The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (film)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, also promoted as LXG, is a 2003 steampunk-dieselpunk superhero film loosely based on the first volume of the comic book series of the same name by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. It was released on July 11, 2003, in the United States, and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It was directed by Stephen Norrington and starred Sean Connery (in his final live-action film role to date), Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng and Richard Roxburgh.

The League of
Extraordinary Gentlemen
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Norrington
Produced by
Screenplay byJames Dale Robinson
Based onThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
by Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill
Music byTrevor Jones
CinematographyDan Laustsen
Edited byPaul Rubell
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • July 11, 2003 (2003-07-11)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Germany[2]
Budget$78 million[3]
Box office$179.3 million[3]

As with the comic book source material, the film features prominent pastiche and crossover themes[4] set in the late 19th century. It features an assortment of fictional literary characters appropriate to the period who act as Victorian Era superheroes. It draws on the works of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, Ian Fleming, Herman Melville, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe, Gaston Leroux and Mark Twain, albeit all adapted for the film.

The film grossed over $175 million worldwide at the box office, rental revenue of $48.6 million, and DVD sales as of 2003 at $36.4 million.[5]


In 1899, a terrorist group led by the Fantom break into the Bank of England to steal Leonardo da Vinci's blueprints of Venice's foundations and kidnap several German scientists. The British Empire sends Sanderson Reed to Kenya to recruit adventurer and hunter Allan Quatermain, who had retired following the death of his son. Quatermain at first refuses until a group of assassins are sent to kill him, resulting in the death of his longtime partner, Nigel. In London, Quatermain meets "M", who reveals that the Fantom plan to start a world war by bombing a secret meeting of world leaders in Venice. To prevent this, M is forming the latest generation of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, consisting of Quatermain, Captain Nemo, vampiric chemist Mina Harker, and invisible thief Rodney Skinner.

The League travel to the London docks to recruit Dorian Gray, Mina's former lover who is immortal due to a missing portrait. The Fantom's assassins attack, but the League fend them off, aided by U.S. Secret Service Agent Tom Sawyer. Dorian and Sawyer join the League. They then capture Edward Hyde in Paris, who transforms back into his alter ego Dr. Jekyll and joins the League after being offered amnesty. The League travel to Venice in Nemo's submarine, the Nautilus, but it soon becomes clear there may be a mole on board: a camera's flash powder residue is found in the wheelhouse, and one of Jekyll's transformation formulas disappears. Suspicion falls on the missing Skinner.

The Nautilus arrives in Venice just as the bombs go off, causing the city to start collapsing in a domino effect. Sawyer uses Nemo's automobile to stop the destruction, while Quatermain confronts the Fantom, who is unmasked as M. Dorian is also revealed to be the traitor, who then murders Nemo's first mate Ishmael and steals the Nautilus' exploration pod. M and Dorian leave a phonograph recording for the League revealing that their true goal is to ignite the world war, and that Dorian has been collecting physical elements of the League to create a heavily armed version of the Nautilus, invisible spies, vampire assassins, and Hyde-like soldiers, and to sell the superhuman formulas off to the highest bidder. The Nautilus is damaged by bombs hidden on board, but Hyde saves it by draining the flooded engine rooms. Skinner sends a message to the League, revealing he has snuck aboard the exploration pod and telling them to follow his heading.

The League reach northern Mongolia, where they reunite with Skinner and plot to destroy M's factory with explosives. Nemo and Hyde rescue the scientists, Skinner sets the explosive charges, and Mina battles and eventually kills Dorian by exposing him to his portrait. Quatermain and Sawyer confront M, identifying him as Professor James Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes' archenemy who had taken on a new alias following his alleged death at the Reichenbach Falls. Sawyer is taken hostage by an invisible Reed; Quatermain shoots the latter, only to be fatally stabbed by Moriarty. Moriarty flees outside, but Sawyer successfully shoots him, and the formulas sink into the icy water. Quatermain then dies.

Quatermain is buried beside his son in Kenya. The surviving League members recall how a witch doctor had blessed Quatermain for saving his village, promising that Africa would never let him die. The remaining League members depart, agreeing to continue using their powers for good in the new century. Following this, the witch doctor arrives and performs a ritual that summons an unnatural storm, with a bolt of lightning ambiguously striking the rifle Sawyer left on Quatermain's grave.




For the script, the character "The Invisible Man" was changed to "An Invisible Man" since Fox was unable to obtain the rights to the title character of H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man, and his name was changed from "Hawley Griffin" to "Rodney Skinner". The Fu Manchu character was also dropped from the script. At Fox's request, the character of Tom Sawyer was added for American audiences and to give the movie some "youth appeal". Producer Don Murphy, who described the request as a "stupid studio note", later said that the move to add Sawyer was "brilliant".[6]


Connery was paid US$17 million for his role, which left the filmmakers little money to attract other big-name stars for the ensemble cast.[6]

A character named Eva Draper (Winter Ave Zoli), the daughter of German scientist Karl Draper, was removed during editing but remained in some of the promotional material. Eva had appeared in two scenes: one ended up on the cutting room floor, and she was digitally replaced with a different character in the other. A brief fight scene featuring Tom Sawyer and the replacement character was rotoscoped into the film. The deleted scenes which feature Draper appear on the DVD.


