Shiny Shelf


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

By Mark Clapham on 20 February 2004

Regular readers of this site will surely have realised by now that I’m a complete sucker for comic book movies, and in particular find the DVDs of these films impossible to resist. What can I say? I love comics, I’m interested in how my favourite characters are transferred to the screen, and I’m always pleased to see interviews with comic book creators immortalised on DVD. Even if the creative decisions made are not necessarily to my taste – as in the case of ‘From Hell’, a great comic dumbed down for the screen by the Hughes Brothers – I’m interested to see how those decisions were made, and the justifications wheeled out.

Which makes a two-disc set like this one extremely disappointing. Big changes were made in the transition between Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s excellent comic, and Stephen Norrington’s distinctly average movie. Interviews and comments from the writer (another comic writer, James Robinson) and Norrington himself would be very welcome, as would commentaries and featurettes on the adaptation process and exactly why the plot takes the strange turns it does. (Why is the villain doing what he does? Why those accents? Just…why?)

Unfortunately, possibly because of the allegedly acrimonious production process (vast creative rifts between star and director were heavily rumoured), Robinson, Norrington and star Sean Connery are all notable by their absence. Perhaps seeking to avoid any potential controversy, the featurettes concentrate on the more harmless realm of costume and production design. Not only was the production, if not the plot and characters, faithful to the comic book, but the design is excellent in its own right, especially in regard to Captain Nemo and the Nautilus (the camera so lovingly lingers on the submarine that one waggish reviewer suggested the boat was the leading lady of the film, and that the director had clearly fallen in love with her). Aside from the costume and production designers, the less famous actors are on hand to spin out some awestruck anecdotes of their experiences working on a big budget film with a Hollywood legend. The two commentaries also lack key creative personnel, leaving an echoing space where any real insight should be. There’s quite a bit of behind-the-scenes footage, but make-up work is no substitute for getting close to the director himself.

Really, it’s hard to see the second disc as particularly necessary. Footage of the premiere and an ITV special on the movie (presented by Andi Peters!) aren’t really justification for an extra disc, and most of the production featurettes could have been cut down to squeeze on to the main disc. There’s a hefty stack of seventeen deleted scenes, but most of these are slightly longer cuts of scenes that remain in the movie, with the only substantial additions being from the middle of the film, moments with the other characters which were clearly cut to favour Connery. There are a few good lines, but nothing amazing. The most impressive aspect of the two-disc set is, frankly, the cardboard sleeve. Less packaging-conscious shoppers should probably save some change and go for the single-disc version.

DVD packages like ‘X-Men 1.5′, ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Daredevil’ set the bar for this kind of thing pretty high, offering access to the creators and stars of the movie, a wide range of relevant and interesting material, and insights into the source material. The DVD release of ‘League’ does none of the above, instead twittering around the periphery, going into great depth about the fine detail of the production but failing to provide an overview of why the film is what it is. For a recent film, made in the DVD age and with all major participants alive and well, this is a great disappointment.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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