Saturday, September 23, 2023

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen






This is my entry in the Rule Brittania Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts.





There was a new revolution in science fiction that came to the fore in the late 1990's.  Although it's origins predated it, in 1995 a series of short stories by Paul Di Fillippo (Steampunk Trilogy) is credited with creating the term,  Steampunk incorporates the genre of alternate history, another great science fiction form, with uses of steam technology to create modern style conveniences and tropes into actual history. 

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen started out life as a graphic comics series created by Alan Moore (of fame for Watchmen and the grittier incarnation of Batman) and Kevin O'Neill.  As in the film version, the comic negated the "Gentlemen" part of the title right off the bat with the introduction of Mina Murray, a vampiress that was the spawn of Dracula.

The series spanned several comics and a graphic novel  or two before being tagged as a feature film.and are well worth seeking out.





The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003):

In 1899 London (and elsewhere), there are a series of robberies.  Although the culprits are not who they are purported to be.  The robbery in London is supposedly being pulled off by Germans, and a counter robbery in Germany is supposedly being pulled off by Englishmen. It seems someone wants to create the illusion of conflict to start a war between the two late 19th century superpowers.

To that effect, Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery) is sought out to be recruited.  Quartermain is older than the hills and feel he is beyond his years and declines.  He has been retired for years and living out his life in remote Africa.  One of the things established at the beginning is a quote that "Africa will never let him die". (Keep that in mind.  It comes into play later.)

But it seems that someone is determined that Quartermain will not be recruited.  But the efforts to stop him have the opposite effect.  Quartermain returns to England where he meets "M" (Richard Roxburgh) who is trying to establish a hero contingent to combat the mysterious "Fantom", the mastermind behind the efforts to create a world war.

Quartermain ends up with his first members of his hero contingent and seek out a couple more before they can become a team.  In the end, he has Mina Harker, who is now a vampire {from Dracula} (Peta Wilson), Captain Nemo {from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea} (Naseeruddin Shah), Dorian Gray {from The Picture of Dorian Gray} (Stuart Townsend), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde {from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde} (Jason Flemyng), and Rodney Skinner, a thief who came across the invisibility formula created by Griffin {from The Invisible Man} (Tony Curran.  They also acquire an interloper, a fully grown adult Tom Sawyer, who works with the United States in conjunction with the League.




From London the crew uses Nemo's submarine, The Nautilus, to travel to Venice where some plans are underway by the Fantom to destroy the city. En route they discover that they have a double agent, some one in the League who is secretly acquiring formulas and blood samples from the League, to which purpose is not entirely known.  Everyone thinks that it is Skinner, since he never seems to be around. (Or maybe, he is... he is invisible, after all)

But, as it turns out, it is not Skinner who is the culprit.  It seems the Fantom is blackmailing some one else to help him undermine the efforts of the League... Dorian Gray.  But Dorian is not entirely an unwilling accomplice.  It seems he has an evil side to his nature already in play.  (Which wouldn't be surprising to anyone who read the original source material for the character...)

 And while attempting to prevent the devastation of Venice, another secret is revealed.  It seems that M has a very close relationship with the Fantom.  They are one and the same.  

Dorian tries to sabotage the Nautilus, thus revealing that he is the double agent and the League had been in the wrong blaming poor Skinner.  The League travels to Mongolia to find the secret headquarters of the Fantom/M. Where we discover that the Fantom/M has another identity heretofore unknown.  (I'll leave that one for you to discover on your own if you watch, but here is a tantalizing clue... the character is not dead yet, although everyone thinks he died a few years ago in a fight on a cliff near a waterfall...)

For anyone who is a devotee of classic Victorian era literature, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman has a lot to offer.  And for anyone who became a fan of the later fictional development of steampunk there are a lot of neat little gadgets to intrigue you.  Although LOEG did not make a huge impact with the critics (it only has a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and had to rely on worldwide sales to garner a profit (it only took in $66 million against its $79 million budget in the U.S., but eventually pulled in $149 million before it left theaters), it is still a cult favorite among its devotees.

That's it from the back seat of the Plymouth this time.  Drive safely, folks.





  1. Have you ever seen the films of Karel Zeman? Especially 'The Deadly Invention' aka 'Fabulous World Of Jules Verne'? That's about as steampunk as you can get, even though it was made in 1958!

  2. As you point out, League did not impress many folks when it first debuted, but I love the concept of the Victorian era's most famous monsters teaming up to fight a James Bond-type villain. It's enduring cult status is not a surprise to me. I'm reminded that Steampunk is still a thing every fall when I visit the Spirit Halloween store, which continues to display Steampunk costumes.

  3. I remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen did not win any fans among the critics. I get the impression that it still hasn't. I still enjoy the film immensely though. I rewatched it recently and it still holds up. For me it is the appeal of the steampunk genre combined with a lot of Easter eggs for fans of Victorian pop culture. And I am going to love any movie in which Allan Quarterman teams up with other famous Victorian characters to fight one of the most famous villains in literary history. Anyway, thanks so much for taking part in the blogathon!

  4. I remember when I saw the previews for this film, and it looked so cool and appealing -- but then it came out and I listened to critics and stayed away. I enjoyed reading about it, though -- and maybe I'll check it out one of these days. Thank you for introducing me to it!

  5. Whoa! 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes? If I'd seen that without reading your review, I would've skipped right past it...and look at all the fun a person would have missed!

  6. I have always wanted to see this movie regardless of the reviews. This seems to be one of those times when audiences and critics diverge.


I'm pretty liberal about freedom of speech, but if you try to use this blog to sell something it will be deleted.