It’s hard to remember the time before Marvel took over the cinematic universe of superheroes. Before the MCU, we had a smattering of individual releases with no cohesive universe. Outside of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, there wasn’t much out there in the way of comic book franchises. During those days in the early 00s though, 20th Century Fox tried to bring another team of heroes to life, with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Led by Sean Connery as the legendary Allan Quatermain, it had all the makings for what could have been a great comic book movie. The concept for the comic itself was incredible: Literature’s greatest heroes exist in the same universe, brought together to fight the forces of evil. For the movie, the team included Captain Nemo, Dorian Grey, Mina Harker, Tom Sawyer, Dr. Jekyll, The Invisible Man, and of course Quatermain himself. If there was one obscure comic book that would have made for an amazing adaptation, it was this one. Alas, it wasn’t so. Rating out at 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, it fell flat both creatively and at the domestic box office.
Fox’s original intention was to have the movie launch a full-on franchise. Not surprisingly though, it never made it past the first installment, and since then has been largely forgotten. Until now. In 2013, a planned TV series never made it past the pilot stage. Fast forward to today, and now the studio is planning a full-on reboot. Little is known on the planned casting or even plot, but with a host of advances in modern storytelling and special effects, there’s real potential for redemption here. If the success of two Avengers movies has shown us anything, it’s that audiences love team-ups, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the ultimate iteration of this.
All that being so, the Avengers parallels are difficult to avoid. We have: The experienced leader, Allan Quatermain (Captain America), the mercurial hero with vast resources at his disposal in Captain Nemo (Iron Man), the warrior woman Mina Harker (Black Widow), the indestructible immortal Dorian Grey (Thor), the volatile rage monster of Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde (the Hulk), and of course the Invisible Man that no one really notices (Hawkeye).
There are a few key points though that any reboot will have to dig in to in order to find the success they’re aiming at. First and foremost, the promotion will need to be done in a way that clearly lays out the terms of the film. Audiences aren’t as familiar with Alan Moore’s graphic novel as much as they are with Marvel or DC’s cinematic universes. The fact The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen features some of the most renown characters in all of literature should be a major strength, not a barrier to its success in the way it was with the original.
Today’s generation of young adults isn’t particularly well-versed in literary classics, so bridging that gap will be imperative. A promotion cycle that includes specific and detailed profiles for each hero would go a long way toward making sure audiences knew what they were getting into. Bring on a skilled screenwriter like Drew Goddard or Edgar Wright and you’ll immediately hook the comic book demographic too, tying together the necessary pieces for a true summer blockbuster.
Fox likely knows the stakes here for any reboot of a movie that tanked the way this one did. They can’t afford a second flop from the same property, lest they suffer a massive black eye and lose their credibility for comic adaptations. Already they have the new Fantastic Four coming down the pipeline, so a future in the world of superheroes is more than feasible if the studio plays their cards right. Part of doing that though, is producing an entertaining (and profitable) League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
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