A film review by Craig J. Koban October 26, 2011
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
2011, PG-13, 112 mins.
2011, PG-13, 112 mins.
Logan Lerman: D'Artagnan / Milla Jovovich: Milady de Winter / Matthew Macfadyen: Athos / Ray Stevenson: Porthos / Luke Evans: Aramis / Mads Mikkelsen: Rochefort / Gabriella Wilde: Constance / Orlando Bloom: Duke of Buckingham / Christoph Waltz: Richelieu / Juno Temple: the Queen / Freddie Fox: Louis
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson / Written by Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas
All for one and
one for…uh…ah…forget it.
MUSKETEERS is a decidedly dumb-ass version of Dumas’ 1844 legendary
swashbuckling novel. I’ve seen so many innumerable versions of the source
material that I have simply lost count – and lost my will to really care
– over the years: There was the very good 1973 Richard Lester incarnation
(still the best); the 2001 martial arts-centric THE MUSKETEER (one
of the most instantly forgettable); and, yes, the Charlie Sheen starring
version from 1993 (almost seems like a punch line to a joke in pure recent
hindsight). Now we have a
version that wants to reinvent the tale with flying battleships, a diamond
heist storyline, the lead actor from PERCY
JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF, some MATRIX-esque action, the
visual aesthetic of Paul W.S. Anderson, and 3D, and if that unholy cocktail
alone is not enough to get you to stay very, very far away from this film,
then I don’t know what will.
I don’t wish to
be too hard on Anderson, who has probably had to fight an uphill battle
his entire career to not be confused with the limitlessly more talented
Paul Thomas Anderson of BOOGIE NIGHTS and MAGNOLIA fame.
I have enjoyed W.S.’ updated version of DEATH
RACE, which was a modestly agreeable road rage grindhouse
adaptation of the Roger Corman schlock and awe original.
Yet, Anderson’s resume is a relative cornucopia of wall-of-shame
efforts, like MORTAL KOMBAT, EVENT HORIZON, ALIEN VS.
PREDATOR, and an
annoying number of RESIDENT EVIL films.
Frankly, the very notion of him helming a costume period action
adventure does not instill much confidence in me. To no surprise,
THREE MUSKETEERS did not disappoint in disappointing me.
Of course, the
film at least gets the kernels of Alexandre Dumas story right.
The film is set in 17th Century France.
It involves a young man named D’Artagnan leaving home to travel
to Paris to join the famed Musketeers of the Guard.
The musketeers in question are still named Athos, Porthos, and
Aramis. They still like to
cross swords (hee-hee) and spout out their iconic call of “un pour tous,
tous pour un!” But what we
have now is a silly and incoherent scripting, soul suckingly trite
dialogue, ample CGI sleight of hand egregiously standing-in in for old
school derring-do, and…3D. Sigh.
The film opens
with the Musketeers, Athos (a pretty decent Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (a
jolly Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (a sullen Luke Evans) teaming up with
Athos’ lover, Milday de Winter (Milla Jovovich, Mrs. Paul W.S. Anderson)
attempting to steal blueprints made by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Unfortunately for the boys, Milady has betrayed them all and gives
the blueprints to the Duke of Buckingham, played by the woefully ill-cast
Orlando Bloom, who definitely puts the ham in Buckingham.
The plans, if you must know, are designs for a flying machine that
looks like the love child of the Black Pearl and the Hindenburg; it’s all kinds of anachronistic
Things get even
worse when it becomes clear that France’s Cardinal Richelieu (INGLOURIOUS
BASTERD’s wonderful Christoph Waltz, looking positively stiff
and bored as ever here) has made a secret pact with the nefarious Duke to
seize control over his country, and all without King Louis (Freddie
Fox) being aware of such ill deeds. Of course, the fate of the country lies with the Musketeers,
who have become so crestfallen by the betrayal of Milady that they have
essentially retired from their adventuring ways.
However, a new young man comes into town, D’Artagnan (Logan
Lerman, a poor man’s Zac Efron, who essentially lets his hair and
overall smugness make this version of the character the least relatable
committed to screen) and has become embroiled in a personal struggle with
Richelieu’s right hand man, Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen).
D’Artagnan crosses paths with the Musketeers and, slowly but
surely, begins to convince them of the need to shake the dust off their
swords and thwart the plans of the Duke and Cardinal once and for all.
Oh, they also hatch a plan to retrieve a priceless necklace from
the Duke as well (don’t ask).
Of the miniscule
few positive aspects of THE THREE MUSKETEERS I will say this: it looks
The period design is unquestionably sprawling and lavish (using
real world castles, churches, and museums was a wise choice).
The costumes are also distinctively fetching and colorful (the
characters at least look of the time period).
There is definitive proof that Anderson is out here to please in
mass dosages on a pure visual level, and he mostly succeeds, but the whole
enterprise is kind of undone by its preponderance of green screen inspired
mayhem, slow-mo bullet-time/sword fighting flourishes, and a genuine lack
of a rousing and cavalier spirit. THE THREE MUSKETEERS too often feels like a visual effects
and action sequence test reel than a fitting appropriation of the nearly
170-year-old literary material.
The script, alas,
is also awful from a point of focus, momentum, and sheer preposterousness.
When the mannered dialogue is not uttered with alarmingly varied
and inexplicable number of different accents, the film tries to make up for it by
characters it thinks we care for, but the Musketeers – even when played by
likeable performers – are not so much defined by who they are but rather
by what stock character type they are; they’re all amiable, but they
lack three-dimensionality. This
is not assisted by the casting of Lerman (who never once feels like a
plausible part of the period he’s oh-so-trying to inhabit) and Jovovich
(a gorgeous screen presence that essentially lets her martial arts
dexterity and corsets do all of the acting).
Bloom, as stated, is all kinds of awful and it’s awfully sad to
see a magnetic performer like Waltz slum his way through an underwritten
and flavorless role of the Cardinal.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS has been given a mournfully pointless three-dimensional upgrade and it mostly reeks of the studio’s desperation to get butts into the theatre seats for an otherwise lifeless and leaden action romp. It’s pathetic and sad when filmmakers and studios feel the need to take classic works of literature and reduce them down to laughably ridiculous and nonsensical theme-park attractions. This new steampunk influenced THREE MUSKETEERS is high on would-be eye-gasmic intrigue, but decidedly low on basic storytelling virtues of gallantry and high-spirited adventure. There is nothing that predominantly separates this MUSKETEER outing from the countless others, which, in turn, will make it really hard for you to give a damn about it.
Oh, it’s got flying machines and 3D. That’s a first for this film series!