Alexandre Dumas' heroes get an action-packed, CGI slick makeover in Paul W. S. Anderson's The Three Musketeers. While it might not be the best adaptation of Dumas' classic story, the film is popcorn fun and so over-the-top it is hard not to find something to enjoy.
Based on Dumas' novel, the film's screenplay was written by Andrew Davies (Brideshead Revisited) and Alex Litvak (Predators) and stars Logan Lerman (3:10 to Yuma), Matthew Macfadyen (Robin Hood), Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil), Luke Evans (Immortals), Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone), Christoph Waltz (The Green Hornet), Mads Mikkelsen, Orlando Bloom, Gabriella Wilde, Juno Temple, Freddie Fox, Til Schweiger, and Carsten Norgaard.
The film opens on a quick history lesson of the state of the world at the beginning of the 17th Century and then shifts to Venice where the Three Musketeers, Athos (Macfadyen), Porthos (Stevenson), and Aramis (Evans), are handling a little bit of espionage stealing the blueprints to build a flying ship that was designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
The Musketeers all use their special talents to get the plans but are betrayed by Athos' love interest Milady de Winter (Jovovich). Midlady hands the blueprints to France's enemy the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom doing his best David Bowie), but she is actually a double agent in league with the film's villain, the dreaded Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz).
The film then jumps a year and introduces the audience to the young hero D'Artagnan (Lerman) as he makes his way to Paris to join the Musketeers. Along the way, he makes an enemy of the Cardinal’s henchman Captain Rochefort (Mikkelsen); is saved by Milady; and discovers the Musketeers are no more. He also bumps into Athos, Porthos, and Aramis - resulting in an arranged duel with all three swordsmen. The duels are cut short when the four men are interrupted by Richelieu's guards.
D'Artagnan’s choice to join the Musketeers makes him an enemy of the Cardinal; puts him on a first name basis with the king (Fox) and queen (Temple); and gives him a possible love interest in Queen Anne's lady-in-waiting Constance Bonacieux (Wilde).
The film’s pace picks up as the Cardinal sends Milady to steal the queen’s jewels and plant them on Duke of Buckingham to start a war. Constance sends D'Artagnan and the Musketeers to get the jewels back before the queen is expected to wear them at a ball the king is throwing for her.
After a thrilling action-sequence where the Musketeers square off against Buckingham, the film moves into its final showdown between the Musketeers and Rochefort – which takes place between two flying ships!
Anderson's version of The Three Musketeers is probably not what Dumas had in mind when he penned his novel, but it is a lot of fun to watch – provided you turn your brain off. The film has some problems, but Anderson keeps the pace cranking so that the audience doesn’t have time to really dwell on how silly giant flying ships are.
Macfadyen, Stevenson (who is easily the best reason to watch the film), Evans and Lerman are all solid in the roles of the film's heroes, but do little to make the characters feel fresh or original. Waltz is entertaining as the film’s mastermind villain and walks that fine line between hamming it up and seeming truly evil.
Although I enjoyed the movie by the time the end credits rolled, it has some problems that almost made me turn it off several times. For starters, Macfadyen and several of the other actors were extremely hard for me to understand when they would speak (to the point I had to turn on the film’s subtitles). It is a small problem, but one that made the film harder to get through during some of the weaker moments.
The films also waste some its talent (such as Jovovich) by not giving them enough screen time or development. In Bloom’s case, it is a good thing since the actor practically ruins the film with his pompadour hair and stiff acting. In the special features, Bloom talks about how he saw Buckingham as a rock star and based his character on David Bowie (kind of like how Johnny Depp based Jack Sparrow on Keith Richards). He might have been trying a tad too hard.
The film looks incredible on Blu-ray and it is the perfect format for an effects heavy update to the classic adventure tale. It comes with some descent features that take a look into the making of the film and how much work went into bringing this new version to the screen. There is also a collection of deleted scenes that do nothing to help or hurt the film.
Anderson's version of The Three Musketeers probably won’t launch a new franchise for the heroes (though it does leave the story open for a sequel), or be considered one of the great adaptations of Dumas' novel. However, the film is a lot of fun. It just requires the audience to sit back and enjoy the massive action sequence the director and company manage to bring to the story.
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