victorian Era superheroes. It draws on the works of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, Ian Fleming, Herman Melville, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe, Gaston Leroux, and Mark Twain, albeit all adapted for the film.
The film grossed $179,265,204 worldwide at the box office, rental revenue of $48,640,000, and DVD sales as of 2003 at $36,400,000. Though not popular with critics or fans of the comic series, the movie has a cult following, particularly within the Victorian steampunk community. It was intended to spawn a film franchise based on further titles in the original comic book series, but there was little enthusiasm for a sequel.
This marked Sean Connery's last leading film role and on-screen film appearance before his retirement.
In 1899, men dressed as German soldiers attacked the Bank of England and stole Leonardo da Vinci’s layouts of Venice’s foundations. Shortly after, led by their leader the “Fantom”, men dressed as British officers kidnapped German scientists and destroyed a factory, causing tension between the United Kingdom and Germany which could lead to an international war, with both attacks marked by highly advanced weaponry (for the time) such as tanks and machine guns. Sanderson Reed of the British Empire ventures to Kenya, visiting a gentlemen’s club to recruit world-renowned hunter and adventurer Allan Quatermain. Quatermain, retired and mourning the loss of his son after his last adventure, has no interest in serving the British Empire further. Armed men attempt to assassinate Quatermain, forcing him to agree to work with Reed.
In London, Quatermain meets “M”, Reed’s employer, who explains that the Fantom plans to destroy Venice to prevent a meeting between the leaders of the world, his ultimate goal being to start a world war and arms race to profit from sale of his weapons. To combat the Fantom, a team of unique individuals known as the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is being formed – consisting of Quatermain himself, Captain Nemo, chemist Mina Harker, and invisible thief Rodney Skinner. M sends the group to recruit their fifth member, immortal Dorian Gray, who remains youthful while a currently missing portrait of himself ages. Dorian once was infatuated with Mina, but refuses to join the team. The Fantom and his assassins attack, but thanks to the presence of U.S. Secret Service Agent Tom Sawyer, the assassins are defeated although the Fantom escapes. Mina is revealed to be a vampire, a result of her past encounter with Count Dracula. Dorian and Sawyer join the team and set off in Captain Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus, to recruit their final member, Mr. Hyde.
After capturing Hyde in Paris, Quatermain negotiates with him into joining the team by offering amnesty for his past crimes. Hyde agrees, transforming into his harmless self, Dr. Jekyll. On the way to Venice, it eventually becomes clear that there is a traitor on board when a camera’s flash powder is found in the ship’s wheelhouse and one of Dr. Jekyll’s transformation formulas goes missing. Skinner is accused of being the saboteur, but he disappears.
Upon the League's arrival in Venice, bombs planted beneath the city begin to destroy buildings in a domino effect. Nemo concludes they can stop the chain reaction by destroying a building out of sequence using one of the Nautilus’ missiles. Quatermain, Sawyer, Mina and Dorian take Nemo’s automobile to outrun the chain reaction with Dorian and Mina leaping out to fight the Fantom’s men. Quatermain spots the Fantom and confronts him, revealing him to be M. Sawyer manages to signal for the missile to be launched and what's left of Venice is saved. Dorian returns to the ship and kills Nemo’s first mate Ishmael, revealing he is the traitor. The league learns of M and Dorian’s treachery, who escape in an exploration pod. A phonograph record made by M is found, M explaining his true goal was to gather physical elements of the team (Skinner's invisible skin, Jekyll's Hyde formula, Mina's vampire blood, and Nemo's technology, while he only needed Quatermain to capture Hyde) to make superhuman formulas to sell to the highest paying countries, with Dorian revealing bombs are hidden on the submarine. The bombs detonate, damaging the sub, but Hyde drains the flooding water from the Nautilus’ engine rooms. Skinner, who stowed away on Dorian’s pod, messages the group to follow his lead.
The Nautilus travels up the Amur River to northern Mongolia where the league reunites with Skinner. Skinner reveals M runs a factory where weaponized versions of the Nautilus are being constructed along with M's other weapons. The kidnapped scientists are forced to make "invisible spies, an army of Hydes, vampiric assassins." In order that they do so, M has held the scientists' families as hostages. The league break into the factory and split up. Nemo and Hyde free the scientists and their families. Skinner sets bombs to destroy the factory. Quatermain and Sawyer go after M, who is revealed to be Professor James Moriarty. Mina confronts Dorian and kills him by exposing his portrait to him. Nemo and Hyde manage to free the scientists and their families, but are confronted by Dante and a few of Moriarty's troops, Nemo and Hyde are able to dispatch the soldiers, but Dante gets a hold of a large flask of Hyde formula, he drinks the whole thing, transforming him into an over-muscled, rage-filled abomination that gives Hyde and Nemo trouble in beating him in a direct fight. Quatermain fights Moriarty who points out Sawyer has been taken captive by Sanderson Reed, who has been turned invisible. Quatermain shoots Reed, but is then stabbed by Moriarty who escapes out of a window with the collection of formulas. Sawyer manages to use Quatermain’s teachings to shoot Moriarty dead from afar, the formulas sinking into the icy waters below. Quatermain dies from his injuries, telling Sawyer that the new century is now his just as the old one was Quatermain's.
