Cinema for Steampunks: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Film (2003) Review

I honestly can’t remember any other time this has happened to me, but I think the movie is actually BETTER than the books it is based on! It takes the best elements of League of Extroardinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 and a smidge from Vol. 2. But the plot is totally different from either in the end.

About the Movie

The movie begins when armed men attack Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery) in Africa. Though he’s on shaky ground with queen and country, he answers the call. Soon, he’s in London and face-to-face with a mysterious agent for the crown known only as “M” (Richard Roxburgh). He meets the other members so far assembled like Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Mina Harker (aka Mina Murray, played by Peta Wilson) and Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), who is this version of the League’s Invisible Man.

CarThey set off together to bring a reluctant Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) into the fold. But, while at Gray’s abode, The Phantom and his men ambush them. Luckily, Tom Sawyer (Shane West) of the CIA had infiltrated the henchmen and saves our heroes with his sharp shooting. After Quartermain and Sawyer capture Mr. Hyde/Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng) in Paris the League is complete. M sends them to Venice to save a group diplomats at a peace summit. The plot thickens when they find there is a traitor in their midst. And the string of explosions bringing Venice down around them is only the beginning.

What I thought of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

This movie is really fun and I love watching it. The effects are special and the action is well-paced. It doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground. And besides Nemo’s car it doesn’t really have as many gadgets as one might like to see in their Steampunk. But I love seeing a world where all of these literary heroes (and anti-heroes) get to team up. I also feel like the movie has more of the whimsy that a lot of Steampunk fans are looking for, where the books are the darker side of the spectrum.

There are a few very important differences from the books to the film. Some of them were brilliant and some were disappointing. First, Dr. Jekyll gets to play a much larger role in the movie than in the books. And with the addition of Gray and Sawyer, the League feels bigger and more complete.

Mina is given both a larger and smaller role at the same time. In the books, she is the clear leader of the League and that gets taken away. In the film, she is not only a scientist, but force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.

I think she was subsumed as leader mostly because of the desire for a Sean Connery-type leading man to play the part of Quartermain. The original League didn’t have quite enough “flash” to it for the big screen, so they needed a more dynamic male lead to be opposite Mina. (Especially if they had hopes to pursue a romantic storyline in a sequel). There aren’t that many silver fox action heroes out there. So, I think they took advantage of having the right actor for that kind of part rather than keeping to the book’s portrayal of Allan as a skinny, wrinkly drug addict.

All in all, I would say the changes that they made helped the movie to feel full and rich.

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