It seems that the tale of The Three Musketeers must be re-told on film at least once every generation. This 2011 re-imaging of Alexandre Dumas’ legendary story comes our way in an action-stuffed 3D package, courtesy of Resident Evil director, Paul W.S. Anderson.
Those who know of Anderson’s style of filmmaking already know what to expect from this film; for those unfamiliar, here’s a quick description: over-the-top action, weak scripts, and a sense that the cast of actors have their tongues firmly planted against their cheeks. Three Musketeers proudly continues this tradition.
This modern version tweaks Dumas’ tale of honor, espionage and sword-duels aplenty into a 3D spectacle featuring airships, Mission: Impossible-style capers (complete with martial arts acrobatics), and Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) transformed from a conniving spy into a conniving spy doing Kung Fu in a corset.
You can probably decide from that description above if this movie is for you or not. But I digress.
If you’ve never read the Musketeers story, here’s a quick rundown: brash young D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) leaves his home in the French countryside in order to be a King’s Musketeer like his father. On the road to Paris, D’Artagnan just-so-happens to run afoul of three disgraced Musketeers – Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans) and Porthos (Ray Stevenson) – as well as Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen), the Cardinal’s captain of the guard. Talk about bad luck. D’Artagnan challenges each Musketeer to a duel, and when the four men meet up to fight, they form a quick camaraderie over their shared disdain for Rochefort, and put their differences aside to slice his men to ribbons.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) schemes with his super-spy henchwoman Milady (Jovovich) to steal jewels from the young Queen Anne (Juno Temple). The plan is to use the jewels to frame her as having an affair with young King Louis XIII’s rival, the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). If Louis should believe the Queen is unfaithful, he would have no choice but to go to war with England and appoint the Cardinal – a man of strength and experience – to lead France. The Musketeers of course learn of this plot, and must get the Queen’s jewels back on her neck before she is supposed to present them to the king at a royal ball.
Did I mention there are airships involved?
This “updated” adaptation of Dumas’ work is pretty flimsy, but the actors playing the characters seem to know this, and rise to the challenge of making it all light and fun. They accomplish this by throwing themselves into their roles with a shoulder shrug and a sense of hammy abandon. Stevenson, Bloom, and Lerman all play their characters over the top (Evans is good in the straight-man slot), and thankfully the script is mostly a string of action sequences punctuated by scenes of the characters trading quick one-liners and sarcastic jokes. Freddie Fox provides visual gags via the flamboyant (and ridiculous) costumes worn by the silly King Louis, and you almost feel pitty for James Corden as the Musketeers’ mistreated (downright abused) squire, Planchet.
Jovovich looks like she’s having a ball working with her hubby (Anderson), and once again puts on her Resident Evil action persona to get down and dirty with the boys. Christoph Waltz, on the other hand, once again plays a weird and offbeat villain, as he has done famously in Inglourious Basterds and not-so-famously in Green Hornet. The only two actors who seem to take things seriously are Mads Mikkelsen as Rochefort and Mattehew Macfadyen as Athos. Macfadyen is handed the only dramatic weight in the film (Athos is in a state of melancholy since Milady broke his heart), and the actor has the skill to carry it. Mikkelsen is playing the sort of badass warrior he did in Valhalla - the type you wouldn’t want to mess with, instead of wanting to giggle at.
Anderson has been a big proponent of 3D since James Cameron’s Avatar came along, and here uses the effect in a much smarter, more effective way than he did in the much-hyped Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D. Instead of “pop-out” gimmicks, Three Musketeers uses the draw-you-in immersive 3D effect that Cameron employed so well in Avatar. Granted, shots of old European architecture and landscapes aren’t exactly a thrilling use of 3D, but many of the film’s set pieces are truly spectacular and the 3D helps to accent all the gorgeous details in every shot.
In terms of action scenes: sword fights and fancy acrobatics aren’t any more exciting when filmed in 3D, but things are bound to go over-the-top in an Anderson film, and that point in Three Musketeers comes when the “airship” battles start to ensue during the movie’s climax. You have to give 3D ticket buyers some kind of bang for their buck, and when dealing with a story set in the 17th century, Da Vinci-designed airships are about as much as you can get away with, I guess… All in all, this 3D film is more than a cheap gimmick, but is far from mind-blowing.
The Three Musketeers is a good remedy for anyone looking for mindless-but-harmless 3D action movie fun. Whether or not there’s an audience looking for mindless-but-harmless 3D action movie fun in a period setting is another question altogether…
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.