The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a series of graphic novels. Based on the first volumes of this comic series, an eponymous film was shot. The League, described in both works of art, consists of six men and one woman who possess supernatural abilities, powers, and skills. The main conflict within The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen relates to the issue of correlation between scientific and technological progress and humanity. Specifically, both the comic series and the film deal with the armaments race and human perception of science in the Victorian Age. Nowadays, in the era of globalization, rapid technological development, human alienation from nature, and the omnipresent crisis of the ethical and philosophical systems, the questions of the purpose of science and the main goal of scientists require reconsideration. In the following paper, the two works of art – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (film) and The Invisible Man – a novel by Herbert Wells– will be discussed for these particular works of art address the problems of the purpose of science, the development of science and technology, and the goal of scientists.
The thinkers who lived and created in the period of Queen Victoria’s reign made attempts to resolve the problem of the purpose of science. The works of art that dealt with the aforementioned issue are Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Each of them is to a certain extent grotesque. At the same time, these works of art may presumably be characterized as gothic science fiction novels. The Invisible Man is among the first novels which put forward the conception of the evil genius.
The main characters of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (film) are as follows: Allan Quatermain (a world-famous hunter), Captain Nemo (a constructor and creator of the legendary Nautilus), Mina Harker (a vampire), Rodney Skinner (an invisible man), Dorian Grey (a man to whom a secret of immortality was revealed), Tom Sawyer (a U.S. Secret Service agent), Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde (a man who invented a formula to unleash his dark and more powerful self, an invincible monster), and an evil genius – the anonymous Fantom (Trevor & Norrington, 2003). The story is being set in the late nineteenth century Britain, specifically in the year 1899 (Trevor & Norrington, 2003). The anonymous evil genius, Fantom, or M., as he is being called, attempts to design revolutionary weapons and start the World War I. The campaign starts with the robbery of the Bank of England (Trevor & Norrington, 2003). After a short while, a group of people with special skills and abilities is summoned to confront the evil.
Being robbed of his portrait (which is a secret of his immortality) and feeling intimidated, Dorian Grey sides with the Fantom. Fantom’s secret ambition is to assemble an army unequalled anywhere in the world (Trevor & Norrington, 2003). For these purposes, a great number of scientists have been captured and their families were uttered threats. A person who had summoned the League, M., appeared to be the Fantom himself (Trevor & Norrington, 2003).
Evidently, each member of the League represents a character from some specific work of literature. Thus, Allan Quatermain has been taken from Henry Rider Haggard’s novel King Solomon’s Mines; Captain Nemo is the protagonist of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (Trevor & Norrington, 2003). Mina Harker claims that her husband and she were once Dr. Van Helsing’s associates; and thus it is a reference to Bram Stocker’s Dracula; Rodney Skinner is the counterpart of Herbert Wells’ “invisible man” Dr. Griffin; Dorian Grey is taken from Oscar Wilde’s deathless masterpiece; Doctor Jekyll and his darker self, Mr. Hyde, represent Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Tom Sawyer in the film is the older self of Mark Twain’s best known fictional character. Going by the plot of the film itself, it is possible to assume that M./Fantom has a lot in common with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s professor Moriarty, a math genius and crime lord.
Considering the plot of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, a few key aspects should be mentioned. Dr. Griffin arrives to a small winter town seeking for a peaceful atmosphere to find a formula of a substance that can counteract his invisibility, which has been a result of his previous experiment. Unwillingly, Dr. Griffin makes himself conspicuous. The local people become suspicious of him. After several fierce but unsuccessful attempts to find himself an associate, Dr. Griffin turns to crime – he claims the life of a man (Wells, 1897/2004).
Speaking of Dr. Griffin, it is important to pay close attention to the phenomenon of invisibility itself: “He rarely went abroad by daylight, but at twilight he would go out muffled up invisibly, whether the weather were cold or not, and he chose the loneliest paths and those most over-shadowed by trees and banks” (Wells, 1897/2004). According to Dr. Karen Ruff (2013), this particular quote represents the irony with which the Invisible Man undertakes his condition. Inevitably, Griffin alienates from the rest of the community and there are several possible reasons for this. First of all, it is matter of perception. To put it more simply, there are two options that predetermine people’s behavior when they encounter something that terrifies them and/or something they cannot explain. It is possible to assume that, while dealing with something mysterious and unexplainable, people tend to make it a subject of ridicule. Evidently, it is in a nature of man to be in fear the unknown and obscure. “They drew aside as he passed down the village, and when he had gone by, young humourists would up with coat-collars and down with hat-brims, and go pacing nervously after him in imitation of his occult bearing” (Wells, 1897/2004). This particular quote illustrates people’s perception of Dr. Griffin, his abnormality, and odd manners. Speaking of the Invisible Man in the LoEG film, it is important to admit the following. Apparently, the role of the evil genius within the film is played by Fantom/M. However, it is Rodney Skinner who is being treated with caution. At the same time, Skinner’s perception of his condition is totally different from the one of Dr. Griffin’s. Dr. Griffin claims:
Weary, cold, painful, inexpressibly wretched, and still but half convinced of my invisible quality, I began this new life to which I am committed. I had no refuge, no appliances, no human being in the world in whom I could confide (Wells, 1897/2004).
This particular quote indicates that Dr. Griffin is very well aware of his condition, people’s attitude towards it and himself. At the same time, the scientist realizes the possible dangers of invisibility. In this regard, it is possible to assume that he predicts the end of the story:
I knew too clearly the terror and brutal cruelty my advances would evoke…My soul object was to get shelter from the snow, to get myself covered and warm; then I might hope to plan. But even to me, an invisible man, the rows of London houses stood latched, barred and bolted impregnably (Wells, 1897/2004).
