Twitter Plot Summary: The Musketeers tale gets updated by Paul WS Anderson. So that means it’s been ripped apart.
Five Point Summary:
1. Slow motion Milla Jovovich running towards camera in a corset.
2. Some bits of this are acceptable. Most of it, however, is not.
3. Orlando Bloom – epic levels of smarm.
4. Another superfluous use of 3D.
5. Ugh, sequel baiting again. Will Anderson ever write a proper ending?
Let’s be honest, Alexandre Dumas’ most popular novel – The Three Musketeers, naturally – was never the most obvious choice to receive a steampunk style makeover, was it? Combining old fashioned derring do with airships and the like, courtesy of Leonardo Da Vinci, Paul WS Anderson’s take on the story is, in places, quite faithful to Dumas’ original story. Milady is deceitful, D’Artagnan is introduced and meets each of the musketeers – Athos, Aramis, Porthos, as if you needed that pointing out – in quick succession whilst attempting to follow the dastardly Rochefort following their first confrontational meeting. From there it soon deviates from the text and becomes something that, whilst occasionally entertaining, is liable to have Dumas spinning in his grave.
The real issue facing this adaptation is the spectre presented by Richard Donner’s brace of films starring Michael York, Christopher Lee and Oliver Reed, or even the more recent 1993 Brat Pack version with Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen. Comparisons will inevitably be drawn between those and any adaptation that follows, which may be why Anderson went off in a completely different direction by giving the Duke of Buckingham control over an airship that leads to a final act that is 1 part faithful adaptation to five parts insanity.
In its favour it does have a knowing, modern sense of its own inane silliness, the dialogue frequently providing amusement. It’s just a shame that it’s so bloodless, with people being shot and stabbed yet never leaking any claret in an obvious bid for the film to achieve a 12A rating. The sword fights and action sequences are entertainingly presented – Anderson does at least have a handle on these elements, although on occasion is perhaps a little too quick to cut away to a different angle.
It might be easier to forgive this steampunk reimagining if there was some consistency. Mila Jovovich is fine when it comes to action sequences, but her accent varies wildly. Milady is French of course, yet her accent jumps at random between American and English. Then there are the 3D effects, with items, bodies and debris flung at the screen with regular and reckless abandon. Typical Paul WS Anderson, of course – any excuse to throw literally every 3D effect and technique in, he does it. The CGI looks awful, even for 2011 – another common issue with Anderson’s movies.
Still, at least the cast look like they’re enjoying themselves, which goes some way towards balancing out the more ridiculous aspects. The Musketeer trio of Ray Stevenson (Porthos), Luke Evans (Aramis) and Matthew Macfadyen (Athos) are a thoroughly enjoyable bunch, tarnished somewhat by Logan Lerman’s mostly irritating D’Artagnan. Lerman carries D’Artagnan’s youthful arrogance and subsequent development well, but there’s something about him that doesn’t quite work. Meanwhile, Christoph Waltz is perfect as Cardinal Richelieu, but the character as scripted here isn’t given that level of sinister underhandedness that has defined his portrayal elsewhere. Then of course there’s Orlando Bloom, who looks like the one most enjoying his part in the film. His Duke of Buckingham oozes smarmy charm, and it’s the type of character that best suits Bloom’s acting style – besides playing elves in Middle Earth, of course.
Looking at this 2011 version of The Three Musketeers in context, it could have been much worse. True, once again Anderson proves that he can’t write an actual ending and leaves events on a cliffhanger, but the preceding 100 minutes could be considered as incredibly cheesy fun. It’s a shame that it can’t be considered anything more than that, but then it’s doubtful it would have been any better if it had stuck rigidly to the text. Perhaps in that respect it’s for the best that this version of the story veers so wildly from the established tale – if it had been any closer it may have ruined our enjoyment of both the novel and the other, better adaptations that preceded it.