The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
A crowd slowly meandered in to fill the movie theatre on the afternoon of July 13, 2003. As we sat through the incessant parade of theatrical previews and local commercials, the crowd anxiously awaited the opening scenes of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, directed by Stephen Norrington. Since Norrington is best known directorially for his work on Blade, the audience expected an action adventure, fraught with danger. Though The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is certainly ripe with those elements, the audience truly received a lesson in cultural mythology more than the action-adventure for which we had originally hoped.
All of the characters in Norrington’s new film come from nineteenth-century fiction. Mina Harker, The Invisible Man, Dorian Gray, Tom Sawyer, Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo and Allan Quatermain figure prominently in the film. However, while these characters are the principle components, other literary characters also make brief appearances through brief literary allusions. Professor Moriarty, the Three Musketeers, Ishmael, and Phileas Fogg are just a few of these. However, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen should not be interpreted as a strictly literary movie.
While characters from literature certainly figure heavily in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, many audience members miss their corresponding literary allusions. For example, it is not necessary for readers to know that Dorian Gray comes from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, that Allan Quatermain is H. Rider Haggard’s famous action hero, or that Mina Harker is Jonathan Harker’s wife from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the last hundred years, these characters managed to break free from their literary confines to become part of our cultural mythology. When viewed in this way, the League’s members seem like old friends, whether or not the audience has actually read the books from which they were born.