by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Posted 31 May 2008 in by Catriona

I have absolutely no idea how this will go—it was a throwaway line one night, when Nick and I were discussing the manifest aspects of Allan Moore’s genius and how we hadn’t been able to sit through the entire movie, despite loving the graphic novels (well, I loved them; I think Nick loved the first two and hasn’t finished the third one.)

I said, “Maybe I should live-blog the movie—that way we might sit through it.”

Nick thought this was a brilliant idea, and so here we are.

I’ve never live-blogged a movie—at least Eurovision had ad. breaks. But this time I suppose we have a pause button if need be.

Plus, I have coffee. There can’t be that much wrong in the world if one has coffee. (Vodka is now out of the live-blogging line up, after the aftermath of Eurovision semi-final 2: I had no idea how much vodka would be required.)

So here we are—and I’m not optimistic about the film. I’ve only seen 15 minutes of it before, after which I begged Nick to turn it off.

The 20th-Century Fox symbol is cool.

Hang on, writing. Bugger.

Right, policemen with whistles . . . and wolves? Or dogs? And a tank. What?

Seriously, what? I don’t even remember this from last time.

Oh, ew! Squished policeman.

Now the tank is in the bank of England. Why? (Seriously, Nick doesn’t remember this bit either. It’s certainly not in the books.) And would bank security guards in England in the late nineteenth century be armed?

Actually, I’m not sure when this is set—these seem to be Nazis. Are they Nazis?

Oh, I see—1899. So pre-World War Two German soldiers.

Damn—who is the villain? Doctor Doom?

I seriously don’t remember any of this—and now airships are exploding. Okay, there were airships in the original.

Ah, Kenya!

I do remember this bit—but I don’t recall any of the earlier material about World War One apparently starting fifteen years early after a poorly exposited attack on a German airship factory.

Ooh, the Reverend from the last Doctor Who story—and Allan Quartermain. Nah, that’s not Quartermain. Where’s Sean Connery? This guy is so dead, pretending to be Quartermain.

Ah, there’s Quartermain—and maybe that man won’t die, after all.

I don’t like this Quartermain, though—even if it is Sean Connery.

“Lead a team of unique men”? Dammit—Mina is the leader of this League! Allan Quartermain is a broken, opium-addicted shell of his former self at this point in the narrative. He gets better—damn, there’s that sexism again. Sure, stories of Quartermain have thrilled boys for decades—but girls, too. Like Mina, for example.

Oops, the fake Quartermain is dead.

Good thing the bad guys can’t shoot straight, once again. Or may Allan (Quartermain is too long to type) can just outrun machine-gun bullets.

Oh, dear—one of the bad guys appears to be caught in a coffee table. That must hurt—but not as much as what happened with that rhinoceros horn. Damn.


Actually, the rhinoceros reminds me of Deadwood—“He twelve-pointed Slippery Dan!” I guess a rhinoceros horn is one point.

See! I told you that ticking bag was a bomb, you fools.

Hang on, is that tombstone Allan’s son (who “pops up”, in a manner of speaking, in the later books) or his wife, or one of his wives, or did he fake his own death? I have no idea. I doubt it’s important.

Referencing Phileas Fogg? Don’t bother—you’ll never be able to match the subtlety and complexity of Moore’s references.

Ah, League headquarters.

NICK: Aw, I want a subterranean lair. With books.

Oh, it’s M. Who is M in the movie? Is it still going to be Professor Moriarty? (Spoiler!)

Ooh, Captain Nemo! I liked him in the books. Apparently in this he doesn’t like being called a pirate. I seem to recall he was very fond of the term in the novels.

Oh, don’t reference the Phantom of the Opera! That was an entirely different League, I seem to recall.

And there’s The Invisible Man—if he dies in this the way he dies in the novel, I’m out of here. Hang on, he’s not the original Invisible Man? Why not? Who’s Rodney Skinner?

I miss the original meeting with the Invisible Man—posing as the Holy Ghost while impregnating schoolgirls. That was grotesque.

Hang on, Mina is a minor League member? And she’s still Mina Harker—what happened to the divorce and her insistence on being Miss Murray?

