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In 2003, Fox Studios released a film version of Alan Moore's popular graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...er, sort of. It had the same basic premise and about half of the same characters, but was otherwise rather a departure from Moore's original. Joining the League in the film are Dorian Gray (as in The Picture of) and Tom Sawyer, who is all grown up and a member of the American Secret Service. Due to the film character of the Invisible Man not being public domain, the screenwriters invented Rodney Skinner, who stole the invisibility formula and turned himself transparent in order to become a criminal mastermind.Alan Quatermain is recruited out of retirement in Africa, where he relocated after the death of his son, to lead the current generation of the League; Mina Harker, Dr. Henry Jekyll, Captain Nemo, Skinner and Gray are likewise recruited, while Sawyer joins voluntarily. The League believes themselves to be in a race against time to stop terrorists from destroying a peace conference, but the reality is a little different.Jekyll and Hyde are a little different; Jekyll gets more screentime than Hyde, and he has to ingest a secret formula to release the monster. Oh, and Mina is now a widowed vampire instead of a divorced Badass Normal.A notorious box office flop in the crowded summer of 2003 - that had been plagued by a troubled production that included losing some of their sets to flooding in Prague - LXG is also notable for being the final film of Sean Connery, who retired shortly thereafter due to the negative experience and his growing dissatisfaction with how modern Hollywood operates. The fans the film did garner point out the production values and the intriguing Steampunk/neo-Victorian aesthetic, but generally it's considered a go-to argument in terms of whether it ruined or improved the source. Enter certain websites message boards if you dare. It would take a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to solve some of those debates even today.
In addition to many of the tropes found in the graphic novel, the film version provides examples of:
Adaptational Badass: Quatermain goes from a burned-out opium addict with an adventurous past to a full-on Badass who cracks wise in the face of danger. Mina goes from a mysterious Badass Normal who once survived a brush with Dracula to a full-on vampire.
Cleverly subverted in with Griffin the Invisible Man. In both the comic and source material he was a sociopathic rapist and murderer. Since the movie was going for a Lighter and Softer approach, they made this into a twist; the Invisible Man in the film is revealed to actually be Skinner, a thief who stole some of Griffin's invisibility serum and was turned transparent like him. Thus the original character is left intact while the audience doesn't have to stomach having a rapist on the same team as the heroes.
Played straight with Captain Nemo, Mr. Hyde, and the British Intelligence in general. In the comics they were morally ambiguous at best, but the film presents them as more conventional heroes since, again, they were going for a more light-hearted style.
Adaptation Distillation: so, SO much. First the whole Fu Manchu story arc had to be dropped because the studio couldn't get the rights to the character. The major characters backstories are seemingly moved around (or not shown at all). And to that new major characters were added such as Dorian Gray and Tom Sawyer who were probably (if ever shown) only were as supporting or cameo parts in the graphic novels.
Dorian Gray's portrait showed up in the background once, and Tom Sawyer never showed up at all in any of the volumes apparently. So, yeah.
Quatermain is a Badass Grandpa who's every bit the Great White Hunter that he was when he was younger, but the comics was introduced as a burned-out opium addict.
Mina's retained vampiric abilities from her past encounter with Dracula, while in the comics she was a Badass Normal whose defining feature was her mysterious Dark and Troubled Past.
Dorian Gray, compared to his portrayal in the original Oscar Wilde novel. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, there was never any indication that his immortality did anything other than prevent him from aging. In the film, he has a Wolverine-esqueHealing Factor that makes him unbeatable in battle, healing any injuries instantly.
All There in the Script: Sawyer never gets his first name mentioned. When he first appears, he introduces himself as "Special Agent Sawyer of the American Secret Service," and for the remainder of the movie, all the other characters address him as Sawyer. His first name is used once in a deleted scene, which can be viewed on the DVD; going strictly by the theatrical release, unless you're Genre Savvy enough to work out his identity on your own, you'd never know he was Tom Sawyer.
