Even if you’re not really a comic book reader, there’s a good chance you know who Alan Moore is. His career is packed with masterpieces, and many of them have ended up on the big-screen whether he liked it or not, including Watchmen, From Hell, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
The first volume of League hit in 1999, right around the time when Fox was about to launch their X-Men franchise. Comic book movies weren’t the juggernaut then that they are now, but it’s easy to see why League was an attractive prospect to a studio trying to start a superhero boom. Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill imagined a secret history of Victorian England in which fictional characters of the era — including Allan Quatermain from King Solomon’s Mines, Mina Murray from Dracula, Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the Invisible Man and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde – teamed up to form a kind of superhero secret society that protected Britain from various threats, including Sherlock Holmes villain James Moriarty and the Martians from The War of the Worlds. It sounds like fun, and if you’ve read the comics, you know it is. It’s period adventure stories wrapped up with all the literary layers we expect from Moore.
Fox got the rights, cast Sean Connery as Quartermain, and poured big bucks into a 2003 adaptation of the comic that was part steampunk action extravaganza, part superhero team-up. The studio added Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) for sex appeal, Tom Sawyer (Shane West) for some American youth appeal, and the results were…not good. The depth of Moore and O'Neill’s book was gone, replaced by a plot that never quite made sense and ridiculous action sequences like this:
Put it this way: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was the movie that drove Connery into retirement.
Fox flirted with the idea of a League TV series in 2013, but the concept didn’t get past the pilot stage, and now they’re going back to the League well again. According to Variety, Fox and producer John Davis (Predator) are set to bring a new version of the VIctorian Villain Vanquishers to theaters. There’s no information about plot or casting yet, and it’s kinda tough to imagine that big of an audience for the film given how the first one went, but Fox still wants to see if they can do for the old-timey Avengers what Marvel did for, well, the regular Avengers.
What’s even more interesting is that this news comes at a time when we already have a piece of live-action media devoted to characters from Victorian literature having extraordinary adventures together: the quite-good Showtime series Penny Dreadful. That show’s blended together elements of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray and more with greater depth and character than the first League movie could ever muster, so if Fox is going to do this, we hope they can at least learn from Showtime’s example.