The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen ★★★½

When I first saw trailers for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it seemed potentially interesting. I was unaware at the time it was based on an Alan Moore comic book, but I liked the concept. Sean Connery was a draw, too. But like so many, I was dissuaded by such bad word of mouth that I passed on it. Then in May 2008, I checked out the trade paperback collected edition of the original comic and found I quite liked the source material. A year later on Free Comic Book Day 2009, I found the film on DVD at The Great Escape and took the chance on it.

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for Flickchart entitled "Who Told You That Movie Sucked?" in which I discussed the nature of movies whose reputations were soured before anyone ever saw them because of distracting attention paid to externalities. In retrospect, I probably should have included The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in that piece.

Much of the pre-release negativity had to do with on-set conflicts between Connery and director Stephen Norrington. The perception quickly became that production was an out of control mess from which nothing resembling even an "average" film could possibly emerge. The film has the dubious distinction of being known as not just Connery's final film, but the movie that he hated making so much that it made him quit making movies entirely.

I wasn't there for the production, but I've seen the film and truthfully, it's a whole lot better than its reputation. The narrative is focused, the pace is brisk, the cast is solid with nice chemistry, and the sets and costumes are all truly impressive. Admittedly, the reveal of the true villainous plot feels shoehorned in at the end but even that mostly works because that's where the lion's share of the action takes place.

One way in which The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen stands out in retrospect is contrasting it with two Marvel Comics movies made later. The League creation is strikingly similar to the team-building in Marvel's The Avengers, whereas the villain's plot - and part of the finale - is almost identical to that of The Incredible Hulk. I wasn't very conscious of these parallels when I watched the two Marvel films, but it was blatantly obvious to me as I re-watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen this time.

For this second viewing of the film, I elected to watch it with one of its two commentary tracks. However, I wanted to also follow along with the film itself so I played it with the subtitles. I wish I had thought to do that more often when playing commentary tracks.

Commentary by Producers Don Murphy and Trevor Albert and Actors Shane West, Jason Flemyng and Tony Curran

I'm not a fan of group commentary tracks where different parties are recorded separately and then edited together. One of the reasons for this is that there's no actual conversation between parties, meaning no one is prompting anyone else. Thankfully, actors Jayson Fleming and Tony Curran were recorded together and clearly enjoyed not only making the film, but chatting about it. They shared a few little anecdotes about Connery that were amusing. To be honest, I wish they'd had an entire commentary track to themselves.

The other primary reason I'm not big on spliced-together commentary tracks is repetition. Inevitably, each party will think to talk at different times about things already covered by someone else. Much was made by all commenters, for instance, of the flooding in Prague during production. It became tedious, largely because all anyone had to say was that it happened, it was the worst flooding in the area in a very long time and that the Nautilus set was ironically under water.

Still, I did appreciate the remarks from producers Don Murphy and Trevor Albert about things like how Fox's insistence on a PG-13 rating inhibited the film from really going for its potential and how many elements of the production were practical rather than digital. There are also some well-reasoned rebuttals against fan nitpicks about some of the film's tweaks, such as the addition of the car and the age of Tom Sawyer.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#800/1539)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen > The Man Who Wasn't There --> #770
The Man Who Wasn't There is decent enough, but just a few months after seeing it I find it fading from memory. I know I'm in the minority, but I actually enjoyed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It gets the nod.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen > Sabrina (1995) --> #385
I could probably go either way on this depending on my mood, but having just rewatched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I find myself favoring it at the moment.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen < Jaws --> #385
I know I'm in the minority, but I actually liked The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Against Jaws, though? Not a chance.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen < The Wolf Man (1941) --> #385
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is better than its reputation and I actually like it, but I've got a soft spot for the Universal Monsters films and The Wolf Man is one of the best.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen > Wesley Willis's Joy Rides --> #336
I love that Wesley Wills's Joy Rides was even made, and it's a terrific memorial to the offbeat artist. Still, while I know it's unpopular, I liked The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen enough to pick it here.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen < K-19: The Widowmaker --> #336
In my estimation, these are two unfairly maligned films. I enjoyed both, but I'm a sucker for a good submarine movie and K-19: The Widowmaker was particularly satisfying.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen > Coyote Ugly --> #324
Guilty Pleasure Showdown! Though I enjoyed both of these more than most (and more than I probably should), I think I favor The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen just a bit more.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen < Jerry Seinfeld: I'm Telling You for the Last Time --> #324
I actually enjoyed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Seinfeld's filmed Broadway stand-up performance entertains me everytime I see it - which is rare for such things.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen > Diamonds Are Forever --> #321
Sean Connery Showdown! I love John Barry's score and Mr. Kidd & Mr. Wint in Diamonds Are Forever, but I'm going with the underrated League of Extraordinary Gentlemen here.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen < For Your Eyes Only --> #321
Though I enjoyed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I'm a Bond fan at heart and For Your Eyes Only is probably Roger Moore's finest performance in the role. It gets the nod.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #321/1539
That seems pretty high to me, but that's where the ranking process took it!