America Saves the Day: The main reason for Tom Sawyer's inclusion — the studio requested that an American be added to the cast. (Which, as Young Gun shows, creates a huge anachronism.) But in terms of the movie, Sawyer wasn't the only one who saved the world from having a world war.
Anachronism Stew: All over the place. In the first scenes alone for instance, the British soldiers being attacked are straight out of World War I rather than 1899. And that isn't counting Nemo's automobile, which wouldn't look too much out of place in the 1920s-30s.
Armor-Piercing Question: During the Venice bombing, they needed Hyde's help but Jekyll declared that he never wants to turn back into Hyde ever again. Dorian asked "Then what good are you?", leaving Jekyll to contemplate his purpose now.
Artistic License – Geography: At one point the League are trying to prevent too much of Venice blowing up, so they drive around it in Nemo's automobile - which is impossible, since Venice isn't so much a city as a group of islands joined by numerous bridges, with no proper roads. It would be hard enough to get around it on a horse and cart, let alone the enormous car they have in the film.
Avoiding The Great War: The plot involves the mysterious Phantom supplying weapons for a world war, which he was orchestrating. The term "world war" is even mentioned for audience members who weren't paying attention.
Blackmail: The reason Dorian agrees to be The Mole is because the Big Bad has stolen his portrait and will give it back if he cooperates. Interestingly for a villain, he actually keeps this promise.
Body Double: Quatermain has a double, at least if anyone's looking for him, so as to determine the nature of their visit.
Bond One-Liner: Early on, Quatermain impales a would-be assassin on a rhino horn that's been mounted on the wall. A Union Jack flag that was hanging over it falls down and drapes over him
Quatermain: Rule, Britannia.
Bowdlerization: While Hawley Griffin was a rapist and murderer, his replacement Skinner is merely a cheerful, mischievous sneak thief.
There's also the fact that in the books, Mina is both divorced from Jonathan Harker and The Leader of the team whereas here, Allan Quartermain plays a very conventional male leader with Mina as a Femme Fatale vampire who was widowed rather than divorced. Also, in the books they engaged in a May-December Romance which was probably too much Values Dissonance for mainstream audiences.
Interestingly enough though, Mina being widowed would make more sense than in the books since she was Happily Married to Jonathan and as a full vampire, there was a reasonable chance she would outlive him.
Captain Nemo is also considerably more jovial and more of a team player which is complete reversal from both the comic and Jules Verne's book in terms of personality. Then the film foregrounds Jekyll with Hyde as a more benign Superpowered Alter Ego who the doctor is able to control in the end.
Furthermore, the film has a more benign portrayal of British Intelligence with The Reveal of Moriarty as M being a kind of surprise when in the comics the latter was always a British Agent whose criminal activities were knowingly enabled by the government.
Canon Foreigner: Skinner is the only member of the League who is not directly imported from a Victorian-era novel. This is because Griffin isn't in the public domain, at least as far as movie rights goes, unlike the rest of the League's members. Similarly, there's M's Dragon Sanderson Reed (who also isn't from any preexisting source), a loose Campion Bond analogue who was presumably added because 20th Century Fox didn't want to anger MGM by including James Bond's ancestor.
Subverted with Gray and Sawyer. Neither character ever physically appeared in the comic, and they certainly weren't members of the League, but considering thepremise of the comic, they both definitely exist in the comic's universe. note Dorian Gray's portrait appears on the cover of Volume 1 as a Freeze-Frame Bonus, as does a painting of the Nautilus done by Basil Hallward, the artist who painted the portrait in the book. And a darkly humorous "Paint By Numbers" version of Gray's portrait is also included in the bonus materials for Volume 1.
Furthermore, Griffin is mentioned as the source behind the invisibility potion, but not by name.
Clueless Mystery: Quatermain works out the true identity of the Big Bad, but there's never any indication given of how, since the only clues come in the form of his secretary calling him "Professor" and by The Dragon calling him by his real first name (which is a very common one).
Cold Sniper: Subverted with Quatermain. He's not exactly "cold" and he is one of the good guys, but he's a grumpy old man.
