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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
(2018 Reissue)


Starring: Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Shane West, Stuart Townsend, Peta Wilson and Jason Flemyng
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £19.99


Certificate: 12
Release Date: 29 October 2018

When the Empire comes under threat, the government puts together a team of characters who have extraordinary abilities. Led by Allan Quatermain, the group take on Fantom, an international terrorist group...

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003. 1 hr, 50 min, 07 sec) is a fantasy film directed by Stephen Norrington, a film which killed off his directing career, which is a little odd as the film grossed a little over one hundred and seventy-nine million on a seventy-eight million budget. In comparison Solo (2018) made three hundred and ninety-two million on a three hundred million budget, making League a more commercially successful film. But for all of that commercial success the film was not well received either critical or by its original creators.

The film was roughly adapted from the first volume of the original comic book from creators Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. Moore especially has made his dislike of movie adaptations of his books quite clear. While it is true that his books tended to be deep and labyrinthine in a way that few movies could match, both V for Vendetta (2005) and Watchmen (2009) were fairly decent adaptations. The same cannot be said for League.

Sean Connery plays Alan Quatermain, pulled reluctantly out of retirement to head up a new team of extraordinary people to defend the Empire. They never really address the basic premise of the book, that all of literature has created its own world history. The film just feels like an earlier attempt at Warner Bros ‘Dark Universe’ project, with disparate heroes and villains appearing together, but for no cohesive reason.

Without the knowledge that the world is literature as reality, then there is no reason that the characters should, or could appear together. The film mixes Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) with Dorian Grey (Stuart Townsend), Tom Sawyer (Shane West), Dr Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), Mina Harker (Peta Wilson) and an invisible man (Tony Curren).

As Justice League learned the hard way, unless the audience already has a lot invested in the project, like the Marvel Universe, just bunging a whole load of characters together can have an inverse relationship. The more characters the less time for world building and back story, the less the audience will actually care what’s happening on the screen. The film doesn’t even have a great villain like Fu Manchu. One does get revealed, but for this movie it’s too little too late.

So, the basic bones of the plot are that Fantom have stolen plans for Venice and intend to blow it up, something about world domination. It’s an old plot, used too many times in superhero movies; this is not even a great use of the old trope. There are the occasional high points in the film, like the chase through Venice, but we are just marvelling at a spectacle which is hiding the lack of actual meaningful content.

The Blu-ray is well provided with options and extras. On the audio front you get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that makes good use of the dynamic sound. There is a full-length commentary from the producers and actors as well as a further commentary track from the costume, make-up and visual effects team.

On the extras side you get Assembling the Team - a multi-part documentary looking at the Origins (9 min, 38 sec), Attire (6 min, 33 sec), The Nemomobile (5 min, 12 sec), Making Mr Hyde (14 min, 18 sec), Resurrecting Venice (8 min, 09 sec) and Sinking Venice (10 min, 08 sec). Together these cover various parts of the technical production. There are also six deleted and extended scenes, nice to see, but nothing which adds to the finished film. Lastly you get trailers (4 min, 39 sec).

Overall, with lack of depth for the characters and lacklustre plot, the League went the same way of Justice League, interesting but overall quite flawed.


Charles Packer

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