League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The: Two-Disc Special Edition (2003)

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Released 10-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Producers And Actors
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers
Featurette-Matters Of Pre-Visualization
Gallery- Vehicles, Weapons, Locations, Character & Miniature Design
Featurette-Making Of-in 7 chapters
Deleted Scenes-Resurrecting Venice, Sinking Venice
Featurette-Behind The Fantasy
Featurette-European Premieres
Theatrical Trailer-4
TV Spots-12
Gallery-Poster-12
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 105:33
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (50:51)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Stephen Norrington
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sean Connery
Naseeruddin Shah
Peta Wilson
Tony Curran
Stuart Townsend
Shane West
Jason Flemyng
Richard Roxburgh
Max Ryan
Tom Goodman-Hill
David Hemmings
Terry O'Neill
Rudolf Pellar
Case ?
RPI $44.95 Music Trevor Jones


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Turkish
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Q:  What do you get when you create a story based on teaming up the combined talents of heroes born of many of the world's most famous literary classics of the past, including H Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Robert Louise Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Herman Melville's Moby Dick?

    A:  A ripping good yarn. But you also inherit a minefield by borrowing from so many loved literary classics.

    A ripping good yarn is the way that the big-budget, popcorn action film The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen should be approached. It is a highly entertaining, rip-roaring tale exploring the fantasy of what might have been possible had all these extraordinary fictional characters been able to team up for a common purpose. The thought that these characters were originally created of completely different time periods and not of the same collective fictional universe should be left behind. This film is not meant to be taken too seriously - it is purely and simply a bit of fun. Unfortunately though, many critics have panned the film outright by seizing on numerous inconsistencies in the portrayal of these classic literary characters as not being completely authentic to their original authors. I can appreciate from a literary sense where these critics are coming from and can understand why this film irks those who love the classics. But still, one should hardly expect that a story idea based on bringing together such a highly fanciful collaboration of all these characters will result in anything other than an excuse to have a bit of fun. Viewed with this overriding goal in mind, once you allow your criticism of minor inconsistencies of the character portrayals to be suspended, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen delivers on the fun scale in spades.

    The fun thing about this film is that you don't have to have read all of these literary classic to enjoy the movie. There are many "in-references" inserted throughout to cater for those who have an appreciation of the abovementioned novels and others including the works of Ian Fleming and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but certainly the movie can be appreciated as a stand-alone experience even if you only know some or few of these works. As an aside, the fact that the film tries to be rather cute in playing to the intelligentsia of its audience with its many deliberate "in-references" is only problematic, given that those same audience members to whom such references are aimed will also by corollary tend to be the same people who care enough about the classics to highlight the resultant inconsistencies in the character treatments. I think this, more than any other reason, is ultimately why The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen failed to impress the critics more than it did; you simply can't have your cake and eat it too.... but let's leave this issue aside.

    The story of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is set in an "alternate" Victorian age of 1899, a turbulent time when a new world war threatens from the terrorist actions of a megalomaniac who goes by the name of The Fantom (Richard Roxburgh). English civil servant/power broker M (also played by Richard Roxburgh) tracks down the retired African adventurer Alan Quartermaine (Sean Connery) and persuades him on behalf of The Empire to come to London and lead an extraordinary league of individuals to stop The Fantom attacking a conference of world leaders scheduled in Venice to discuss the growing world crisis. Quartermaine teams up with Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) (and his faithful first officer Ishmael (Terry O'Neill)), Invisible Man Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), Dracula's bride Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), fellow immortal Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), young American Secret Service Agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West), and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde (Jason Flemyng). They have their task ahead of them when The Fantom steals Leonardo DaVinci's blueprints for the city of Venice, covering details of the city's foundations and waterways, and plans to blow up the entire city during the conference with a series of strategically placed bombs underneath key buildings. The newly formed League must rush to Venice - a task made possible with Nemo's impressive, all-purpose nuclear-powered submarine vehicle The Nautilus - and attempt to thwart The Fantom. As they arrive in Venice, the pace of the story accelerates rapidly, as it appears that our heroes may in fact be too late. But we soon find out that Venice is in fact only the beginning of this adventure and the League's task is made even more difficult by the slow realisation that (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) there may be a traitor in their midst.