One can observe something very different if to consider the nature of Rodney Skinner, the way people treat him, and his own perception of his condition. Even though Rodney Skinner is claimed to be a thief, his perception of justice and humanity accord with the existing norms of social conventions and traditional understanding of humanity and morale.
“The more I thought it over, …, the more I realized what a helpless absurdity an invisible man was,-in a cold and dirty climate and a crowded civilized city” (Wells, 1897/2004). This is one of Dr. Griffin’s last comments regarding his condition (Ruff, 2013). These words indicate that the scientist treats civilization and its achievements quite skeptical. Griffin is also doubtful about his condition and invisibility as such. Moreover, from this particular quote, it is possible to assume that Dr. Griffin admits the purposelessness and danger of his invention. Summarizing all the facts, one of the characters of the novel claims: “He has cut himself off from his own kind. His blood be upon his own head” (Wells, 1897/2004). This particular quote is the explanation of Dr. Griffin’s intentions and a summary of the whole story.
Considering the themes and motives in Wells’ novel, it is important to admit that “the narrator uses the Invisible Man to experiment with the depth to which a person can sink when there are no social restrictions to suppress his behavior” (Ruff, 2013). It seems that the narrator’s point of view on this matter is that the whole paradigm of social relations, including the social convention theory, is predetermined by the norms of morale. Social restrictions, in their turn, are commonly referred to as the mechanisms that regulate social communications, including interpersonal relations. Throughout the history, society has been representing itself as a powerful leverage identifying and at the same time delimitating social relations and roles. Therefore, one can distinguish the following themes and motives in Wells’ The Invisible Man. First of all, the novel deals with the problem of alienation of identity from society. In this regard, Rodney Skinner, unlike his bookish counterpart, should be referred to as an autonomous character. Rodney Skinner’s autonomy consists in his independence and ability to abstract from the rest of society, leave the social roles out of consideration, and at the same time act according to morale and code of conduct.
Wells in his novel The Invisible Man also focuses on the issues of science and civilization as well as the place of a human being in this correlation paradigm. The author explores the ways in which humanity influences science and vice versa. The correlation between humankind and science as well as technology nowadays positions itself as one of the most topical issues. Moreover, it has arisen one of the most heated discussions of our age merely because globalization tendencies and environmental problems assert themselves more frequently.
It is worth admitting that the film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is entertaining by nature. However, the message it conveys is quite important in terms of the topic under discussion. Specifically, the film represents itself as a warning to humankind. The warning, above all, concerns the probability and the consequences of turning the scientific achievements against the humanity. Trust and friendship, loyalty and cowardice, duty and dignity, family and motherland – this is what The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is about. Speaking of Rodney Skinner, it is possible to assume that he represents the following virtues: reliability, loyalty, goodwill, sense of duty, and dignity. At the same time, the armaments race and the horrors of war are opposed to the acts of bravery and goodwill of those who stand against the tyranny and raw military power that brings nothing but destruction, pain, and suffer. All in all, The Invisible Man by Herbert Wells deals with the ethical-philosophical aspects of the purpose of science, whilst The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen concerns its practical outcomes.
Considering the issue of feasibility, it is important to understand that both the novel and the film represent the genre of science fiction. In this regard, one can assert the didactic function of the novel and the film. However, the events described in the novel by Herbert Wells are depicted more vividly if compared to that of the film. The film and the book have the following common topics: the purpose of science, goals of scientists, human perception of scientific progress, and technological development as such in the period of Queen Victoria’s reign.
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The book and the film depict the two different conceptions of evil geniuses, who are, however, basically the same in nature. What makes both characters different is the damage caused within their fictional universes. However, the film does not show how one becomes evil. From the plot of the book, it is possible to assume that one of the reasons that lead to Dr. Griffin’s mental transformation is the way he is treated by his surroundings. Society treats Dr. Griffin with fear, caution, and aversion. Rodney Skinner, Dr. Griffin, Fantom/M. – each of them can be classified as a flat character for neither the film nor the book deal with the evolution of their identities. However, a change occurs to Dr. Griffin, after which he takes the wrong pass.
To conclude, it is important to note that the epoch of Queen Victoria’s reign was marked by scientific revolution and rapid development of all spheres of human activity. Both Doctor Griffin and his LoEG counterpart, Rodney Skinner, represent the fictional character, the Invisible Man. Doctor Griffin, who is the protagonist of the novel by Herbert Wells, personifies the phenomenon when the mind and the soul of a man of genius are corrupted by the desire for recognition and domination in life. Rodney Skinner, in his turn, is a member of the League. Even though he is being accused of treachery and plot, Skinner proves his goodwill, fidelity, and his readiness to sacrifice himself for others. Even though both characters are disillusioned by their surroundings, Rodney Skinner resists corruption and seeks justice. Presumably, a good sense of humor, which is Skinner’s distinctive feature, is a key to understanding his resistance and his moral code of conduct. Doctor Griffin, in his turn, becomes the evil genius under the circumstances of fear, estrangement, and lack of understanding. If to speak of the society of the late nineteenth century Britain, it is important to comment on the idea of the vice and the virtue that prevailed at that time. In this regard, all the science-fiction stories written in that period may be presumably regarded as a caution against ignorance, indifference, arrogance, cruelty, and violence.