THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
Region 2 (UK) - Two Disc Special Edition version
Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Stuart Townsend
Although it wasn't the franchise-launching
smash hit that the Producers and distributors Twentieth Century Fox had
hoped it would be, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a
modest success, especially in Europe and in the UK in particular (it grossed over
seven million pounds here). This may explain why the UK is getting a more
lavish Special Edition DVD version than the one released US did back in December 2003.
widely panned by the critics, there's much to enjoy in the film, an
adaptation of the superb comic book series written by Alan Moore, and drawn by
Kevin O'Neill. The film's plot, about a group of Victorian era literary
characters (including Captain Nemo, Doctor Jekyll and Dorian Gray) who team up to fight evil, is weak, but there's a typically
charismatic performance by Sean Connery (effortlessly playing H. Rider Haggard's hero Allan Quartermain), and
some spectacular visual effects to compensate. Not all of the
effects are convincing, but by the time they begin to take over the film
you'll either have bought into it's Boys Own Adventure-style
storytelling, or you won't. If you enjoyed films like The Rocketeer
and The Shadow, then you'll probably get a real kick out of The
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
The film moves along at breakneck speed,
hopping from one exotic location to another, so it's never becomes boring. This
naturally doesn't leave much time for complex plot development, or much of
an opportunity to get to know the characters: two aspects of the film that are particularly
Unfortunately, the film plays fast and loose with the source material, and
distorts the story unnecessarily to shoehorn an American hero into the mix (the
misplaced Tom Sawyer), and to showcase Connery's participation (at the
expense of Dracula's Mina Murray - here reverting to her more familiar
married name of Harker
- who leads The League in the graphic novel).
UK division has boldly released a two-disc DVD version of the film that's
significantly more attractive than its single-disc Region 1 counterpart.
You might think that plans for a more elaborate US disc
were pared down at the last minute when the film wasn't a runaway hit, and that the UK simply
picked up the discarded material, but that's probably not the case, since
much of the extra material on the UK disc is focussed on the film's launch
Moving the bulk of the bonus materials to a
second disc has meant that there's room for a DTS audio track (at
754kbps), which is offered as an option in the Language Selection menu. The US disc only
features the Dolby Digital 5.1 version (at 448kbps), which, although
impressive in itself, isn't as good as the DTS version, which offers a
slightly cleaner sound, with improved stereo imaging. The mix isn't
subtle, but it is very effective, often sounding very natural, and
offering clear dialogue. Either track will showcase your subwoofer, if you
have one, with many sequences that feature bass effects.
transfer is outstanding, with virtually no detrimental edge-enhancement,
and no obvious encoding artefacts. Detail levels are very good, and the
film has good contrast and colour balance. There are many dark scenes, and
the disc handles them perfectly. The average bitrate is a very
respectable 7.79Mb/sec. The subtitled German dialogue at the beginning of the
film and the film's various location-establishing captions appear as they
did in the theatrical version, and have not been replaced by player
generated subtitles. There are English subtitles for the feature, both
commentary tracks, and for the main bonus materials. The Trailers,
TV Spots and European Premieres featurette aren't subtitled.
The layer change is at 50'51", and should
occur with minimal disruption. Disc One opens with three trailers (for
In America, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and
Runaway Jury). These can be skipped by fast forwarding, or
The film is supported by two commentary
tracks. The first is by
Producers Don Murphy and Thomas Albert, and actors Shane West (Tom
Sawyer), Jason Flemyng (Doctor Jekyll) and Tony Curran (Rodney Skinner,
a.k.a. The Invisible Man). The second is by Costume Designer Jacqueline West,
Visual Effects Supervisor John E. Sullivan, Make-Up Effects Supervisor
Steve Johnson and Miniatures Creator Matthew Gratzner. You'll note that,
aside from the other key cast members, that Director Stephen Norrington is
conspicuous by his absence. Tales of disagreements between the
studio, Connery and Norrington have been widely reported in the press and on
the Internet, and reports that the Director and the Producers lost control
of the film seems to be supported by the plentiful deleted scenes on Disc
Two. Assuming that there's some truth
to the stories, you'd never know it from listening to the commentary
tracks, or from watching the other supplemental material on the two discs.
The bonus materials paint an incomplete picture. Neither do you get to
hear from the creators of the original source material.
tracks are worth listening to. The first features a few choice anecdotes
about working with Connery. You'll also hear about the absurd lengths the
costume department went to to get specific fabrics (if you've wondered how
a film can cost so much - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
is reported to have cost nearly $80m - here's a good explanation). There's
also a great anecdote about a oil can prop; a story about how a featured
character was erased from the film; and some very interesting comments
about how relatively cheap CGI effects are driving effects budgets down,
and how producers are pressuring effects company to use CGI even where
more traditional techniques would create better results.
