Comfortable and Furious

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Oftentimes, and on this site in particular, people deride a film based on the fact that it supposedly “insults their intelligence.” It is a handy little phrase, much like “chewing scenery,” that reviewers and critics can use over and over again without sounding too
uncreative. What does it mean? Well, it is a just a quick and dirty little way to say something was stupid and frankly beneath you.

Did such a film actually insult your intelligence? Doubtful. For instance, the worst movie I have ever seen, Jump, didn’t so much insult my intelligence, as it upset my sense of dignity, well-being and balance. For me, a movie insults my intelligence when it tries to put one over on me.

When a film tries to fool me into forgetting some basic fact or tenet of life. I’m not talking about suspending one’s disbelief, which is a very necessary element of most
movies, but rather out-and-out lying to the viewer; possessing an inherent dishonesty. A movie that tries to make me believe black is white. For instance, if it is a good vampire movie, so be it. I’ll go ahead and put my faith in the supernatural for two hours. But
whitewashing of history or common sense? Forget it. Films do come along (Crossroads)
that on certain levels manage to moderately insult my intelligence for
some of the time.

However, it is the rare piece of cinema indeed that manages to call me a fucking moron from frame one and not let up until credits role. That film [Ed Note: This week]? The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The first part of the movie consists of a tank rolling through the streets of London, killing people and then smashing the walls of a bank down so the bad guys contained inside can rob the joint. Fair enough, except that just before we saw the tank, the movie went out of its way to tell us that this was London, 1899.

The first tanks weren’t invented until a few years into World War One. Which, for the benefit of the the majority of League’s viewers, didn’t start until 1914. Not only that, but tanks were invented as a way to bust out of the so called “no man’s land.” Horrid hedgerows and foxholes and trenches where both good (Limeys, Frogs) and bad (Krauts/Pre-Nazis) were dug in and stalemated for years. In other words, the tank was a
technological innovation/solution to a certain problem that came about at a very certain time and place. Here in League, the tank just is, fifteen years before its invention, fucking shit up. History be damned. Insult number one.

The Ford Motor company just celebrated its 100th birthday this past May. That means that Ford was founded in 1903. Of course, all of our heroes (I’ll get to them shortly) spend the movie driving around in a car. Not just your basic horseless carriage, mind you, but a fairly decent looking four-door convertible that could go really, really fast. Design evolution notwithstanding, in 1903 Emil Jellinek (whose Jewish daughter, Mercedes, ironically gave her name to Daimler’s products), set the land speed record in a car capable of 55 mph.

Of course, as the car in League is jumping through the air, a guided missile tracks it. Should we talk about how more then forty years later the Nazis (thankfully) couldn’t accurately hit a target with their terror-inducing V2 rockets? Actually, let’s talk about
design. The car of course is a highly evolved and stylized looking AC Cord type of affair, something along those lines. Much more modern looking in fact than any Rolls Royce or Duesenberg or Bugatti (the best looking cars from Britain, the Colonies and the Continent, respectively) being produced in the 1930s.

The moviemakers are banking on the fact that we are so dumb that we will not notice and/or be upset by the fact that an obviously modern vehicle, styled to look like it is from the middle of last century, is being used in 1899, about four years after the first motorized 4-wheeled internal combustion vehicle rolled out of someone’s carriage house. Never mind the disrespect automatically heaped upon legions of car designers
toiling for decades to make beautiful vehicles. Insult number two.

Mina Harker (Wilson) is a woman. #3.

At the very end of the movie, a dying Allan Quartermain (Connery)
says to Tom Sawyer (yeah, that Tom Sawyer), “May the coming century
belong to you as the past century belonged to me.” OK, OK, stop right
there. Halt, stop. Just fucking quit right there. Besides the fact that
I don’t remember Tom Sawyer ever so much as picking up a gun, let alone
being a sharpshooter, and remembering the fact that Tom Sawyer was a
young man before the Civil War (1860-1864), how the fuck is the 20th
Century going to belong to him? Anyone? Anyone? I suppose it could be
argued that Quartermain represents Britain, and Sawyer represents the
USA, but that would be giving the people behind League way too
much credit. It was just sloppy. Insult number four, and quite out of
order. There are about ninety-nine quality insults to one’s
intelligence that precede this little vignette.

