July 20, 2010

Shunned Cinema: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Shunned Cinema is a semi-regular (meaning whenever I come around to it) series where I liveblog a film that for some reason or another has been critically derided and generally has an aura of shame about it. These are the kids on the playground with lice. There's a whispered sense of banishment--stay away from them. I wanted to know why. Why the bad reps? So I watch the movies, update on Twitter, and post the sweded versions transcripts here. Shunned Cinema.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Stephen Norrington, 2003) is the prototypical blockbuster bomb, the superhero movie that failed. It got shit on in part because it is legitimately pretty bad, and in part because the graphic novel on which it's based is so obviously a work of genius. There was a tidal wave of anger for squandering the world's coolest premise: characters from Victorian literature exist in a steampunk-ish alternate universe and form the world's first superhero team to defeat other characters from Victorian literature. Awesome, right? The tragedy of the film is that it could have been SO GOOD, but it's bungled so completely, so ineptly, it's dumbfounding. A small example to illustrate--

This is the kind of film where characters can makes half a dozen cracks about Her Majesty's Empire, British summers and "Rule, Britannia!," but when presented with a landscape that's obviously the bleak, grey London skies, we're treated to a title, "London, July 1899." Well, we bloody already know it's bloomin' London, don't we! All the characters are English, and not just English--stuffed shirt, fucking obviously British. Super Brits. Except for Sean Connery as adventurer Allan Quatermain, who is so obviously Schcottish in every damn role, his Englishness is asserted only by the other characters. But, really. We know the year, too because we got a title scroll for that in the beginning. We don't need to be told it's July either because thirty seconds ago, an Englishman told another Englishman to pack for an English summer. Egads, what a waste of time. 

This is the kind of situation where it's no one's fault and everyone's fault. Norrington and Connery didn't get along. It's a 20th Century Fox film, which is pretty much all you need to know right there. Additionally, they shot almost the entire picture in Prague wherein they experienced some of the worst flooding in European history. Dozens of sets were destroyed, including the entire interior of Captain Nemo's submarine, The Nautilus. Given such dire circumstances, it's a miracle the movie was ever finished at all. 

Ultimately, I don't feel anger at this movie so much as pity. Everything went wrong and that's a shame. There are glimpses of what could have been an entertaining film. The DVD features tons of deleted and extended scenes that flesh out the characters, and give insight into James Robinson's witty and snappy dialogue (none of which is present in the theatrical version). For one thing, the creature design for Mr. Hyde is terrific. The hulk-like monster is composed of foam pieces and prosthetic makeup effects which transform actor Jason Flemyng from the shy, nerdy Dr. Jekyll into a rabid beast. 

But any good intentions aren't enough to forgive a crap film. Unlike my previous viewing of Supergirl, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen certainly lived up to the bad hype. Too bad. Onto the blogging...

1AM: time to start liveblogging the crap film of the day: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Let's do this!

Fuck yeah, lens flares!


  1. A guilty favorite. I think Connery had announced his retirement, so it was unfortunate timing that this was his last. IMHO this is what happens when you jump on the graphic novel to screen property band wagon.

  2. I watched the special features on the DVD and Connery basically said he'd been offered both The Matrix and Lord of the Rings and didn't understand either of them, so he declined. He (or his agent or somebody) finally decided he need a franchise film; he just happened to pick the worst one. Extra unfortunately as he's credited with producing as well.

    In terms of Alan Moore adaptations, this is certainly the worst. Even From Hell is at least stylistically interesting, if completely unlike its source material.