The supplements on the second disc are
broken down into three sections: Pre-Production, Production
and The Release.
This section contains two items: Matters
of Pre-Visualization and Stills Galleries.
The first item on the menu, Matters of Pre-Visualisation, throws
the viewer in at the deep end, with a ten-minute look at a process that's
apparently becoming commonplace (the technique has already been featured on
the Star Wars - Attack of the Clones and
X-Men 2 discs, for example). It
shows how entire sequences (perhaps the entire film?) can be mocked up using
low-resolution computer graphics, enabling the Director to make decisions
about the position of the camera in relation to his sets and cast before
the sets are even constructed. It's a powerful tool, which even makes
allowances for the type of lens that the camera will use. Its use on
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is demonstrated through two
memorable sequences: the arrival of the Nautilus, and Mr Hyde's first
transformation back into Doctor Jekyll.
If you were expecting photographs in the
Stills Galleries, you'd be mistaken. Instead you'll find a good array
of blueprints, intricate design sketches and costume designs, divided into
four sections: Vehicles, Weapons, Locations and
Characters and Miniature Designs. There are a few dozen images here:
undoubtedly only a tiny fraction of what was produced for the film, but
This section is divided into two sections:
Assembling The League and Deleted and Extended Scenes. The two commentary tracks
and the Assembling The League
documentary are the only extra that are contained on the US disc.
Assembling The League
is a well-crafted
fifty-four minute documentary containing behind the scenes material and
interviews. It's broken down into six sections (Origins, Attire,
The Nemomobile, Making Mr Hyde, Resurrecting Venice
and Sinking Venice). These sections are selectable individually,
but since Fox has kindly provided a "Play All" option, and they play
seamlessly back-to-back, no doubt most viewers will watch it Assembling
The League in one chunk.
The material is densely packed, and generally fluff-free, often using
comic-strip style caption boxes and pictures within pictures to tell its
story. Nothing is covered in any great depth, and it ignores many aspects
of the production (the script development, the music, and the editing, for
example), but fans of the film and casual viewers alike should be very
satisfied. For example, you'll see a lot of Sean Connery at work, and hear
his comments on the film (he says he almost turned it down because it was
"too tricksy", and admits that he turned down roles in The Matrix
and Lord of the Rings for similar reasons). Once again, though,
Stephen Norrington is notably absent. The most interesting and
entertaining section is Making Mr Hyde, where you'll see Doctor
Jekyll (Jason Flemyng) transform into Mr Hyde, with the assistance of some
amazing prosthetic makeup and a full-body animatronic suit. The
Resurrecting Venice section looks at the giant sets constructed for
the film; Sinking Venice focuses on the model work required to
depict the destruction of the city.
The Deleted and Extended Scenes
on the UK DVD
total about thirty-two minutes, about twice as long as those on the US
version, which only features twelve scenes. The scenes presented on the UK
The Mission - a six-minute version
of the scene where Quartermain is briefed by M, and introduced to Captain
Nemo, who explains his motives for helping the British government, Skinner
Inside the Nemomobile (Quartermain,
Skinner and Harker bicker on the way to visit Gray)
Outside Dorian's Place - Mina's
presence gains the League members entry to Gray's house, leading
Quartermain to comment that she fancies herself as their leader, a nod to
the source material.
Gray's Library - an extended version
of the League's introduction to the Fantom, who initially offers them the
chance to join him.
Sawyer Joins The League - Sawyer
pursues the Fantom through a derelict building, but he escapes. Sawyer
formerly introduces himself.
Dinner Aboard The Nautilus - an
extension of the scene where Quartermain apologises to Nemo for calling
him a pirate. Nemo has arranged a sumptuous meal, but the other League
members ("we're not a team") have snubbed Nemo's invitation, leading
Quartermain to dub them "rude buggers"!
Dorian's Stateroom - Quartermain and
Sawyer visit Dorian in his room aboard the Nautilus, telling him that all
the scientists the Fantom has kidnapped are weapons experts, except one...
Jekyll's Offer - a short scene,
where Jekyll, feeling useless, anxiously asks if he can help. Quartermain
replies "Don't worry, Mr Hyde will get his hands dirty".
Treachery - Nemo and Ishmael
investigate the change in the Nautilus's course, and there are signs that
Skinner may be the culprit.
