8 June 2005 | Youkilledmypine
There's a lot to like about the Apocalypse
For many the hit series was ten years of pitch black humour loaded with affectionate parodies of classic films and a hilarious assortment of over a hundred characters with instantly recognisable catchphrases. Few shows have survived transition from radio to TV to stage show to film but The League of Gentlemen have achieved it with suitable aplomb.
The talented writer/performers had initially envisioned a Monty Python style medieval adventure, but as soon as writing began they soon realised that the characters they have lived with had become very real and deserved better. With that, the Royston Vasey folk realise their very existence is under threat as the writers decide to disregard the fictitious town and work on a 17th Century romp instead.
With the exception of Michael Sheen playing much unseen League member Jeremy Dyson, The League play pretty unlikeable caricatures of their real life personae as well as the familiar faces of Tubbs ("I made a little brown fishy"), nightmare inducing sexual predator Herr Lipp, butcher Hilary Briss and an unlikely hero - irate businessman Geoff Tibbs. New faces appear when the third reality appears, it's here we are treated to charming and funny cameos from veteran actors and popular TV stars. For many this will be a really enjoyable 90 minutes.
'Apocalpse is not going to please everyone though. Working on this level of post modernism has been done a few times before now and may seem all too familiar to audiences raised on irony drenched teen successes kick-started by the likes of Wes Craven having a New Nightmare. It also takes a lot of confidence in an audience to keep up with a high concept story so there are moments of exposition and dialogue that serve only to confirm what most in the audience already know. Comedy as a genre is formulaic but it's now unheard of for a British film not to fall back on the huge back catalogue of TV stars to fill short amounts of screen time. It's also hard to believe the creators ever wanted their offspring killed off, which is perhaps why some of the role reversal doesn't always quite hit the mark. Would Hilary Briss have wanted to try save Royston Vasey in the series?
However, while the show's deliciously dark vein has almost all but disappeared but is arguably more accessible for it. Much will be said about the character development and efforts to humanise the likes of previously one joke incarnations like Herr Lipp. It is here an impossible level of depth can be found along with a harsh streak of biting satire and throwaway put downs. Sentiment is there with a lump in the throat but not sugar coated thickly enough to intrude on the action. The music is good, performances exemplary and the animation is wonderfully seamless; a nice throwback to Terry Gilliam and Ray Harryhausen's work. In short, there's a lot to like about the Apocalypse. Like so many TV to film transfers it was never going to be easy finding the line between preaching to the converted and introducing the uninitiated to the League's slick and distinct voice. But no matter what your preference is, this last trip to the town which 'You'll Never Leave' is oddly lined with hope and ultimately very, very touching.