    The storyline is very well thought-out, if not arguably a bit too rushed for my liking, with a large amount of story and action crammed into a 110 minute film. The plot is premised around cramming in as much action into the story as possible, with every hero given a chance to shine in their turn. This is also a big-budget action film, so the production values are high, particularly in aspects such as the attention to detail in the character costumes. The special effects are also, for the most part, great - it's just a pity that only one or two dodgy effects shots stand out to prove an exception to a great job (these one or two shots being suboptimal only due to the lack of time available to complete them before the theatrical release date (the usual story)). The acting in this film is certainly rock solid, and this is particularly the case - yet again - with Sean Connery. Can this man do nothing wrong in the acting stakes? I don't think I have ever seen him deliver a poor performance. This view has been stated a million times before me by a million other film reviewers, but I agree that Sean Connery really is one of, if not the, most arresting and most charismatic screen personalities of our time. With all of these positives going for it then, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a highly entertaining action flick.

    This is the latest in what is proving to be a growing trend for Hollywood of basing big-budget films on graphic novels. This graphic novel was written by Alan Moore - who also wrote the rather dark From Hell - and Kevin O'Neill. The most successful example of a film adaptation from a graphic novel in recent years, however, has been Road To Perdition, and deservedly so. Graphic novelists are limited in their story ideas only by their own imagination. And with today's available "anything can be done" suite of digital, optical and makeup/prosthetic effects tools at a filmmaker's disposal, we are also fast approaching the point where what can be convincingly portrayed on screen is also now only limited by the filmmaker's imagination. I would therefore expect that the trend of sourcing action films from graphic novels will continue in the future. Certainly the producers of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (all five thousand of them!) have left themselves plenty of scope for a sequel here, should they desire, (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) be it either with or without the benefit of Sean Connery. Given its appeal, it is highly likely then that this film will be the first in a franchise to come.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    If this video transfer is not quite reference quality, then it is so close as to not matter.

    The presented aspect ratio is 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, and is comparable to the original theatrical ratio of 2.39:1.

    If only reviewing all DVD transfers was as simple as this one. There are next to no problems or artefacts to mention. Resolution and image clarity are superb. This is a modern film recorded and transferred to DVD using modern equipment, and it shows. Both foreground and background resolution remain tight throughout the transfer and, most importantly, given this film adopts such a dark and brooding look, contrast quality is also very well handled with excellent shadow detail on offer. There is no film grain and a complete absence of any low level noise to detract from the viewing experience.

    As mentioned, a dark and brooding colour palette has been adopted for the vast majority of this film - a notable and highly effective exception being the scenes on the Nautilus. It is crucial for this film then that the black levels are solid, and they are indeed. In fact, I would struggle to recall a DVD transfer I have seen in the past to rival this one for black levels. The flip side of this coin, however, is that this is not a DVD that will provide a showcase for spectacular use of bold and bright colours. It is also not a DVD transfer that will come up well unless watched on a properly calibrated screen and in an appropriately darkened room environment. That said, all colours are very faithfully handled in this transfer to the director's intended vision, with healthy but not excessive degrees of colour saturation, no colour artefacts to detract and very accurate flesh tones.

    There are no MPEG artefacts to note. With all extras removed onto a separate disc, the video transfer for the main feature on disc 1 is given plenty of room, with the data bitrate kept very high throughout and the data bitrate for the entire feature averaging an impressive 8.2Mb/s. There are no discernable pixelization or other MPEG issues. Film-to-video artefacts are also near absent, with not the slightest aliasing seen on my set up, and the only issue to note being some mild edge enhancement. To round off this great transfer effort, there are no material film artefacts to worry about either. The only artefact that I would highlight and categorise under film artefacts - only because it appears it must be a source issue, rather a transfer issue - is some annoying flaring around the way some lights have been filmed in a few isolated scenes. This strange and distracting streaking effect is best highlighted around the light behind Nemo's face as he stands in M's office at 16:29 and 16:39. You can see that judging by the flare cutting across the middle of the frame and bleeding over Nemo's face, this appears to be some sort of artefact rather than simply an artistic choice by the cinematographer in the way he has chosen to film the lights in this scene. (Or, if it is an intended artistic choice, it appears to be a poor one.)  This strange streaking effect can also be detected in another scene at 40:25, involving Quartermaine and Nemo walking along the corridors of the Nautilus. These are, however, only two isolated scenes to mention in a transfer that is otherwise devoid of film/source artefacts.

    Numerous subtitle languages are provided on this DVD, and I sampled the English for the Hearing Impaired stream for a good part of the feature. I found the subtitle stream to be accurate, well-timed, well placed and clear and easy to read.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc, with the layer change occurring unobtrusively at 50:51.    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    If this audio transfer is also not quite reference quality, then it is also so close as to not matter.

    Two English audio tracks are provided for the feature, being a Dolby Digital 5.1 track (at the maximum possible bitrate for Dolby Digital on DVD, being 448Kb/s) and a dts 5.1 track (at 768Kb/s). I reviewed both audio tracks in full.