Quatermain is buried in Kenya beside his son, but the other league members recall his story of how a witch doctor, whose village he had once saved, blessed him, saying as long as he was in Africa, Africa would never allow him to die. After Sawyer, Mina, Nemo, Skinner and Dr. Jekyll depart, the witch doctor appears and performs a ritual. A bolt of lightning strikes Quatermain’s grave, leaving the result ambiguous.
- Sean Connery as Allan Quatermain
- Naseeruddin Shah as Captain Nemo
- Peta Wilson as Mina Harker
- Tony Curran as Rodney Skinner
- Stuart Townsend as Dorian Gray
- Shane West as Tom Sawyer
- Jason Flemyng as Dr. Henry Jekyll / Edward Hyde
- Richard Roxburgh as Professor James Moriarty alias Fantom/M
- Max Ryan as Dante
- Tom Goodman-Hill as Sanderson Reed
- David Hemmings as Nigel
- Terry O'Neill as Ishmael
A character named Eva Draper (Winter Ave Zoli), the daughter of German scientist Karl Draper, was removed during editing but remained in some of the promotional material. Eva had appeared in two scenes: One ended up on the cutting room floor, and she was digitally replaced with a different character in the other. A brief fight scene featuring Tom Sawyer and the replacement character was rotoscoped into the movie. The deleted scenes which feature Draper appear on the DVD.
Sean Connery reportedly had many disputes with director Stephen Norrington. He did not attend the opening party, and when Connery was asked where the director could be, he is said to have replied, "Check the local asylum." Norrington reportedly did not like the studio supervision and is "uncomfortable" with large crews.
For the script, the character "The Invisible Man" was changed to "An Invisible Man" since Fox was unable to obtain the rights to the titular character of H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man, and his real name was changed from Hawley Griffin to Rodney Skinner. A Fu Manchu character was also dropped from the script. At Fox's request, the character of Tom Sawyer was added for American audiences and to give the movie some "youth appeal." Producer Don Murphy, who described the request as a "stupid studio note," later stated that the move to add Sawyer was "brilliant."
The studio put pressure on the filmmakers for a summer release. Some staff at Fox wanted it to be released in the fall, but according to the Los Angeles Times, Fox already had Master and Commander lined up for the fall. The production ran into trouble when a special effects set did not pan out as intended, forcing the filmmakers to have to quickly look for another effects shop.
Connery was paid $17 million USD for his role, which left the filmmakers little money to attract other big-name stars for the ensemble cast.
In an interview with The Times, Kevin O'Neill, illustrator of the comics, said he believed the film failed because it was not respectful of the source material. He did not recognize the characters when reading the screenplay and claimed that Norrington and Connery did not cooperate. Finally, O'Neill said that the comic book version of Allan Quatermain was a lot better than the movie version and that marginalising Mina Murray as a vampire "changed the whole balance". The author of the comics Alan Moore was cynical of the film from early in its development, seeing that the two works bore little resemblance, distancing himself from the film altogether. "As long as I could distance myself by not seeing them," he said, he could profit from the films while leaving the original comics untouched, "assured no one would confuse the two. This was probably naïve on my part."
In 2003 Larry Cohen and Martin Poll filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, claiming the company had intentionally plagiarized their script Cast of Characters. According to the BBC, the lawsuit alleged "that Mr Cohen and Mr Poll pitched the idea to Fox several times between 1993 and 1996, under the name Cast of Characters," and that Fox had solicited the comics series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as a smoke screen. It noted that the films shared public domain characters who did not appear in the comic book series. Although Fox denied the allegations as "absurd nonsense", the case was settled out of court, a decision Alan Moore, according to the New York Times "took ... as an especially bitter blow, believing that [he] had been denied the chance to exonerate [himself]."
The film opened at #2 behind Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen grossed an estimated $66,465,204 in Canada and the United States, $12,603,037 in the United Kingdom, and $12,033,033 in Spain. Worldwide, the film took $179,265,204.
Critical reaction to the film was negative, with Empire magazine giving it two stars out of five while criticizing the film's exposition and lack of character depth, saying it 'flirts dangerously close with one-star ignominy'. A 30/100 approval rating on Metacritic is based on 36 reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 4/10 with 17% of 177 reviews being positive. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one star out of a possible four stating "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen assembles a splendid team of heroes to battle a plan for world domination, and then, just when it seems about to become a real corker of an adventure movie, plunges into ... inexplicable motivations, causes without effects, effects without causes, and general lunacy."
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen earned a total of $48,640,000 in rentals with $14,810,000 from video rentals and $33,830,000 from DVD rentals. DVD sales meanwhile gathered revenue of $36,400,000.
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- Bill Desowitz. "Movies; Bonds, James Bonds; Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan: 007s who've saved the world in her majesty's service :[HOME EDITION]. " Los Angeles Times. 17 November 2002,E.6. Los Angeles Times.
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- John Horn. "Heroic effort?; Audiences are the last hurdle for a beleaguered 'League.' :[HOME EDITION]. " Los Angeles Times. 14 July 2003,E.1. Los Angeles Times
- Vaughan, Owen (February 25, 2009). "Interview: Kevin O'Neill reveals the secrets of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Marshal Law". Times Online (Times Newspapers Limited). "They changed the whole balance by marginalising Mina and making her a vampire."(registration required)
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- Internet Movie Firearms Database: Description of firearms used in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
- Zone Troopers: Website about the different Allan Quatermain and King Solomon's Mine films