Tom Sawyer? Allan Quartermain? Yeah, exactly. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
is based on some whack-ass graphic novel (which admittedly I haven’t
read) where a bunch of literary subjects get together and battle evil.
In this case evil is Dr. Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame, and he is
trying to instigate a war between the British and the Germans, for one
reason or another. Oh, Moriarty is also the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera
[Ed Note: By the way, the Phantom getting his mask knocked off and then
two seconds later peeling his face off, well, we just don’t have
insults that cut deep enough to describe how poor that scene was]. And
even though the bad guys get defeated at the end, the world, as some of
you may know, erupts in war fifteen years later anyway. What the point
of the film was I have no idea. Also thrown into the mix, mostly for
good measure, are the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde, the wife of
the guy who told the story in Stoker’s Dracula, Captain Nemo
and, most curiously, Wilde’s very own Dorian Gray. Of course all they
do is get into fights and blow shit up. I really couldn’t tell you.
Although I think I remember from the book that Mr. Hyde in particular
raped and murdered quite indiscriminately. Here of course he is an
ass-kicking British Hulk with an attitude. Insult number… you get the idea.

Worst of all to me, from an intelligence-insulting perspective, is the fact that our Extraordinary heroes took a submarine from London to Paris. I can’t really even
explain why this part was so upsetting to me without raising my blood
pressure to a point that is dangerous to my health. Besides, words fail
me; all I want to do is hit and kick. But, I’ll try anyhow. Aside from
the fact that both London and Paris are land-locked… I can’t even go
on. See, the moviemakers have to be banking on the fact that Americans
as a lot are so damn ignorant that this little fact won’t bother
anyone. Don’t even get me started about how the sub (the Nautilus) in League is larger than the fucking Kursk.

I mean, if you could submarine up the Seine or the Thames, wouldn’t
somebody have done so in either of the last two world wars? Honestly,
the sub crap is dumber than the shit in XXX where the bad guys build an attack sub in the mountains of Bohemia! Being dumber than XXX is an amazing feat in and of itself. My head hurts.

I’m sure the people behind League are going to claim “no foul” because of the fact that it is based on a comic book, er, graphic novel. Let me set the record straight. Comic books are for kids. A graphic novel is a comic book for those who went through puberty but
still find comics more appealing than girls. They are stuck in a state of suspended adolescence where things like Dorian Gray battling a vampire seem really, really cool. For a big studio to go and base a movie on something of such suspect and frankly unintelligent origins is their own fault.

No one made them make this movie. It is only another example
of Hollywood fishing around for a script, any script, so as to cash in
on the latest round of comic book movie adaptations unleashed this time
by Rami’s smart and enjoyable and profitable
Spider-Man. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
however, fails on nearly every level. I guess the production design was cool, and Mr. Hyde was curiously animated like a character out of Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, but really, everything sucked. I can’t imagine the source material was much better.

Revisionism is always dangerous and disturbing. Whether it be Holocaust deniers, kid-friendly pirates who don’t rape, or Ann Coulter claiming that Joe McCarthy is the greatest American of the last century, the result is always the same. Truth, definable and
defendable truth, is left battered and gasping for air. We already have an entire subsection of people (thanks in no small part to Art Bell) who think the various moon-landings were fakes – what is to stop them from thinking that technological innovation, the amazing offspring of hard, laborious work, is really the product of a crazed cabal of
evildoers from over a century ago? Nothing. Who is going to pass this accurate, factual knowledge on to the next generation? I have no idea.

Those who don’t remember their history are doomed to enjoy The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Ruthless Ratings:

  • Overall: 2
  • Direction: 5
  • Acting: 5
  • Story: 1
  • Re-watchability: 2

Special Ruthless Ratings:

  • Number of times the phrase, “With da Vinci’s blueprints, and enough explosives, he could destroy Venice!” was uttered: 1
  • Was the whole father/son dynamic between Quartermain and Sawyer really dumb and totally forced: Yes
  • Number of times you dozed off, even though you saw the movie at 1:15 pm in the afternoon: 3
  • Did you get much sleep: No, because shit blew up every fifteen seconds.
  • Number of funny jokes: 2
  • Did both of those jokes occur during the first ten minutes of the film: Yep
  • Was the invisible man the laziest special effect you have ever
    seen: Yeah. To save money, they had the character standing around with
    his whole head painted white.
  • Are fan-boys going to write you and tell you how dumb you are and how great the graphic novel is: You betcha
  • Is your favorite part of the film the fact that you can
    abbreviate the web address from “leagueofextraordianrygentlemen.html”
    to “lxg.html”: Yes. Saves a lot of superfluous typing.