Friday Films : THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (2003) – the film that cost the Director and Star their careers — revisited nearly two decades later!

With this recent talk of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN potentially getting a remake, and of course the original 2003 Adaption getting panned by pundits when it is brought up, as someone who really enjoys and likes that 2003 film, I have to step up as the dissenting voice.

No, the film is not the Alan Moore book. Like most films it takes the broad strokes of the property and adapts it to make a film. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

On theatrical release it didn’t work for this film, but much like other films that for whatever reason  failed the test of the moment (such as Carpenter’s THE THING which was a failure upon its release and critically either dismissed or ignored) THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN is a film that is unfairly judged for what it isn’t (faithful to the sprawling and not particularly interesting or cinematic Alan Moore and Kevin O’NeilL series. And I say that as a huge fan of both creators. Their LEAGUE series is better in concept than execution, for me.) rather than being judged for what it is.

What Stephen Norrington’s 2003 film is, what it has always been for me since first seeing it back in 2003 or 2004 (on DVD, not in the movies), is a rollicking,two-fisted action adventure mashup of two things I love, Universal monster movies and Pulp Serials such as 1936’s flash gordon (which if you have not seen the 13 part serial, it is one of the best) and Indiana Jones.

So, I never watched the film bemoaning it wasn’t Alan Moore’s comic book faithfully reproduced. for my money what they did with the germ of Moore’s idea I felt was a more satisfying movie, than the book was a satisfying read. the film’s action sequence in the library i would argue is still one of the most thrilling action sequences, as is that car race through a collapsing venice; and the combination of cgi and practical effects worked for me. I also think it has some of the best set and costume designs, i love that car.

the above is my admittedly unpopular opinion.

however, even if you love the book, if you can view the film as separate from your preconceptions, I think you will find it is an entirely delightful little pulp-horror action film.

And I know it is a film that the creators did not enjoy making, that the director and star were famously/infamously at odds, and got the great Sean Connery to swear off film-making, and cost Stephen Norrington, Director of Blade, his career, but the work, separate from the circumstances of its creation… remains.

And the work, deserves to be celebrated.

I also behoove you to watch this film, and follow it up by listening to the Director’s commentary. No one was “phoning it in” here, these were passionate people trying to give you something to enjoy. Whether they succeeded or failed, let the attempt be judge on what it is, and not what it isn’t.

Eighteen+ years later and my evaluation of this movie, on re-watch, has not changed. I have a great time with this film. Will I be happy to see the remake be what the graphic novel purists want… sure. If another try at this movie is different, or lauded or vastly superior, I’m great with that.

But what is still here, the 2003 film… that will remain for me, one of my favorite Pulp action/horror hybrids. I adore the film.

So that was my critical reevaluation, just to give a different perspective to the people who seemingly by rote, deride this film. Hope you have enjoyed this post, and if you did… please like, comment, subscribe.

It is all GREATLY appreciated.

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