Composite Character: The Fantom. With his name spelled with a "F" and highly world terrorism ideals he appears as the pulp villain Fantomas. Yet he wears a mask resembling the Phantom of the Opera, which Quatermain will lampshade
Probably mostly due to the Phantom being more known today than Fantomas, even though if you didn't live around a place where Erik the Phantom lived/worked you probably wouldn't worry about his terrorist antics, Fantomas on the other hand much more dangerous no matter where you lived.
Cool Car: Nemo's "Automobile" which was mostly a souped up 50s style Convertible
Curse Cut Short: During the car chase scene in Venice, Sawyer takes control of the wheel and has to avoid falling debris at one point, giving a loud yell of "WHOA!". The way he moves his mouth afterwards indicates the next word Sawyer used would have started with "sh".
Cut Lex Luthora Check : To Nemo and the bad guy. This world certainly has a lot of technology entering it long before it ever did in our real world
Foreshadowing: Both The Fantom's ring and the door to M's office are emblazoned with the emblem of the Masons, a subtle hint made long before the reveal.
As the Fantom makes his escape from the first battle, one of his henchmen shouts at him "Run, James!"
Minor one, but when Quartermain mentions he met Dorian at a university, Mina assumes that Dorian was a child when he met Alan. Alan corrects her stating that he was the child. Subtly foreshadowing Dorian's immortality to those that never read or watched his story.
Good Guns, Bad Guns: You know Gray is a rotter when he shoots Ishmael...using a Luger! Also, the villains' automatic rifles resemble Steam Punk AK47s, while those carried by Nemo's men look like Sten guns.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: In this version, Mina's vampire bite scars are just the traditional two little pinpricks rather than the massive and disfiguring scars she had in the comic.
Groin Attack: Quatermain to one of the Fantom's mooks in Africa and Mina to The MoleDorian Gray during their fight, the latter with a knife.
Dorian: "If that had been permanent, I would have be very upset."
I Have Your Wife: The Fantom forces the cooperation of the scientists who are helping him by holding their wives and children in prison cells.
I Just Want to Be Normal: Quatermain when he refused Reed's offer to join the league back in England due to hardships he experienced during his many years in Africa, including the fact that he had to be the witness of many people killed. Most of them are people he knew back in his adventurer days, including his only son.
It's Personal: Sawyer's reason for joining the League. The detailed explanation was cut from the film but is shown in deleted scenes on the DVD. The Fantom killed Sawyer's partner, a childhood friend. This agent is unnamed but he's obviously Huck Finn. The novelization states this outright.
Big Bad: "Now some of you will pause to ask; why I'm letting you know all this? What fool reveals his strategem before the game is over? It is over — for you. Because my voice isn't the only sound being made. While I've rambled on, a secondary layer of inaudible sound higher than humans can heard — audible only to dogs, lower animals — is being heard by crystal sensors dotted around your vessel." Gray: "Sensors attached to bombs. Bomb voyage!"
Mythology Gag: In one scene, a poster telling of "Volcanoes on Mars!" can be seen in the background, a nod to the plot of the second volume of the comic. In another scene, there's an advertisement for an upcoming carnival that features "Dr. Alan Moore" and "Dr. Kevin O'Neill".
Neck Snap: During the fight in Dorian Gray's mansion Captain Nemo does this to one of the Fantom's mooks.
Not His Sled: The Invisible Man is heavily hinted to be a traitor, but this turns out to be a Red Herring; the real traitor is Dorian Gray.
Offstage Villainy: Nemo and Hyde. The movie doesn't have Kick the Dog moments for either of them like the comics. They come across as relatively decent people with no qualms about killing their enemies and, in the case of Hyde, a lust for violence that still doesn't stop him from doing the right thing - in fact, he's the one suggesting plans to save everyone - despite characters often talking about how detestable they are.
Oh, Crap: Hyde, when Dante drinks a large amount of Jekyll's potion.
One to Million to One: Mina can split up into a swarm of bats at will, travel some distance and reform into a human again.
