|The League of|
|Directed by||Stephen Norrington|
|Screenplay by||James Dale Robinson|
|Based on||The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen|
by Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill
|Edited by||Paul Rubell|
|Music by||Trevor Jones|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$179.3 million|
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, also promoted as LXG, is a 2003 dieselpunk superhero film loosely based on the first volume of the comic book series of the same name by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. Distributed by 20th Century Fox, it was released on 11 July 2003 in the United States, and 17 October in the United Kingdom. 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 was Connery's final role in a theatrically released live-action film before his retirement in 2006 and death in 2020.
As with the comic book source material, the film features prominent pastiche and crossover themes set in the late 19th century. It features 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.
It received generally unfavorable reviews but was financially successful, grossing over $179 million worldwide in theaters, and earning rental revenue of $48.6 million and DVD sales (as of 2003) of $36.4 million, against its $78 million budget.
In 1899, a terrorist group led by the Fantom breaks into the Bank of England to steal Leonardo da Vinci's blueprints of Venice's foundations. They then kidnap several German scientists while blowing up a zeppelin factory.
The British Empire sends Sanderson Reed to Kenya Colony to recruit adventurer and hunter Allan Quatermain, who had retired following the death of his son. Quatermain at first refuses until a group of assassins is sent to kill him, resulting in the death of his longtime friend, Nigel. In London, Quatermain meets "M", who explains that the Fantom plans to start a world war by bombing a secret meeting of world leaders in Venice. To prevent this, M is forming the latest generation of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, consisting of Quatermain, Captain Nemo, vampire chemist Mina Harker, and invisible thief Rodney Skinner.
The League travels to the London Docklands to recruit Dorian Gray, Mina's former lover who is immortal due to a missing cursed portrait. The Fantom and his assassins attack but the League, aided by U.S. Secret Service Agent Tom Sawyer, fends them off. Gray and Sawyer join the League. They then capture Edward Hyde in Paris, who transforms back into his alter ego, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and joins the League after being offered amnesty. The League travels to Venice in Nemo's submarine, the Nautilus, but they soon deduce there may be a mole on board when a camera's flash powder residue is found in the wheelhouse and one of Jekyll's transformation formulas disappears. Suspicion falls on the missing Skinner.
The Nautilus arrives in Venice just as the bombs detonate, causing the Piazza San Marco and the rest of the city to start collapsing. Sawyer uses Nemo's automobile to stop the destruction, while Quatermain confronts the Fantom, who is unmasked as M. Dorian, the traitor, murders Nemo's first mate Ishmael and steals the Nautilus's exploration pod. M and Dorian leave a phonograph recording for the League declaring that their true goal is to ignite the world war, and that Dorian has been collecting physical elements of the League to create a heavily armed version of the Nautilus, invisible spies, vampire assassins, and Hyde-like soldiers, and to sell the superhuman formulas off to the highest bidder. The Nautilus is damaged by bombs hidden on board, but Hyde saves it by draining the flooded engine rooms. Skinner secretly messages the League, informing them that he has sneaked aboard the exploration pod and telling them to follow his heading.
The League reaches northern Mongolia where it reunites with Skinner and plots to destroy M's factory with explosives. Nemo and Hyde rescue the scientists and their families while fighting Dante who overdoses on the Hyde formula. Skinner sets the explosive charges, and Mina battles and eventually kills Dorian by exposing him to his portrait. Quatermain and Sawyer confront M and identify him as Professor James Moriarty, longtime archenemy of genius detective Sherlock Holmes who had changed identities following his alleged death at the Reichenbach Falls. Sawyer is taken hostage by an invisible Reed; Quatermain shoots the latter, only to be fatally stabbed by Moriarty. Moriarty flees but Sawyer shoots and kills him and the formulas sink into the icy water. Quatermain then dies.
