Recently I watched all three series (and the Christmas and Live specials) of The League of Gentlemen. It was sad because I watched it all so quickly and now there is no more for me to see. I left the the film, ‘The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse’, till last. And I’m glad I did, as it was a suitable swansong to all the characters (if it is to be their last appearance).
If you haven’t seen The League of Gentlemen then you’re missing out on something really special. Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith and Mark Gatiss play a whole town full of odd characters. The town in question is Royston Vasey, a backwards place full of the inbred, insane and downright creepy. The show itself is a unique mix of black comedy, drama and horror. The first two series are very much in the sketch-comedy mould, albeit a little more advanced (think ‘Little Britain’, but not as monotonous). Various subplots run through the episodes concerning each set of characters. The Christmas Special and third series moved beyond this format though, ditching the laugh-track and opting for more complicated and involving storylines. I especially liked the Christmas Special, it played out like a homage to various horror films with it’s four self-contained stories, managing to revolt and scare as much as it amused.
And that brings us to the film.
From the start it appears to be something quite different. We get a big screen-styled score and a real epic feel to the proceedings. As much as I’d like to talk about the plot, or even the opening scene, I can’t bring myself to do it as it might spoil it for you. Suffice to say, it’s miles away from the sketch-comedy of the first series but every bit as good.
If there’s one thing that’s been consistent with the League of Gentlemen, it’s their ability to surprise and be bizarre. This film takes the bizarreness a whole extra step further, but what else were we to really expect? This is the big screen, it has to be different. I loved this movie. It made me really fall in love with the characters too – one-joke and one-dimensional characters are given depth, but it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t cheat what we have come to accept in the television show. It’s hard to explain, you just have to see it. It’s a brilliant work of post-modern metafiction (sorry to use words like that, but they really are the best description for this movie), and the plot might seem to disappear altogether at one point (hilariously so) but hang in there – it all becomes clear by the film’s end.
Very few film versions live up to the television series they are based on or following on from, ‘The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse’ is just about the only one I can think of that might just be the exception to the rule: an improvement.
HIGHLIGHTS: Geoff Tibbs and Herr Lipp steal the movie completely. Whilst they were both amusing characters in the show, here they become loveable, flawed human beings. Tibbs cracked me up the whole way through, and Herr Lipp was (scarily) quite moving.
It’s a shame we don’t get to see more of Papa Lazarou, Edward and Tubbs, but the fact that they appear at all (and in the context that they do) is enough for me.
And the best highlight of all is the stop-motion animation. Yes! It was wonderful to see some Harryhausen-styled special effects in a contemporary film, and it fit the tone so perfectly. I loved it, I loved it, I loved.