    Dialogue quality is fine in both audio tracks. Dialogue is nearly always clear and easily discernable in the mix, apart from just one or two isolated high action sequences which require a bit of strain, given the competing sound effects and music. I had no major dramas with audio sync.

    The music score for this film is credited to Trevor Jones. This veteran's filmography includes scores to films as diverse as Excalibur, Time Bandits, Dark Crystal, Sea Of Love, Cliffhanger and From Hell. I wouldn't put his score to The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen as up there amongst his best, but it does do the job I suppose. Both DVD audio transfers on the disc handle the music and all sound effects faithfully. This film has a demanding dynamic range and the audio transfers deliver across the spectrum, from high-octane action sequences occurring amongst the explosions and sinking buildings of Venice, to the quiet moments of character reflection on the Nautilus.

    Surround presence and activity is also faultless. The surrounds are used constantly throughout the film to provide a truly enveloping aural experience. There are precise directional effects, great use of stereo panning across the front soundstage, excellent use of the rears for room ambience and ship noises on the Nautilus, as well as swelling of the music score around the room when appropriate.

    Subwoofer use is above average, again as expected for a modern, thoughtfully-mixed big-budget film transfer. My only complaint with the subwoofer use is one or two explosions and sequences in the first 30 minutes of the film where subwoofer use appears to me to be just a tad restrained (hear the building explosion at 11:35 for example). But certainly as the film progresses to Venice the subwoofer is in full flight, lending great impact to the action of the falling buildings, and then as the film progresses from here subwoofer use is even more liberal and highly effective.

    This is a great home theatre soundtrack that begs to be pumped up to reference volume. There is very little discernable difference between the Dolby Digital and dts tracks on offer here, however to my ear the dts wins out only because it provides a touch more breathing space in the high-action soundscapes of some scenes, as well as providing marginally deeper/more faithful bass reproduction. But there is little in it and the Dolby Digital track is not far behind it in terms of quality.    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This release comes with a comprehensive extras package.

Menu

    The main menu is presented 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced, is fully animated and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio underscore. Other menus are static and without audio, but all are nicely themed and easy to navigate.

    All extras detailed below also come with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, unless otherwise stated. The aspect ratios do vary, so are listed under each extra below. The video and audio quality of all extras is high. Also, the extras marked with an asterisk below come complete with a choice of six subtitle languages (including English), which is quite a nice inclusion.

Disc 1

Multiple Audio commentary 1: Producers Don Murphy and Trevor Albert, and Actors Tony Curran, Jason Flemyng and Shane West  

    This audio commentary was recorded by each person individually, apart from Tony Curran and Jason Flemyng recorded together, and then the final audio commentary edited together from this. Consequently the commentary suffers from being a bit disjointed. Producer Don Murphy has the most to say throughout, discussing elements such as where scenes were shot, the logistics of shooting and quite a bit about the relationship to the original graphic novel and which elements of the film audiences "bought" and which elements people questioned. (For example, many hated the use of the Nemomobile car technology in the year 1900, yet no-one questioned at all the use of Nemo's nuclear powered submarine or its inbuilt targeting missile system!)  The two actors Tony Curran and Jason Flemyng provide some interesting and very funny anecdotes, and Tony Curran's impersonation of Sean Connery in particular is a riot. Yet their commentary is low on insight value. All in all, this is a rather dry and disjointed audio commentary and does not really provide much in the way of behind-the-scenes information or value. And where is the input from director Stephen Norrington?

    Both audio commentaries on this disc come with English subtitle transcriptions (but not other subtitle languages).

Multiple Audio commentary 2: Crew: Costume Designer Jacqueline West, Visual Effects Supervisor John Sullivan, Makeup Effects Supervisor Steve Johnson and Miniatures Creator Matthew Gratzner

    This is even more dry and less interesting than the first commentary. All participants are again recorded separately, so there is no interaction and each gets lost in their own self-absorbed small world perspective of the film. There is no denying all of these people are passionate about their respective areas of contributions, particularly so the highly talented and delightful to listen to Jacqueline West. Yet I for one can't get too excited about a series of long, overly detailed descriptions of exactly how and why each and every costume design came about and as Jacqueline West is the most passionate and has the most to say in this edited audio commentary, these descriptions start to drag after a while. It's a mildly interesting but not overly exciting audio commentary.

Disc 2

Pre Production

- Featurette: Matters of Pre-Visualisation* (10:36)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, this featurette is an interview with a visual effects technician from a pre-viz fx studio who worked on scenes for the film, primarily the Nautilus shots, and some others. The featurette is basically a walk-through of several scenes to discuss how they were conceived and evolved through various iterations, up to their final form. It is interesting enough, but drags on a bit. The video quality is marred only by some minor aliasing.

