The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Sean Connery
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes

Superheroes in movies are hot these days and it is hardly surprising that apart from the straight paper-to-celluloid adaptations of the most infamous characters we also see incarnations of some smaller comic books. Not surprisingly, these more obscure adaptations are actually much better than the overblown blockbuster vehicles of the comic superstars. "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is the perfect example. Based on the comic books by Alan "The Watchmen" Moore and Kevin O’Neill, "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is a dark constellation of characters that carries Moore’s signature all over.

"The Fantom" is putting the world on the brink of a world war in 1899 by using highly destructive weapons from his science labs. His plan is evidently to rule the world once civilization lies in its dying embers. The British Secret Service calls on the help of Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) to put together a team of specialists to track down the Fantom and destroy him. The team that Quatermain ultimately puts together consists of some of the most colorful characters taken from literature, including Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Bram Stoker’s Mina Harker, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo to name but a few. They then dive into an extraordinary action adventure that is filled with cool special effects and an intriguing story in front of beautiful backdrops.

The movie boasts a great cast, headed up by Sean Connery. While Connery is clearly the center of the film and roots it with his natural acting, interestingly there were many figures in the story that stir up more interest with their colorful facets. The production values of the movie are good, though special effects are a bit of a mixed bag at times. As a whole, however, it convinces and despite its intrinsic outlandishness, "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" manages to tell a fascinating story filled with surprises.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is presenting the movie in its original 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio on this DVD. The transfer is crisp and for the most part very sharp. I noticed a few instances where the images lost detail in the finely textured backgrounds but it never got distracting, really. Overall, the level of detail is good and brings out the best of the elaborate production design. Colors are vibrant and strong, though never oversaturated. Blacks are perfectly rendered, creating deep shadows that don’t break up, giving the image good visual depth throughout. Edge-enhancement is at a minimum and there are no distracting compression artifacts evident.

The audio on the DVD comes as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix that is aggressive and dynamic. Making active use of the surround channels throughout, the mix is very engaging, throwing the viewer in the middle of the action, as the story unfolds and many of the kinetic scenes explode on the screen. It is a wonderful experience and a great track with a wide frequency response and great dynamic range for best effect. Dialogues is well integrated and never distorted. It is balanced and never drowned out by the sound effects or the music. The French and Spanish tracks that are also supplied on the disc are equally impressive.

"The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" comes with two <$commentary,commentary track>s. The first one features producers Don Murphy and Trevor Albert, as well as actors Tony Curran, Shane West and Jason Fleming. They deliver an entertaining and informative track, filled with little tidbits and anecdotes from the production of the movie, although it feels a bit disjointed at times as a result of the editing of the different commentary/interview segments.
The second track features the visual effects supervisor, costume designer as well as the make up artist for the movie. This is a more technical commentary that sheds a lot of light on how things were achieved and designed during the production. In a sense I found this to be the more interesting of the two commentaries.

The DVD also contains 12 deleted scenes that are presented in non-<$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen>. Some of these scenes are actually extended versions of existing scenes rather than entirely new additions. They are a mix of interesting bits and scenes that were pre-destined to be cut out of the final film.

Six featurettes are also included on the release, covering various aspects of the production, such as the creation of the Invisible Man, the visual effects for Venice and many more. Each of the featurettes is quite interesting and gives you a good glimpse behind-the-scenes.

Last, but in now way least, the DVD contains a Special Message that ANYONE owning this DVD should take a quick look at. I think Fox did very well by including this message on the DVD, given the market penetration of DVD these days.

"The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is a fun film with a number of cool surprise. The cast and the production is superb, making it a very enjoyable action adventure filled with countless explosive moments. I love the idea of referencing familiar literary characters and project them into entirely new circumstances, as it not only breathes new life into these memorable figures, but also expands the horizon of the new story as a whole. Check out "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" for a very cool and atmospheric thrill-ride. Now, bring on alan Moore’s "Watchmen…"