Past Lovers - this is a slightly
different version of the meeting between Gray and Harker, when she's
analysing the powder that Nemo found, using alternate takes. There's also
an extra line or two describing their former relationship.
The Beast Within - Nemo and Jekyll
confide in each other. This is a nice character moment: a sorrowful Jekyll
tells Nemo that Hyde "has done every evil a man can do, and my curse... I
recall his actions". Nemo replies "I sympathise. My curse... I recall my
Flooding The Engine - Sawyer stalls
the Nemomobile, as Venice crumbles around them.
Quartermain and the Fantom - an
action scene where Quartermain fights the Fantom's guards, eventually
cornering his quarry, who escapes when the Winchester rifle jams.
The Cemetary - a longer version of
the cat-and-mouse game in the cemetary.
A Leader of Men - the League affect
repairs to the Nautilus after the explosion, and discuss their next move
against The Fantom. Sawyer reveals his motives for joining The League: the Fantom killed
one of Sawyer's fellow agents, a "childhood
friend" (presumably Huckleberry Finn). Sawyer is looking for revenge. Quartermain admits that Tom has
matured to become "perhaps a leader of men"... "and women", adds Mina.
Mina Warms Up - en route to their
destination, Quartermain relaxes as Mina flirts with Sawyer.
To The Death - a slightly extended
version of the fight between Mina and the traitor.
None of the deleted scenes would have added
much to the finished version of the film, although one or two of them
would have helped clarify a plot point or two. All the deleted scenes are
presented in rough form, with incomplete effects shots (there's a modern
crane in one shot, and another where the "split-screen" joins between two
pieces of film are evident, for example). They are also presented without music or or
other post-production enhancement. Comparing the scenes to the finished
versions reveals how much the film has been improved by the colour correction
("grading") process. The Deleted and Extended Scenes are
presented in non-anamorphic widescreen format, and are often of relatively
section is comprised of Behind The Fantasy, Marketing,
European Premieres, four Trailers, TV Spots and
LXG - Behind the Fantasy is an
eighteen-minute promotional TV special hosted by the asinine Andi Peters.
Words cannot begin to describe how annoying Peters is, so here's a couple
of choice quotes: "Who or what are the League of Extraordinary
Gentlemen?", "Rodney Skinner, a.k.a. the original Invisible Man" and "[The
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a
movie with] more Sean Connery than any other movie". Apparently aimed at
children, or addle-minded adults, it includes brief interviews snatched during
the film's Prague premiere. There are also a few glimpses at the cast
members as they normally appear, culled from various sources (it's quite startling to see
Shah out of costume, and Stuart Townsend (who plays Dorian Gray) is virtually unrecognisable). If
you don't blink, you might even spot a glimpse of the elusive Mr Norrington! There's
very little here of any value that's not already covered
in Assembling the League.
On the review disc the Marketing and
European Premieres menu options both lead to the same eight minutes
of virtually worthless red carpet interviews from the Prague and London
premieres (the latter presented by media whore Paul Ross). This suggests
an authoring error, which may be corrected for the finished discs.
There are four non-anamorphic theatrical trailers and a
dozen American TV spots. These include some shots in incomplete form (Jekyll's
"Don't be scared" line in the Hip Hop spot, for example), and it
wouldn't surprise me if they contained other material which didn't end up in the final
film. Another point of interest here is their pointed reference to "An
Invisible Man" rather than "The Invisible Man", apparently
because Fox were unable or unwilling to license the rights to the Hawley Griffin character from H.G. Wells'
estate. Note that one of the TV spots is titled Character League I.M.
Rev. Note, too, that some trailers refer to Mina Harker as "Dracula's
Posters is a small gallery of
various artwork created to promote the film. They're poorly presented, and
the selection is far from comprehensive.
The additional bonus features that the UK
disc offers over the R1 version aren't all of the highest standard, but they make
it far more appealing. Fans of the film will want to
upgrade for the additional Deleted and Extended Scenes, and the Matters
of Pre-Visualization featurette. The other bits and pieces are less
worthwhile, but the UK disc has 'em, and the US disc don't have 'em! The other big
plus is the DTS track, for those who are equipped for it. Although there
were no complaints about the picture quality of the US disc, the UK disc
should be even better: the space the additional DTS track takes up is
small compared to the space that would be taken up by
Assembling The League on the US disc. (It's been moved to the second disc for the
UK version, so there should be a lot more room available for the film's video data).
It's rare to see the UK division of a Hollywood studio being allowed to
substantially improve on the R1 release, so salutations to Fox UK for
taking the initiative, and creating an excellent DVD.