- Stills Galleries (124 stills)

    A series of design sketches and various pre-viz art drawings for the film, presented 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced and broken down into the categories of vehicles (44 stills), weapons (22 stills), locations (20) and characters and miniature design (38). Many of the stills in the vehicles category are only very early/basic sketches and so of limited value, but all the other categories include more interesting design sketches and paintings.

Production

- Documentary Featurette: Assembling The League* (53:52)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, this documentary is the meatiest and most informative extra on disc 2. It is an almost 1 hour long, in-depth documentary, broken down into the chapters Origins, Attire, The Nemomobile, Making Mr Hyde, Resurrecting Venice, and Sinking Venice. As the documentary plays, little comic book-style information boxes pop up to give additional tidbits of information. The documentary is well put together and contains quite a lot of behind-the-scenes footage.

- Deleted and Extended Scenes* (31:42)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, but not 16x9 enhanced, there are a total of 17 scenes here, chronologically ordered and selectable either individually or together as a "play all" option. The vast majority of these scenes are just slightly extended versions of scenes you have already seen in the film, rather than completely deleted scenes as such. To the extent that additional seconds here and there have been added around the finished product, these scenes are in "work print" form, straight from the cutting room floor, so they have raw production audio and/or incomplete special effects, including the odd shot of the stars acting around Skinner wearing his blue body suit, prior to being keyed out of the shot. All in all, because these scenes are all so close to the final version you've seen already, they are only mildly interesting.

The Release

- Featurette: Behind The Fantasy* (18:22)

    Presented in a ratio of 1.78:1, but not 16x9 enhanced, this one is an HBO-style "half-hour making of", made for US TV. It is big on promotion, with extensive use of snippets regurgitated from the film, but small on the real making of or behind the scenes material. Pretty tedious.

- Featurette: European Premieres (8:18)

    Presented in a ratio of 1.33:1, this is footage from the European premieres of the film in both Prague, where it was filmed, and then in London. The footage shows all the stars arriving and being interviewed for the premieres. A promotional piece only, but still quite interesting to see.

- Trailers (4:38)

    Presented in a ratio of 1.78:1, but not 16x9 enhanced, here we have 4 different theatrical trailers, all quite interesting to see.

- TV Spots

    Presented in a ratio of 1.78:1, but not 16x9 enhanced, here we have 12 different TV spots, but annoyingly this time there is no "play all" option. Some people may get value out of having TV spots as an extra on DVDs, but they don't do anything for me at all if I have access to the theatrical trailers instead.

- Posters

    Presented in a ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, here we have 10 different theatrical posters. These are also an interesting inclusion as an extra, but it's just a pity we don't get to see a wider variety of different country's poster designs here.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title was released in Region1 last December and is being released in Region 2 in February. The Region 2 releases are identical to the Region 4 releases, that is the choice of either a 1-disc option, with no dts audio track and a substantially cut-down extras package (the two audio commentaries only), and a 2-disc Special Edition, as here reviewed.

    Region 1 gets a 1-disc release only, but it does at least receive the audio commentaries, the more substantive making-of documentary and the deleted scenes. Still, this leaves out all the other minor extras. In comparison to the Region 4/Region 2 2-disc Special Edition, the Region 1 misses out on:

    But in return, the Region 1 receives the following that the Region 4/Region 2 Special Edition misses out on:

    This is clearly a Region 4/Region 2 winner.

Summary

    The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a high action, highly entertaining, interesting hero-story. Borrowing collectively from such revered literary classics as it does, it is unavoidable that this film will invite some criticism of the authenticity of treatment of its characters. Still, it is only a film for fun, inspired by an action-packed graphic novel. It should be viewed as the ripping yarn that it is and the chance to just have some fun. Viewed in this way, the film delivers in spades.

    This big-budget, high quality popular film title receives a commensurate DVD transfer effort. Both video and audio transfers are excellent, falling only just shy of reference quality. Extras are numerous, and it is pleasing to see them separated for this Special Edition onto a separate disc so as to leave plenty of room for the feature transfer on disc 1. Some of these extras are fillers, but many are quite insightful and it is certainly a comprehensive extras package.

    Highly recommended for its entertainment value.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen rear projection TV. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationElektra Theatre 150 Watts x 6 channel Power Amplifier
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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Comments (Add)
Umm, spoiler? - REPLY POSTED
Umm, another spoiler - REPLY POSTED
That was actually the spoiler I meant - *warning spoiler* - REPLY POSTED
The League of Loose Adaptations... - REPLY POSTED
Plot-holes -
Mindless Enjoyment -
Comparision review... -
Zooty, maybe you should do YOUR homework... -
Vampires and the sun -
General Thoughts & Extras Comments -
Invisible Man -