Over a decade after their first attempt failed miserably (and made Sean Connery quit acting forever), 20th Century Fox is taking another crack at turning Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill‘s classic comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen into a movie and possible franchise.
The studio has brought on John Davis – whose credits include Predator, Waterworld, I, Robot, and Chronicle – to produce the feature through his company Davis Entertainment. Also overseeing the reboot will be Ira Napoliello and Matt Reilly.
The League comic book series has been published by several comic companies, including DC Comics and Top Shelf Comics, since its initial launch in 1999. In the first series, a team comprised of legendary literary characters Allan Quartermain, Mina Harker, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin (H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man), and Dr. Jekyll and his monstrous alter ego Mr. Hyde were assembled in Victorian-era England to battle the evil Fu Manchu and Professor Moriarty. In the sequel, the League was reunited to defend the planet from a Martian invasion. Subsequent series have taken place in future decades with different teams.
Moore and O’Neill’s series was first brought to the big screen in the summer of 2003 under the direction of Steven Norrington (Blade), with Connery in the starring role of Quartermain. The production was besieged from the beginning by problems, including massive floods that destroyed expensive sets in Prague, and rising tension between director and star that almost came to blows. The final film was released in a summer dominated by the usual tentpole sequels and well-established superhero blockbusters and barely and ultimately performed expectations at the box office. Plans for sequels were permanently scuttled.
In 2013, Fox put a television series based on League into development with Green Lantern screenwriter Michael Green serving as showrunner. Despite having a pilot commitment, it was not ordered to series. I always thought League would work perfectly as a limited series on the BBC because that’s the only place where an adaptation could be made that was faithful to the spirit and tone of the comic and retain its richly literate humor. If you’ve seen any other sci-fi adventure series made for the BBC, you’d know they’d have the budget and visual effects resources to do justice to the action sequences envisioned by Moore and O’Neill.
Whether The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen returns to our screens as a big-budget film or a multi-part television series, only one thing is for sure: Alan Moore will have no involvement and absolutely no comment.