Quatermain is buried beside his son in Kenya. The League recall how a witch doctor had blessed Quatermain for saving his village, promising that Africa would never let him die. The remaining League members—Nemo, Mina, Skinner, Jekyll, and Sawyer—depart, agreeing to keep using their powers for good in the coming 20th century. The witch doctor arrives and performs a ritual that summons an unnatural storm, with a bolt of lightning striking a rifle Sawyer left on Quatermain's grave.
Because 20th Century Fox was unable to secure the rights to the eponymous character of H. G. Wells' 1897 novel, the script referred to "The Invisible Man" as "An Invisible Man", and his name was changed from Hawley Griffin to Rodney Skinner. The Fu Manchu character was dropped. At the request of the studio, the character of Tom Sawyer was added to increase the film's appeal to American audiences and the youth demographic, a move that producer Don Murphy initially dismissed as a "stupid studio note" but later described as "brilliant".
After previously turning down the roles of the Architect in The Matrix trilogy and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the latter of which would reportedly have earned him $450 million, Connery agreed to appear as Quatermain for $17 million, a sum that left the filmmakers with little flexibility to attract other high-profile stars for the ensemble cast.
A character named Eva Draper (Winter Ave Zoli), daughter of German scientist Karl Draper, remained visible in promotional materials despite not appearing in the film's final cut.
Principal photography took place in Hungary, Malta, and the Czech Republic.
The studio pressured filmmakers for a summer release because Master and Commander was slated for fall release. The production encountered delays when a special effects set failed to perform as intended, forcing the filmmakers to quickly look for another effects shop.
Connery reportedly had many disputes with director Stephen Norrington. Norrington did not attend the opening party and, on being asked where the director could be, Connery is said to have replied, "Check the local asylum". Norrington reportedly did not like the studio supervision and was "uncomfortable" with large crews.
In 2003, Larry Cohen and Martin Poll sued 20th Century Fox for intentionally plagiarizing their script Cast of Characters, which they had pitched to the studio between 1993 and 1996. Noting that the scripts shared public-domain characters that had not appeared in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel series, the suit accused Fox of soliciting the series as a smokescreen. Fox denied the allegations as "absurd nonsense" but settled out of court, a decision Alan Moore believed "denied [him] 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 in $179,265,204.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 17% based on reviews from 185 critics, with an average rating of 4/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Just ordinary. LXG is a great premise ruined by poor execution." On Metacritic it has a score of 30% based on reviews from 36 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one star out of a possible four: "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".
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it 1 out of 4 and wrote: "Except for Connery, who is every inch the lion in winter, nothing here feels authentic".
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a grade "C−". Empire magazine, giving it two stars out of five while criticizing its exposition and lack of character depth, saying it 'flirts dangerously close with one-star ignominy'.
In an interview with The Times, Kevin O'Neill, illustrator of the comics, said he believed the film failed (with the critics) 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 comics' author, Alan Moore, was cynical of the film from early in its development, seeing that the two works bore little resemblance, and distanced himself from the film. He said that he could profit from the film while leaving the original comics untouched: "As long as I could distance myself by not seeing [it], assured no one would confuse the two. This was probably naïve on my part".
Connery claimed that the film's production and final quality convinced him to permanently retire from filmmaking. He told The Times: "It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots". Norrington and screenwriters O'Neill and James Dale Robinson have not worked on a live action feature-length film as of 2022.
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.
A novelization of the movie was written by Kevin J. Anderson and released shortly before the movie.
The soundtrack album was also released internationally but not in the United States.
A Blu-Ray edition was re-released in October 2018 from Fabulous Films.
The Tracking Board reported in May 2015 that 20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment had agreed to develop a reboot with hopes of launching a franchise. The report stated that a search was underway for a director who could help "continue to develop the reboot". John Davis told to Collider in an interview that the reboot would be a female-centric film. Plans for a reboot were reportedly scrapped after the Disney/Fox merger in 2019. However, The Hollywood Reporter revealed in May 2022 that the reboot is back on track as a Hulu release with Justin Haythe writing and producer Don Murphy returning alongside Susan Montford and Erwin Stoff of 3 Arts Entertainment.
They changed the whole balance by marginalising Mina and making her a vampire.(registration required)