Okay, “Call me Ishmael” made me laugh out loud—but I hope Broadarrow Jack is still a crew member on the Nautilus.

Skinner’s white face paint doesn’t make him look invisible, it just makes him look like an ordinary man wearing white face paint.

Now they’re referencing Jack the Ripper—and there’s Dorian Gray.

Rant coming: I know Dorian Gray was a member of an earlier League, but why oh why did they add him to this set? Sure, Stuart Townsend is rather pretty—although the character is insufferable.

(Hang on, Allan Quartermain is indestructable? Why now?)

(Also, another spoiler—Mina is the most rubbish vampire ever! Why one earth couldn’t she hear those gunmen coming?)

Back to the rant, while the villain does his boring monologue: Dorian Gray doesn’t add anything to this film—whereas Edward Hyde was a fascinating and complicated character, who came to a fascinating end.

Ah, it seems Tom Sawyer has joined the crew. Now this did irritate me. I understand he was added to attract American audiences. Well, I’m sorry but these are intensely British books—and I don’t believe that American audiences are necessarily that xenophobic. Look how well the Harry Potter films and Lord of the Rings trilogy did.

There’s a fight scene going on while I“m writing this, by the way, but it’s a bit dull. No real banter.

Okay, Townsend did do that line quite nicely:
MINION: What are you?
DORIAN: I’m . . . complicated.

Oh, Mina—you must have known that that man was there! Ah, now she reveals that she’s a vampire.

I still preferred the old Mina.

Hang on, apparently Dorian’s clothes are invulnerable to harm as well! All the bullet holes have healed up—how? Is he wearing those clothes in the portrait?

Ah—they actually are bringing Edward Hyde into the fold, after all. I’d forgotten that.

“Dracula—he was Transylvanian.” Hilarious: she may as well have said “He was one of the Shropshire Draculas.”

Oooh, the Nautilus. Is the Thames actually that deep at that point? How? She’s a lovely ship, though.

They’ve toned down Mina’s scars, I see—that’s a shame.

Right—slight cigarette break so I can get feeling back into my legs. Damn—we’re only half an hour through the film.

Hyde’s a bit unconvincing—but at least he’s carrying a cane. I hope we get to see him do the polka. But that would be the sequel, wouldn’t it?

I thought if you couldn’t do it in one bullet, not to do it at all, Allan. But Nick claims he’s choosing each shot.

NICK: Peta Wilson does a good Sean Connery, actually.

Ah, is Mina going to be the one who gets through to Hyde? That would be interesting. Oh, no—looks like Allan gets that role as well. What exactly is Mina going to do, apart from drink people’s blood?

Wow—the transformation into Jekyll looks insanely painful and noisy. How has he been able to get away with that all these years? Surely the neighbours would complain.

Damn—how big is the Nautilus? Ten stories? And why is it riding on the surface of the water?

Hang on, shouldn’t Mina be bursting into flames in the sun?

He looks a bit familiar, Tom Sawyer. I don’t think I’ve seen him before.

Oh, good—the Nautilus is finally going under water. It would be a bit of a waste of a submarine, otherwise.

The copy of The Strand Magazine is a nice touch—do you think Allan Quartermain read the Sherlock Holmes stories?

I’m assuming the fact that Skinner is walking around naked and invisible is prefiguring the fact that he’s a villain, but we’ll see.

I’m not sure that this “Phantom” is actually going to make an effective villain—he looks like Doctor Doom and is strangely ineffectual. I miss the Devil Doctor, who was an appropriately nineteenth-century villain—a racial stereotype, of course, but one used consciously and cleverly by authors exploiting the fictional tropes of the period about which they were writing. And he was well creepy.

Ah, the grave was Allan Quartermain Junior. That’s going to make following the later graphic novels harder—but then there’s been zero attempt in this film so far to follow the original graphic novel.

I haven’t actually tried to transcribe any of the dialogue yet—it’s beyond banal.

NICK: Ah, father-son bonding over an enormous rifle and—well, phallic symbol, really.

Nick doesn’t believe in mincing words.