One-Winged Angel: Dr Jekyll and Dante who turns into a huge, towering behemothnote with one big arm, one little arm and a comparatively tiny head after drinking too much potion.
Passing the Torch: Quatermain's last words to Sawyer are "May this new century be yours, son, as this one was mine". In a possible double meaning, this also foreshadows America taking over from Britain as the dominant world power in the Twentieth Century.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Mina is said to be a chemist, and is even introduced as such by M when he's rattling off the members of the League. She uses her chemistry skills exactly once in the entire movie (to identify some magnesium phosphorous left behind by a spy camera on the Nautilus), and it's rather obvious that she was recruited for her vampiric superpowers—making it somewhat baffling why the writers even bothered to establish her as a chemist at all. note Particularly since she was a music teacher in the original novel.
Playing Possum: One of the Fantom terrorists before he tried to take Mina hostage. Let's say that he met a gruesome fate.
Quickly Demoted Woman: Mina's position as leader of the League in the comics is handed off to Quatermain instead. A possible subversion, however; she becomes the most powerful member of the cast, an immortal vampire.
She could be considered Second-in-command, or even the new leader following Quatermain's death.
Red Herring: In one scene, Mina and Quatermain caught Nemo praying to a statue of Kali, the Goddess of Destruction, which worries Mina. Though Quatermain said he's not the one he's worried about.
Red-Headed Hero: Both Mina and Jekyll have red or auburn hair. Skinner may also qualify; the character is bald, but the actor is red-haired, suggesting that Skinner would be too if he had hair.
Red Shirt: Basically anyone on Nemo's crew other than the captain himself. (And maybe Ishmael.)
Retraux: The Big Bad's recorded message (though only heard by the League) is seen by the audience as a scratchy B&W film.
Reverse Mole: They thought Skinner was the mole. They thought wrong. He was spying on the real one. In the novelization , it turns out that he's actually a planted member of Her Majesty's Secret Service!
Rouge Angles of Satin: The DVD subtitles contain a glaring error. Quatermain, when describing his last mission to Sawyer, says that "I even took my son along." Somehow, this was transcribed on the DVD as "I even took my son-in-law."
And in the fandom this is even worse. The character is Dorian Gray; his first name is not Darien or Dorain and his last name is not Grey. That's just for starters — the worst one was probably a fic that misspelled Tom Sawyer's first name as Tow.
Overlapping with Spell My Name with an "S", Quatermain isn't helped by the fact that his son's gravestone spells it "Quartermain".
Rousing Speech: Sawyer gives one to the League after they manage not to get killed. It's even longer and more Narm-tastic in the deleted scenes.
Russian Reversal: This exchange between Skinner and Gray, right after Quatermain and Sawyer captured Hyde:
Skinner: Hullo, Dorian. The great white hunter's bagged his prize. (one of Nemo's redshirts goes flying out the door to Hyde's prison) Gray: Or the prize bagged him.
Samus is a Girl: In the first act, when we're told that one of the recruited members of the League is a brilliant chemist named "Harker", Quatermain (along with the audience) immediately assumes that it's Jonathan Harker, the hero of Dracula. It's actually his widow, Mina Harker.
(Mina strides into the League's first meeting) Quatermain: Please tell me that this is Harker's wife, with a sick note! Mina: "Sick" would be a mild understatement. My husband's been dead for over a year.
Schizo Tech: The firearms used by Fantom forces. They were really Uzis, AKs and Thompson physically altered to look like steampunk weapons. Likewise for Nemo's troops, who wield steampunk-ized Sten guns.
How about a tank at the end of the 19th century, which magically appears in the middle of London?
Secret Identity Identity: A double feature with the Fantom. Not only is he really M, the guy who hired the League in the first place, but as Quatermain somehow figures out, he's really Professor Moriarty, the presumed-dead nemesis of Sherlock Holmes!
Sequel Hook: The Meaningful Funeral ends with a native witch doctor doing...something that makes the ground shake, lightning crash across the sky, and the clouds to turn dark. This was probably meant to be Quatermain coming back from the dead. However, according to Jason Flemyng, the sequel will probably never happen because Connery doesn't want to do it. That and he's retired from acting.
