Movie Review: The Three Musketeers
By Shalimar Sahota
October 20, 2011

What are you, a pirate?

A crazy reworking of Alexandre Dumas’ novel, director Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers is daring in its extreme ridiculousness. What makes it stand out is that writers Alex Litvak and Andrew Davis have taken the liberty to include strangely fantastical elements. There’s a secret underground vault, a garrotte wire security system (reminiscent of the laser corridor from Anderson’s Resident Evil), and flamethrowers equipped on airships that do battle in the sky. I really don’t have a problem with any of that. The problem here is the uneven tone.

It begins in Venice, Italy with the Three Musketeers Athos (Macfadyen), Porthos (Stevenson) and Aramis (Evans) breaking into Da Vinci’s vault, with the help of Milady (Jovovich). They obtain Da Vinci’s plans to build an airship, only for Milady to double cross them and hand the plans over to Buckingham (Bloom). The Musketeers go their separate ways. Time passes and we see young upstart D’Artagnan (Lerman), the son of a Musketeer, making his way into Paris with the hope that he’ll become one himself. Upon reaching the capital, he unintentionally brings the Three Musketeers together after a fight breaks out involving Cardinal Richelieu’s (Waltz) guards, led by Rochefort (Mikkelsen). Reunited, the four of them are summoned by King Louis (Fox) and called into action when it appears that Queen Anne’s (Temple) missing necklace could put France at war with England. Yes.

Anderson’s The Three Musketeers comes across as stupidly jovial, highlighted during a number of moronic moments. A childish King Louis is more concerned about what he should be wearing rather than the state of France. D’Artagnan romances on screen girlfriend Constance (Wilde) with corny chat up lines whilst in the middle of fighting. The Cardinal and Milady talk about their plans to overthrow the King and start war; openly, among the guards, where anyone can hear and work out what’s going on. One of the final shots in the film has King Louis and Queen Anne dancing, not at all bothered that they’re a few feet away from an airship that has exploded. I won’t spoil the rest of them.

This is probably Anderson’s most approachable film, given that it’s the least violent. While a number of nameless nobodies end up dead, the film only revels in the death of one major character. It may not have been Anderson’s intention to branch out towards more family fare, but this proves that he can certainly do it. In fact, I don’t quite get the 12A / PG-13 rating here either. There’s stronger stuff in similar rated films, such as Anderson’s previous PG-13 rated Aliens Vs Predator. I imagine The Three Musketeers could get away with a PG rating, particularly since this feels more like it’s meant for kids, and adults that like to pretend to swordfight with their umbrellas. Everyone else will be sat there watching moments of lunacy unfold and questioning "Why?"

None of the Musketeers overshadow their fellow man, which is kind of a good thing. Macfadyen’s Athos is clearly the lead but they’re often together and share the same amount of screen time. That D’Artagnan’s father (Dexter Fletcher) advises his son to get into trouble gives Lerman the opportunity to be annoying. “You still act like a clumsy country boy,” says Constance, which kinda cuts close to the bone. Bloom is actually pretty good at playing a complete git (with an earring as well). His character Buckingham seems intent on strongly emphasising every word he says. Given the action skills he attained from the Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, it’s a real wasted opportunity to see that he does no fighting in this at all. Jovovich is perfectly cast as Milady, and although she gets in on the action it’s pretty obvious when it’s not her on screen (she has two stunt doubles for each mid air manoeuvre). James Cordon has a larger than expected role as the un-comic relief Planchet.

The action and swordfights are the film’s strong point. Half expecting frantic cuts to hide inexperience, the filming and editing during these sequences is where Anderson excels. Unfortunately there isn’t as much swording people up as one would like, with D’Artagnan and Rochefort’s duel upon Notre Dame being the only one-on-one swordfight in the entire film. Their duel has an intense seriousness to it that the rest of the film is sorely lacking, so much so that I found myself wincing during points when D’Artagnan gets attacked

Shot in 3D and viewed in Real D, the effect is adequate enough. That no one has yet filmed a pillow fight in the format means that I’ve become slightly bored of 3D already, but then again, I’m not too fond of Real D. Apart from the opening, notably a sequence involving Jovovich running in slow motion down a booby-trapped corridor, there aren’t that many "in-your-face" moments.

Fans of Dumas’ novel might be surprised at how faithful the film starts off, but it descends towards a much more happier conclusion. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers was bursting with potential, but great action and gorgeous production design cannot hide just how incredibly silly the whole thing is. It may be all for fun, but it’s certainly not fun for all.

The Three Musketeers
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring – Logan Lerman (D’Artagnan), Matthew Macfadyen (Athos), Ray Stevenson (Porthos), Luke Evans (Aramis), Milla Jovovich (M’Lady De Winter) Orlando Bloom (Duke of Buckingham), Christoph Waltz (Cardinal Richelieu), Mads Mikkelsen (Rochefort), Gabriella Wilde (Constance), Freddie Fox (King Louis), Juno Temple (Queen Anne), James Cordon (Planchet), Til Schweiger (Cagliostro)
Written by – Alex Litvak and Andrew Davis (based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas)
Length – 110 minutes
Cert 12A / PG-13