Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Yes, let do a review of a series you probably didn't even know existed. What is it about then?
Well, its about the grandson of Dr. Jekyll from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, set in an alternate 1920's WITH MONSTERS.
That right Jekyll&Hydes, with zombies and secret societies. So
und kinda like Penny Dreadful before it became a melodrama that completely lost the plot.
That sounds right up your alley Bonsart, you say. Well, Let have a look, shall we?
My God, what am I looking at?
To suggest this CGI aged poorly is to suggest they put in the effort, to begin with. These ghouls look like crack heads who just robbed a Halloween store.
But let's start at the beginning. Dr. Thomans Jekyll is a Doctor in India and one day when a truck drives into his practice he realizes he has super strength... Realy, that's about it.
That's is when he learns that his Indan father isn't his real father... And I thought doctors were supposed to be smart.
Anyway, then he learns through a lawyer in England he is the grandson of Dr. Jekyll and that he can turn in a form of Hyde ... Kinda. Whenever he gets aroused or angry CGI effects happen and become really strong. Also, he is part of a prophecy now vocalized by some rubbery CGI abomination called the Harbinger... Don't worry, it never gets resolved. An evil organization controlling an army of the undead wants him. A secret government organization wants to contain him. And he wants a cure for his condition.
Yes, a story about the hubris of a man who wanted to suppress mankind's darker nature using chemistry gone wrong is now about bargain bin Bruce Bannon. The original Hyde was a horrid person both in appearance and behavior. All he cared was to indulge himself and cared nothing about others. Hell, he enjoyed causing others harm. Sometimes he looked like a giant. Other times he was an ugly dwarf.
The story became timeless because it was a reflection of British society at the time. That behind all that politeness people were hiding dark inhibitions waiting to get out.
But over time, something went wrong. Much of the blame stems from the current media landscape where originality is considered too much of a risk. Original ideas need to be supported by old familiar characters and ideas. But first Hollywood was satisfied with reimagining old novels and heroes, like sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein.
But then Allan Moore came around with his renowned League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Now it's known for its reimagining of classic characters as a kind of superhero-types with a unique retro-futuristic aesthetic. But I think few people actually read the comics. They are extreme, violent, gory, and unapologetic. You see, Allan Moore didn't just write a typical superhero assemble. He hates those. And his despise of the hero tropes fuels many of his stories Like Watchmen. Like them or hate them, Moore actually judged his foil criticly. Especially how these stories pander to their audiences. Sherlock holmes is a notorious example of this. A detective with excellent deduction skills became a super human analytical engine because the fans asked for it. So did its villains like the infamous Moriarty.
Allan Moore took that concept and gave it his own interpretation. You see, in the League universe, Sherlock Holmes died before the events of the first issue at the hands of Moriarty. Not like Han Solo, fortunately. But this isn't what an old and gray Morriarity feels to be his victory over Sherlock. Oh no. You see. Despite all Sherlock victories over him, the so-called master detective never realized the obvious. That Moriarty was actually working for MI6 all along...
TUM TUM TUMMMM!
That right, all this time Sherlock has been fighting a government agent. You see, the English government was quite terrified of Sherlock Holmes. Sure he went after a lot of criminals. But what if Sherlock decided to go after the biggest crooks of them all! Politicians. With his skill, he could have the two-thirds of parliament behind bars before Christmas. So they invented a master criminal Moriarty to keep Sherlock occupied. And the chump detective never realized.
Now, this is proper deconstruction. You analyze what bothers you about a work of fiction and turn those elements into a story that feels natural and provokes the imagination.
I bring this up because Jekyll and Hyde also make an appearance in Moore's. Jekyll is a polite soft-spoken man and a repressed homosexual. In an attempt to cure his self-loving he created Mister Hyde. This version didn't need the potions anymore to turn because he was too far gone by the time he joins the League, leading to some unsettling imagery. But once he turns, the scene because utter carnage. Hyde is a literal monster who doesn't shy away from eating his opponents alive. Hyde becomes so strong he doesn't even turn into Jekeyl anymore and keeps growing in size. And because he has no inhibitions what he says is unfiltered, making him an interesting foil for the more civilized Gentlemen. Hyde is a horrible creature, violent, glutinous, and a bigot constantly calling Nemo slurs. Again an interesting take on a classic character who, despite Moore's dismissive attitude, feels natural and in the spirit of the original stories.
But then Hollywood got hold of the idea.
The 2003 League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie has nothing in common with the comic other than its name and concepts. They turned the ensemble in the very thing that Moore lampooned in the comic. Mina Harker was turned into a vampire more powerful than Dracula. Quatermain was just an old adventurer who needed to find his groove again and Dr. Jekeyll had basically become the hulk. To be honest, he was the highlight of the film for me. I liked it when Dr. Jekyll approved of Hyde's actions when he saved the submarine. But it didn't save the film with a lot of potential from being a blend forgettable time waster.
And now the 2015 series Jekyll and Hyde. My God. How did they screw this up? Not only did they go with the Hulk interpretation of the classic book. It is so forgettable, I nearly forgot I watched it that very day.
At least League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has an identity of its own. Its vehicles are still shared around today for that reason. But this series is everything wrong with contemporary filmmaking. Now I am not gonna nitpick scenes here. I just don't care enough.
It opens up like an MCU film. It even has its own version of Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. It seems they wanted to make Hyde in a similar vein like the character of Lucifer from the series of the same name. Flamboyant and witty who can rouse a crowd. But all I see is an underwear model acting out an amateur stageplay. And all Jekyll does is mopping about his condition. No fight scene or confrontations with the baddies. It really looks like they wanted to make the next Game of Thrones because the cast of POV characters is huge, and they all have their own plots. I am sure that all these plots were supposed to conjoin at some point, but it got canceled after three episodes. And for good reason, for it wasn't going anywhere.
And for the sake of brevity, I'll leave it that. Let's talk about direction.
There is no cohesive vision.
These Jugaloos that I guess are zombies stand out like a sore thumb in the 'historical setting' as if they escaped from a comic book. The same goes for the acting. Tom Bateman seems to take his role very seriously. But then there are characters completely hamming it up like they are in a Pulp-film. The same goes for the monster designs that look lackluster at best and not consistent at all. It isn't helped that almost every scene is people sitting in a room talking and explaining the plot. Show and Tell, what the hell is that!? No, let's have Jekyll vocalize all his inner conflict so the people at home can follow along?
Everything is explained. There is not a single mystery to resolve. Imagine The Strange Case Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde started with the revelation Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. That is this miniseries in a nutshell.
I'll just say it feels like they hired the B-Team for this one, and it is hard to say what they were going for. But it's obvious there is not a single original idea here. It was overly ambitious with a way to many POV characters (I spare you talking about those), and there was no clear direction so all the actors just did whatever they felt like doing. It's a perfect storm of bad writing, lackluster direction, and bad lighting. I had to adjust my monitor to see something. Not to mention all the forced references to the works whose mythos that are vandalizing.
On the Arkology Podcast we recently reviewed War of the Worlds: Goliath with author Sean March. Its a similar film reimagining World of the Worlds. It suffers from many of the same problems, but at least it had something of a cohesive vision that I can recommend to parents to watch with the kids. But this series. You probably never heard of it, and there is no reason that you should.
At least, Tesla didn't make an appearance... Yet.