Ooh, the interior decorating of the Nautilus is pretty; in a way, it looks oddly like a Queenslander.

I love it when characters see people watching them doing something private (like, for example, worshipping Kali) and then pointedly and angrily shut the door in their faces. I mean, if it’s that private and there were actually doors available in the first place, why didn’t you shut them before you began?

Ah, Dorian is describing his portrait—mate, it doesn’t just age instead of you. More to the point, it shows the effects of your dissipations. I’m not sure that the portrait was ever supposed to give unnatural long life—although it’s been a while since I read the novella. I think it just allowed him to stay young for the duration of his normal life. I think.

I’m not comfortable with the idea of Mina as an uncontrollably attractive femme fatale.

Hang on, someone’s taken one of the bottles of Hyde formula? Can other people use it?

Shit! How on earth is the Nautilus navigating the Venetian canals? Aren’t they something like 10 feet deep? I guess the Phantom doesn’t need to blow the foundations of Venice—apparently it doesn’t have any.

Ooh, Venetian Carnival! I assume it has another name, but I don’t know that it is. Looks fun, though.

Nick thinks they’ve taken fewer liberties with Nemo than with the other characters. He’s probably right—but given the liberties they’ve taken with Mina and Allan—and the addition of two other characters—that isn’t saying much.

Ah—so that’s the pay-off for the ridiculous limousine from earlier in the film—they’re going to use it to—out-run the chain of explosions from a series of bombs? O-kay then.

Right, remember when it said it looked like they were setting Skinner up to be a villain? Apparently there was no set-up; he just is a villain now, and is warning people of their approach, even though he’s been in a submarine all this time. Again, o-kay.

Hey, Mina can turn into an enormous quantity of bats! I’ve always wondered how that was possible, speaking practically. Useful trait, though.

What happened to Dorian? I wasn’t looking.

NICK: This is primo A-grade bullshit.

He then went on to say that he’s pretty sure 90% of Venice didn’t explode in 1899, but I did point out that this isn’t actually a documentary.

Okay, Tom Sawyer must be dead after that crash.

Nope—apparently not.

NEMO: He’s done it!
ME: Done what?
NICK: I don’t know—it didn’t make any sense.

ALLAN: Venice still stands.
ME: Bits of it!
NICK: If he’d just said “more or less” I would have forgiven him.

Wow, the Phantom really is a crappy villain.

Ah, there’s Dorian. I guess he is the bad guy, after all. In which case, where’s Skinner?

Oh, the Phantom is M! Hang on, does that mean M is Professor Moriarty? I’m confused. And poor old Ishmael is dead—that would never have happened if he’d had Broadarrow Jack by his side.

Hang on, Ishmael’s not dead. Oh, no, wait—he is now. Nick’s quite pleased he was clever enough to mention his attacker’s name first, until of leaving it until he’s almost dead, as people normally do.

Ooh, nice escape pod.

Really, the design of the Nautilus is the best thing about this film, hands down. But its escape pod is called the Nautiloid? Why?

I thought that was a gramophone record? Apparently it’s a film. With sound. In 1899. Still, I suppose it’s in an enormous submarine, so that’s something to consider.

“He’s stolen us! And we let him.” Yes, but that’s all right, mate—you probably weren’t paying that much attention to the plot. I know I wasn’t.

Bombs that operate via crystal sensors? Why on earth can’t super-villains just use ordinary bombs, like everyone else? Oh, and now they’re blowing up the Nautilus—the one thing I said I liked about this movie? That’s just bloody typical.

While I was typing this, by the way, M was reviewing his entire villainous strategy, on the grounds that the Nautilus was going to blow up anyway—it’s a good thing they weren’t still in harbour when they listened to the record, isn’t it?—but it wasn’t a very interesting strategy, so I’ve skipped over it.

More than that, I’ve completely forgotten it by now.

Hyde appears to be doing something now to drain the Nautilus, but I don’t know what it could be, since the ship was full fathoms five at the time. Surely anything that drained water would also let more water in?

Ah, what do I know—I know nothing of the Laws of Physics, except that they exist.

