Alan Moore’s epic graphic novels about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have become steampunk classics, putting a new, Gothic twist on characters from Victorian literature and letting the technology enhance, rather than overwhelm, the complicated storyline.
The movie adaptation, unfortunately, mostly serves as proof positive that when Moore calls his work unfilmable, he has a good point. A box-office and critical flop, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (abbreviated LXG for marketing purposes) has served more as a cautionary tale than a movie in its own right. That said, for those who don’t mind a little schadenfreude, there’s comedy gold in them thar hills!
1. B-Movie Character Actor Theatre
Ignore Sean Connery and his shameless lens-hogging (if you can), and check out the ranks of veteran big-budget-B-movie actors filling out the cast: Tony Curran (Underworld), Jason Flemyng (Transporter 2), Stuart Townsend (Queen of the Damned), and Richard Roxburgh (Van Helsing).
Flemyng makes the rookie mistake of trying to do a good job in a bad movie, but the rest of them clearly took one look at the script and decided to have a field day by going as over-the-top as their meager screen time allowed. It’s worth the price of a rental just to watch Richard Roxburgh gnawing on scenery like it’s Victorian beef jerky.
2. The Dialogue
Why this movie hasn’t hit the midnight-show circuit is beyond me. The dialogue sounds suspiciously like lines pulled from early-90s cartoons and knocked together at random, and gets increasingly hilarious as you go along. Even the orphan snippets of Moore’s original writing sound bizarrely out of place in their own adaptation, and if Moore didn’t write it then it’s all downhill from there. If you don’t believe me, just wait until Sean Connery gets to smarm his way through, “My dear girl, I’ve buried two wives and many lovers…and I’m in no mood for more of either.”
…and knowing is half the battle.
3. The Gadgets
The spirit of Alan Moore’s novels is nowhere to be found in this film, but the gadgets were easier to bring to the screen, and even though the Victorian aesthetic is largely confined to libraries and the rest of the sets weirdly stark, the movie is still stuffed to the gills with the fancy trappings that have become a hallmark of steampunk style. Submarine shaped like a cigarette holder, anyone? How about a filigree sports coupe that can go 80 miles an hour while tipped on its side? (Don’t worry, everything will be fine; the American’s driving.)
4. What Not to Do
The movie is a veritable checklist of things to be wary of in steampunk (over-Matrixing the martial arts, excessive explosions, narrative incoherence, period shout-outs dropped like anvils at regular intervals). Much like seventh grade, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a character-building experience that will prepare you for anything the world of steampunk has to throw at you. With any luck, in fact, the movie is just enough to get you interested in Moore’s graphic novels, which means you’re well on your way to getting your hands on some quality steampunk.
…and knowing that is half the battle.
Genevieve’s first steampunk novel, Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, is forthcoming from Prime. (She promises not to turn any cars on their sides.) In the meantime, she indulges her taste for bad movies on her blog.