The film's box office performance didn't help.
To some people though this should be better explained. Talking just pure budget money, the film very much was successful in recooping that cost. However all reports clearly show that the studio wanted more. This in metaphor is like in school you wanting an "A" and getting a "C". Sure you still passed, but you are still highly disappointed. And that kind of reaction surely doesn't help anyone want to fund another big budget action sequel.
Also, in one scene there's a brief shot of a poster with a message about "Volcanoes On Mars!", a subtle nod to Vol. 2 of the comics where the League battles the aliens from The War of the Worlds. Had a sequel actually gotten made, the plot might have had something to do with this.
This appears to be a reference to a throwaway line told by Quatermain that he was blessed by a witch doctor after saving his village. As the witch doctor said, "Africa would not let [him] die." Quatermain died in Mongolia but was brought back to Africa to be buried, possibly allowing the blessing to work. Also, the DVD reveals that the witch doctor is chanting "Arise".
Sideways Smile: Partially in England when M watches Quatermain confused after hearing Skinner's voice, not knowing he's totally invisible.
Shooting Superman: An odd example where both sides of the conflict are shooting and Superman. When Mina fights Dorian, they go at each other with knives and sword...but they're both immortal, and quickly heal up from the surface cuts they're giving each other. Dorian comments, as cuts to his and Mina's faces close up, that "We'll be at this all day."
Subverted with the Invisible Man. Griffin is said to have died before the League got a chance to recruit him, whereas the book states that he faked his supposed death at the end of Wells' novel. But Skinner, who takes Griffin's place, survives until the end of the movie, whereas Griffin was killed by Hyde in the second volume of the comics.
The Stinger: After all of the characters leave Quatermain's grave, an African shaman begins chanting over it... and the dirt above the grave begins to tremble as the skies darken and lightning flashes.
Took a Level in Badass: While hardly an extra in the comic (see Badass Normal in the general series section) and actually demoted in role, Mina is upgraded into an incredibly powerful elder vampire who is the most dangerous member of the team and who gets the movie's primary Wolverine-style fight with fellow immortal Dorian Gray.
War for Fun and Profit: This is the Big Bad's plan - kidnap the world's scientists, make advanced war machines and Super Soldiers, and sell them to both sides of World War One. Oh, and he's also trying to instigate the war in question, although, when the League foils his plan, he replies that the war is inevitable.
We Can Rule Together: The Big Bad makes this offer to The Mole, who declines. It's something of a subversion of the trope, however; he doesn't refuse because he's a good guy (he's definitely not). He just doesn't want to be bothered, and would quite like to return to his old life.
Another reason he refused is because he's seen empires come and go in his long life, so he isn't interested. Though the Big Bad is not happy with his decision, accusing him of suggesting he's better than the Big Bad.
What the Hell Are You?: A Fantom terrorist tries to shoot Dorian, but fails after attacking him from point blank range.
Fantom terrorist: "What are you?" Dorian: "I'm complicated."
The World Is Always Doomed: When he's first getting recruited by Sanderson Reed, who says that the British Empire is in peril, Quatermain cynically answers "You're probably too young to know, but the empire is always in some kind of peril."
World War One: The Big Bad is trying to instigate this. Even with his defeat, though, war will come. He would have just made it a much more devastating war with his weapons of mass destruction.
Young Gun: Tom Sawyer. At first glance, this makes no sense; Tom Sawyer was a twelve-year old in the pre-Civil War era, who, if anything, should be older than Quatermain. The producer used Comic-Book Time to justify this by saying Tom was only 17 years old in Tom Sawyer, Detective, which was published just a few years prior to the time period of the film's setting.
Notable problem though with the theory of fiction being all real. There's many books that don't ever give specific dates, and in some series time doesn't always flow to match the real world to the inside world. Mark Twain certainly did not take this as seriously as Alan Moore does. And when you get down to it, because of issues such as this, no matter who is writing a story o this type, at some point they are just going to have to Hand Wave off certain things.