Principal photography took place in Hungary,[7] Malta, and the Czech Republic.[8]

Connery reportedly had many disputes with director Stephen Norrington.[9] Norrington did not attend the opening party, and upon being asked where the director could be, Connery is said to have replied, "Check the local asylum." Norrington reportedly did not like the studio supervision and was "uncomfortable" with large crews.[6]

The studio put pressure on the filmmakers for a summer release. Some staff at Fox wanted the movie to be released in the fall, but according to the Los Angeles Times, Fox already had Master and Commander lined up for the fall. The production ran into trouble when a special effects set did not pan out as intended, forcing the filmmakers to quickly look for another effects shop.[6]


In 2003, Larry Cohen and Martin Poll filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, claiming the company had intentionally plagiarized their script Cast of Characters. According to the BBC, the lawsuit alleged "that Mr Cohen and Mr Poll pitched the idea to Fox several times between 1993 and 1996, under the name Cast of Characters,"[10][11][12] and that Fox had solicited the comics series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as a smoke screen.[10][11][12] It noted that the films shared public domain characters who did not appear in the comic book series.[13] Although Fox denied the allegations as "absurd nonsense",[12] the case was settled out of court, a decision Alan Moore, according to The New York Times "took ... as an especially bitter blow, believing that [he] had been denied the chance to exonerate [himself]."[14]


Box office

The film opened at #2 behind Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.[15] The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen grossed an estimated $66,465,204 in Canada and the United States, $12,603,037 in the United Kingdom, and $12,033,033 in Spain. Worldwide, the film took $179,265,204.[16]

Critical response

Critical reaction to the film was generally unfavorable, with Empire magazine giving it two stars out of five while criticizing the film's exposition and lack of character depth, saying it 'flirts dangerously close with one-star ignominy'.[17] A 30/100 approval rating on Metacritic is based on 36 reviews.[18] Rotten Tomatoes reports 17% of 177 reviews being positive, with an average rating of 4/10.[19] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one star out of a possible four stating "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen assembles a splendid team of heroes to battle a plan for world domination, and then, just when it seems about to become a real corker of an adventure movie, plunges into ... inexplicable motivations, causes without effects, effects without causes, and general lunacy."[20]

Creators' response

In an interview with The Times, Kevin O'Neill, illustrator of the comics, said he believed the film failed because it was not respectful of the source material. He did not recognize the characters when reading the screenplay and claimed that Norrington and Connery did not cooperate. Finally, O'Neill said that the comic book version of Allan Quatermain was a lot better than the movie version and that marginalising Mina Murray as a vampire "changed the whole balance".[21] The author of the comics Alan Moore was cynical of the film from early in its development, seeing that the two works bore little resemblance, distancing himself from the film altogether. "As long as I could distance myself by not seeing them," he said, he could profit from the films while leaving the original comics untouched, "assured no one would confuse the two. This was probably naïve on my part."[22]

In other media

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen earned a total of $48,640,000 in rentals with $14,810,000 from video rentals and $33,830,000 from DVD rentals.[23] DVD sales meanwhile gathered revenue of $36,400,000.[23]

A novelization of the movie was written by Kevin J. Anderson and released shortly before the movie.

The soundtrack album was also released internationally but not in the United States.

A Blu Ray was re-released in October 2018 from Fabulous Films.


The Tracking Board reported on May 26, 2015, that 20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment had agreed to develop a reboot with hopes of launching a franchise. The report stated that a search was underway for a director who could help "continue to develop the reboot".[24] John Davis told Collider in an interview that the reboot will be a female-centric film.[25]

See also

  • Penny Dreadful - a Showtime series involving famous figures from literary horror.
  • Anno Dracula - a mashup novel by Kim Newman
  • Bungou Stray Dogs - a Japanese manga with a similar premise.
  • Persona 5 - a Japanese video game features popular fictional and historical outlaws and gentleman thieves as main characters' initial Personas


  1. "THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. July 11, 2003. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  2. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  3. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – Box Office Mojo".
  4. Tobey, Matthew. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  5. "The Numbers: Box Office Data". Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  6. John Horn. "Heroic effort?; Audiences are the last hurdle for a beleaguered 'League'". July 14, 2003, Los Angeles Times, Page E1.
  7. "Movies; Hungary plans huge studio, luring film world :[HOME EDITION]. " Los Angeles Times [Los Angeles, Calif.] June 4, 2004, E.13. Los Angeles Times.
  8. Bill Desowitz. "Movies; Bonds, James Bonds; Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan: 007s who've saved the world in her majesty's service :[HOME EDITION]. " Los Angeles Times. November 17, 2002,E.6. Los Angeles Times.
  9. Cameron, Stuart (30 September 2004). "Has Sean Made His Last Movie?: Mystery as 007 Legend Quits Film Role", Daily Mirror (SCOTS Edition), London (UK), Page 9.
  10. "Gentlemen lands Fox in $100m lawsuit", Saturday, September 27, 2003. Calcutta Telegraph.
  11. "Producer and Writer File $100 Million Lawsuit Against 20th Century-Fox", September 25, 2003. Business Wire. Archived on 2008-05-28.
  12. "Studio sued over superhero movie". BBC. September 26, 2003. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved May 16, 2008.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) on 2008-05-16.
  13. Barber, Nicholas, "Notices: Cinema opening this week". The Independent on Sunday (London); October 26, 2003; p. 39
  14. Itzkoff, David (March 12, 2006). "The Vendetta Behind 'V for Vendetta'". New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  15. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  16. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Foreign Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  17. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Empire. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  18. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Metacritic. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  19. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  20. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  21. Vaughan, Owen (February 25, 2009). "Interview: Kevin O'Neill reveals the secrets of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Marshal Law". Times Online. Times Newspapers Limited. They changed the whole balance by marginalising Mina and making her a vampire.(registration required)
  22. Johnston, Rich (May 23, 2005). "Lying in the Gutters". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved January 7, 2006.
  23. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  24. "{TB EXCLUSIVE} Fox Enters Development on "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" Reboot – The Tracking Board". The Tracking Board.
  25. Goldberg, Matt (August 13, 2015). "'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' Reboot to Be Female-Centric". Collider.
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