Skinner’s sending a secret Morse code message from within a very small ship occupied by the enemy, but instead of saying “Skinner,” he takes the trouble to tap out “Hello, my freaky darlings”?

NICK: See, now I want a TV series starring Captain Nemo and his amazing ship.

Wait, what—now they’re in the frozen lakes of Mongolia? Why?

As Nick has apparently only just realised, this bears no resemblance to the plot of either of the first two graphic novels or to any of the stories covered in the third volume.

Hey, that palace has flame throwers! I’m going to have flame throwers on my headquarters in Mongolia when I’m a supervillain.

Allan, you can’t find an invisible man by standing outside a supervillain’s palace in the snow and shouting his name. Ah, that’s all right—he’s back to his unconvincing face paint.

Are those robots? Why?

I still wouldn’t trust Skinner—even though Quartermain thinks he’s a hero. But then I may be thinking back to the novels, and that would be a mistake, apparently.

Another cigarette break, I think.

Right, so where we we? I think they were storming the fortress, while Dorian was figuring out that the wages of sin are death—ah, but so, as Terry Pratchett points out, is the salary of virtue. And anyway, isn’t this Dorian immortal?

Actually, I really need to check whether the portrait did make him immortal in the novella. I know it made him invulnerable (and vulnerable at the same time, hence his untimely end) but that’s not the same thing at all. And would he really have lived all this time by 1899, when he and his novella were very much products of the decadent 1890s?

If this had been made after the latest graphic novel came out, I would have said that they’d confused his character with that of Orlando, but I might be overthinking this a little too much, yes?

And on that note, when and how did Johnathan Harker die? Wouldn’t it have been easier to make Mina a divorcee after all?

What? Oh, the movie. Right.

Still storming the fortress. But Mina’s taken the time in the interim to curl her hair. Women, eh?

Oh, now they’re the Three Musketeers.

Where do supervillains get the money to run these enormous fortresses with round the clock guards on everyone? Seriously—he hasn’t actually started selling his weapons yet, has he? So where is the money coming from?

NICK: It’s not easy being nekkid and fighting crime.

He’s got that right. I don’t think, if I were the Invisible Man, I would have volunteered to do anything that would have required a blowtorch.

Ha! There’s actually man laughing hysterically while shooting everyone with a machine gun! I do like a man who takes his career seriously, but also enjoys himself.

Nick thinks the robots are actually men in battle suits.

Ha, I was right—M is Professor Moriarty. At least they kept that bit right.

Nick now totally has a boy crush on Captain Nemo.

Damn—what the hell is Mina wearing?

Ew—healing facial wounds. I guess Mina has claws? She’s very convincing as a fighter, Peta Wilson, even for someone who’s never seen La Femme Nikita.

Ew—“I hoped I’d get to nail you one last time”? Oh dear lord, that’s the worst banter I’ve ever heard.

And now Nick’s doing a Sean Connery impersonation—cool! Robotic man with a flamethrower. I’m also having those in my fortress—though they seem to be hard on the soft furnishings.

Come on, Hyde! Do the polka! Damn—drinking Hyde potion? Now we have two Hydes? Or maybe he’ll just explode—he did drink a lot.

Wait—now Mina’s hair isn’t curly any more? Why? When did that happen?

Ew—apparently just looking at the portrait is enough to kill Dorian. So, wait—he did all this to get the portrait back? But the portrait itself isn’t vulnerable—Mina didn’t need to stab it, or anything. So . . . it would actually have been in Dorian’s interests to let M—or anyone, really—keep the portrait, so he couldn’t see it accidentally?

That whole sub-plot makes less sense than the rest of the film, is that’s possible.

Sean Connery’s in a knife fight with Richard Roxborough—you don’t see that every day. Meanwhile, Hyde’s fighting a giant purple version of himself, and . . . no. I’m not going to assess the symbolism of that at all.

And now Allan has an axe—that’s no good. Hyde and Nemo seem done for.

More bombs!

Damn! Where did they get all those explosives from? Does the Nautilus just have an everlasting supply? And how do only the good guys survive these holocausts?

