If you remember that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie from 2003, you’re a special kind of breed. That movie didn’t get the best reception, but if I’m being honest, I actually kind of enjoyed it. Yeah, I know I’m in the minority here, but I find it entertaining on a certain level. Then again, that’s because I watched the movie before I read the comics, so maybe I just didn’t get offended by the deviation from the source material. I am a big comic book junkie, however, so I do understand how annoying it is when directors change things. After reading all volumes of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I can tell why the big fans of the series didn’t like the movie. Heck, Alan Moore himself wasn’t too crazy about it for that reason.
For me, I just liked the creativity behind it, the superhero team element, and the action was fun to watch. Oh, and it’s pretty hard not to like Sean Connery as Alan Quartermain. That was his last role and he sure went out flexing his muscles, except the movie itself was underwhelming. However, I think we can put the movie’s failure behind us and think about giving the League another live-action adaptation. Should we do another movie? We wouldn’t want to repeat the mistakes of 2003, but the best way to avoid that trap again is to turn to television.
After watching The Boys on Amazon Prime, I’ve come to realize something: A series like this would probably never work as a movie. If you’ve never read the comics and just watch the show, you should know that the show is very, very elementary compared to the comics. The comics are crazy, with tons of vulgarity, violence, and mindless intercourse. Yes, we do get specks of this in the show, but believe me when I say that it’s much, much worse in the comics. The point is, even though the show waters down the most insane elements of The Boys, they can still show some of it to a degree. These are the kinds of things that are pretty hard to show in a movie for obvious reasons. Not everyone has Amazon Prime, but if you do, you’re probably old enough to watch The Boys.
I bring up The Boys because it reminds me of The League. As someone who has read the comics and watched the movie, I can point out some key differences. Let’s get the most critical one out of the way: the comics are very extreme compared to the movie. The movie felt like a cheap attempt to make a superhero movie with popular literary characters. It felt generic and unoriginal; the comic itself has a very different vibe to it. Yes, Alan Moore developed the team to be “the Justice League of Victorian England”. The thing is, this is Alan Moore we’re talking about. The man is known for writing some crazy stuff with morally questionable characters. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is no exception and while traditional superheroes are the inspiration, it does anything but follow the typical superhero storylines.
This is probably the biggest difference between the comics and the movie. The movie’s version of the team had them act like your typical superhero team: they were a group of people with extraordinary abilities, except they weren’t all team-players, so they didn’t get along at first, but when the world was in danger, they put aside their differences and saved the world as a team. How many times have we seen that? Quite a lot, but the movie kind of missed the point on what the League is all about. Unlike their movie counterparts, the comic League is filled with morally compromised lunatics.
Let’s begin with how they were formed. Mina Harker, for one, wasn’t a vampire when she was introduced, and she was the recruiter. When she found Alan Quartermain, he wasn’t like the Sean Connery version. He was a total mess and could barely open his eyes. He was way past his prime, but he could still hold his own, which earned his place in the League. When they came across Mister Hyde, he was pretty much the big and strong Hulk of the team, much like his movie counterpart. However, the key difference between them is that the comic version literally tore people apart and at them. Yeah, can’t really do that in a PG-13 movie. And let’s not forget about The Invisible Man.
Rodney Skinner, the movie version, was a thief, but a thief with honor and a sense of humor. Hawley Griffin, the comic version, was a perverted sociopath and a traitor to the team. Mister Hyde was the one who killed him and did it in the most gruesome and disgusting way possible. As for Captain Nemo, his comic version wasn’t too different from his movie counterpart. He’s probably the coolest member of the team, using his sword and cunning to defeat his enemies. Tom Sawyer and Dorian Gray were never members of the team, but they have been mentioned in the comics. And Professor Moriarty was the main villain of the comics, but he wasn’t the man who recruited them. The real recruiter was actually Campion Bond, the grandfather of James Bond. Oh yeah, it gets even bigger from there.
I bring all of this up because a series for this team can allow them explore the many elements the movie couldn’t. The comics are extreme and that shouldn’t be completely toned down. Yes, I get there are limits, but the violence is what makes it stand out. Much like The Boys, a show for the League doesn’t have to be as crazy as the comic, but it can’t forget the source material. Just no limp dick PG-13 version like what we got in the movie. That never works. Ever.
Now let’s get to what makes the series so interesting. The League has encountered as many literary characters as you can count. While they were infiltrating Professor Moriarty’s criminal activities, they discovered he was in a gang war with another criminal named Fu Manchu. Yeah, the guy with the really thin facial hair and scary face. In their next adventure, they took on the martians from War of the Worlds. Yes, the same. The thing is, it doesn’t end there. They’ve encountered many other famous literary characters and Moore’s take on them isn’t exactly a good one. Let me put it this way, he involves Harry Potter (the same), and he turned him into a psychotic mass-murderer. Like I said, Moore’s stories get very weird and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is no exception.
These are the kind of things a show can explore. A show will have more time to flush out the League and have them interact with all kinds of exotic characters. If they’re not afraid to show some violence and have the characters be more like their comic counterparts, then they’ll have something to work with. That’s always the key advantage shows have over movies and it’s one that can be perfectly utilized with this comic book team. In a time where television is thriving, I’d say go for it.
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