A film review by Craig J. Koban October 26, 2011


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. 

THE THREE 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, THE 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 nonsense. 



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 pretty.  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 giving us 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.  What...a...waste. 

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!

  H O M E