What’s going on with M’s accent? Wait, he can fly? How can he fly? Why am I even asking these questions any more?

Oh dear—I think Allan Quartermain just died.

Well, M’s been shot. He must have really loved that mask, since he took the trouble to rescue it from a burning fortress.

Oops, no—that was Allan Quartermain dying. Dammit! I liked the old Allan Quartermain better. And they took him back to Africa to bury him? Well, I suppose they had the Nautilus—and all that ice from the Mongolian lakes.

How is the Invisible Man still alive? I thought he was burnt to a crisp. Or was that the fake Invisible Man?

Oh, don’t tell me Allan’s going to rise from the grave! Oh, please no!

Well, I suppose technically he didn’t, but the intent was pretty clear. Had they moved on to a sequel, I assume Allan would have been in it.

Actually, now the credits are rolling, I wonder how this did do at the box office? Badly, I hope. I understand Allan Moore refused to have anything to do with it—and I don’t blame him. You could have made a rather lovely and clever action film out of the original graphic novel, if they’d tried. But they clearly didn’t care about the original source material.

Ha! I’ve just checked Rotten Tomatoes. 16%? That’s cold.

Nick claims he approved of Peta Wilson, by the end: I didn’t. I love Moore’s Mina, and that wasn’t her. And even if you want to change the characters around, which does happen, this new Mina was woefully underused.

Well, that’s another ridiculously long live-blogging post—this live-blogging lark’s quite a fun way to spend an evening, actually.

But I might go and see what I’ve actually written.

Share your thoughts [10]


Tim wrote at May 31, 02:42 pm

tl;dr :p


Tim wrote at Jun 1, 12:34 am

Okay, I did actually read it. ;) How about those crazy domino buildings in Venice, huh? And the plan to stop a series of bombs by dropping another bomb?

And I forget — how does the Nautilus get to landlocked Mongolia?


Catriona wrote at Jun 1, 12:50 am

It is long, isn’t it? But it was such fun to do.

I’d forgotten that Mongolia was land-locked—geography is not something that I have even a nodding acquaintance with, alas. I guess it . . . came up from the centre of the earth? Or something?

I loved the plan to stop a bomb by dropping another bomb on it—yep, that won’t make the first bomb blow up at all! And, as Nick pointed out, why does the Nautilus have ICBMs on board?

Oh, such garbage. But Nick originally wanted me to live-blog the most recent Beowulf movie, since I still can’t find my copy of the Heaney translation—I shrink away from that horror.


Tim wrote at Jun 1, 01:26 am

But Beowulf has Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone in it! How bad can that be?

As bad as Sean Connery and Richard Roxburgh, perhaps.


Catriona wrote at Jun 1, 02:26 am

Well, Beowulf has computer-generated characters roughly based on and with the voices of Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone—I think it can be about as bad as possible, unfortunately.

We’re still going to watch it, though—some day.

Richard Roxburgh (you can’t check spelling when you’re live-blogging, alas. Or at least I can’t) really has been in some rubbish. But then, most jobbing actors (as opposed to “stars”) do their fair share of rubbish.

And I do like him—even when he was hamming it up as Dracula in the abysmal Van Helsing I thought, “well, at least he’s having fun.”


Tim wrote at Jun 1, 04:26 am

> I thought, “well, at least he’s having fun.”

I’m glad someone was.


Catriona wrote at Jun 1, 04:31 am

It was awful, wasn’t it, Van Helsing? And, as with League, I always wonder how someone can take that source material—or, I suppose, the broader mythos in the case of Van Helsing—and make something so intensely dull and stupid out of it.

And then I remember I saw a version of Northanger Abbey once—adapted by someone who didn’t understand irony.

Now that’s the true meaning of pain.


Nick Caldwell wrote at Jun 1, 08:40 am

Roxburgh ended up marrying one of the actresses playing a vampire bride, though, didn’t he? Not a bad gig after all, then.


Tim wrote at Jun 1, 09:34 am

He did indeed.


Catriona wrote at Jun 1, 10:00 am

Hey, well done, Tim! 300th comment! I’m out of trophies, though—the glory will have to be enough.

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