A New League: We're Ready for a New Female Led LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
In 1999, self proclaimed wizard and comic book legend Alan Moore teamed with artist Kevin O’Neill and put out The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen through the America’s Best Comics imprint under DC. To put it simply, it’s a Victorian Justice League, but when you get into the real meat of the comic, that’s just taking it away at face value. What Moore and O’Neill created, and continued to craft, was an epic adventure that pulled from some of the most popular and wildly obscure characters in literature, while also pushing boundaries by putting these classic characters into a blood, sexual, steampunk world. It became a contemporary classic and as popular things are wont to do, it eventually became a film.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or colloquialized as LXG, came out in 2003 from director Stephen Norrington and 20th Century Fox. While Moore is brazenly vocal about how much he dislikes all of his comic to film adaptations, he might be on the mark with this one. Although I will argue that it does have a lot of fun stuff in amongst the mediocrity, particularly the Doctor Jekyll to Hyde transformations and Connery, the movie is notably watered down compared to its literary counterpart and was so riddled with production problems that Connery retired from acting and Norrington from directing. It floundered at the box office, was critically panned and both creators rebuked it.
Now here we are in 2019 and Universal and Blumhouse seem driven to bring back the classic monsters of yesteryear, and thanks to a tweet from the always insightful Anya Stanley, she pointed out that with Universal owning the Invisible Man (a core member of the team) that Universal should also make a new LXG. As usual, Anya Stanley is one hundred percent correct and with her blessing I became obsessed with the idea and writing about it.
If you go back and read through Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s century spanning epic, two things are pretty clear. Mina is the central figure of the team in nearly every incarnation, with Quatermain playing a strong second fiddle, and thus things should remain the same in the film version. Another is that Moore had a lot of fun with digging up obscure literary heroes, villains and everything in between. While Moore and O’Neill were largely upset with the departure from the source material, at this point, that would be necessary. It’s a bit dated and littered full of sexual assault and racial innuendo that’s just simply no longer acceptable in today’s society but that’s okay. Enough exists from the bones of the story to still keep true to the soul of the comic and create a story that needs telling now. Here are a few ideas I’m proposing for a potential reboot of the film.
Firstly, as I stated, Mina is the de facto leader and let’s keep it that way. She doesn’t need to share the limelight with an old white guy, she deserves the main stage. So let’s bring on a strong lead and a female director. I don’t want to retread territory here but Coralie Fargeat in the director’s chair and reteaming with Revenge lead Matilda Lutz would be literally perfect. Lutz has proven that she can be vulnerable when necessary but also overcome the odds and plays an incredible badass hero. Fargeat, in turn, has showcased the ability to handle style with substance and while LXG exists in a Victorian steampunk world, I think a little punch up in the flair department would do it a lot of favors. Hyde and his transformation, Nemo and the Nautilus, lots of opportunity exists to really showcase Fargeat’s unique sense for visual composition.
Second, if we have access to the Universal stable, let’s utilize it a little more. Some of the exposition and team building that’s done in the original comic is far from appropriate for 2019 so let’s tap into those early monster movies for a little filler. Let’s not forget, the entire basis of LXG is the heroes and monsters of prose and most of our favorite monsters started on the page. I say while it’d be great to get some allusions to Dracula throughout the movie, mostly in fleeting memories or flashbacks from Mina, we focus on two of the “monsters” that see the least amount of studio attention: Quasimodo and The Phantom of the Opera. We’re already (roughly) in the right area of the world and (approximately) an appropriate time range so let’s take advantage of that. I think substituting the racial stereotype Fu Manchu from the film and instead bring in Quasimodo. Spurned by society, he could be the partner to our dubious M. Bond instead of the hyper exaggerated Fu Manchu. Plus, he’s a character that isn’t largely used outside of Disney and I has a lot of potential to be a fun surprise.
The Phantom could be tied in as a red herring, a fun anecdotal piece where we see the team first functioning as unit before discovering that the man behind the mask is not the villain they are looking for. Plus, it sets us up directly for what I’m really vying for, a Coralie Fargeat directed Phantom of the Opera. Another easy maneuver to make is to introduce Captain Ahab’s daughter, created by Moore, Janni Dakkar. Let’s see a stronger female presence in the movie, with two drastically different leads, to help diversify the otherwise normally ninety percent male dominated cast.
Plenty of Universal horror is to be had here. If you’ve not read the comic or even seen the original, Mr. Hyde is a fantastic creation to play with on screen. Now dream casting here, I’m saying Dan Stevens can handle both sides of the character, with the help of a MOCAP suit, he’s already done well with it in The Beauty and the Beast. That being said, we absolutely need a Rick Baker worthy transformation from Jekyll to Hyde and once transformed, Hyde should absolutely remain a gargantuan monster. Now to cherry pick a little from the once proposed Dark Universe, we will also need an Invisible Man who is charming but in the creepiest way possible. Hello Javier Bardem, this is the role you were made for.
The time is ripe for this to happen. Everyone is buzzing with excitement to see the return of these classic characters and with team ups being so hot, ranging from Penny Dreadful to The Avengers, audiences would leap at the chance to see so many literary icons who have had an instrumental role in horror cinema as well. Hell, let’s go all in and take a cue from Connery in the original LXG and Dalton in Penny Dreadful and cast Brosnan as the aging Quatermain. It would be a great series to franchise, especially considering the great representation we could get onscreen with the introduction of Orlando, a transgender immortal adventurer. We’re at the precipice of a renaissance for these characters, let’s give this era it’s Monster Squad.