The Three Musketeers follows a long line of movies that put a darker twist on classic tales of old. When D’Artagnan finally meets up with Athos, Porthos and Aramis, it is even revealed that they are no longer musketeers. Disgraced after a mission gone wrong, the former greats are all disillusioned drunks. Athos quips, “We were the musketeers. Now we’re just…us.”
Not to say it is a dark film at all. In fact, for the most part, it is probably one of the more light-hearted romps out there. It is with at least a bit of amusement that I think of the people who might have entered the theater drawn in by the title of the film. It’s far different than even the previous motion picture renditions of the classic Alexander Dumas novel. If you need to know one thing about this film, know this: The Three Musketeers is daring in how far it strays from its namesake, even by today’s standards.
The film starts off with the titular three musketeers – Athos (Matthew Macfayden), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Luke Evans). Working alongside Milady (Milla Jovovich), they seem to form some sort of 1600s special ops force for France. The opening scene shows the three (four?) musketeers on a heist job, trying to grab the plans to some strange super weapon made by Leonardo Da Vinci. The plot starts going when Milady (surprise!) betrays them and gives over the plans to the villainous Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). Going back to a resemblance of the plot of the book, the film shows D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) attempting to join the musketeer organization, with enough sword skills and bravado to be labeled a weapon of mass destruction. In the meantime, the Cardinal Richeliu (Cristoph Waltz) and his aide Captain Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen) plot to start a war that would tear Europe apart.
The similarities to the book end with the naming of the main characters. We truly can’t expect much else than a visual and stylish extravaganza from director Paul W. Anderson, of the Resident Evil series—and what an extravaganza it is. Staying true to Anderson’s “steampunk” vision, we are treated to images of man-of-wars hoisted up by hot air balloons. Oh, and they carry lots of guns, almost all of which inexplicably miss the target when in the hands of villains. It’s an Anderson film—what did you expect?
I must say that the action choreography was some of the best I’ve seen in a film. While much of the action is derivative (there is a very clear reference to the iconic 300 battle scenes), it is executed well and in such a way that the viewer can both appreciate its complexity and see it clearly enough to follow along. I was initially taken aback by the raw amount of fight scenes—it was a bit alarming that the film had to show each character kill someone at the beginning before it identified who exactly that character was. In the end, you have to give credit to the director for sticking to what he does best.
The character development is somewhat lacking—though the story translated into film leaves little room for that to occur. D’Artagnan is not the usual vulnerable, emotionally unstable, insecure newcomer/young hero. He enters the fray with bravado and is already equipped with a full arsenal of physics—and gravity-defying moves—that would make even Legolas jealous. The bad guys are bad from the start, and Athos, Porthos and Aramis stay true to their quiet, self-assured forms the whole movie. I suppose some of the blame here could be laid at the feet of the script, which contained some laughable parts, such as when an angry sort of museum head honcho says, “I want these musketeers dead. I want them dead!” (I think he was telling the truth the second time.) Even so, the script isn’t quite as bad as most reviewers would have you believe—it has some witty parts and some parts that fit perfectly.
Most of the actors are unknown, which is a good thing for an aspiring franchise. Logan Lerman has been one of the better child actors of the previous decade, and the last time we saw him was in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. He plays his part with energy and does a good job of portraying the character’s cockiness and confidence. Macfayden and Evans do their parts justice, and Stevenson as Porthos does an excellent job of infusing comic relief. As for the evildoers, The Three Musketeers bucks the trend of giving us “grey” villains who could be anywhere from devils to misguided angels mattering on perspective. No, these baddies are bad, and Waltz, Mikkelsen and Bloom take no chances in letting the audience misunderstanding that.
Special attention should be given to Orlando Bloom’s acting. His performance as the Duke was quite good; I’ll give him that. However, I felt like he was sometimes overcompensating, which may be a result of playing so many heroic roles. Everything the Duke does is villainous, and when he talks we hear the silky, serpentine voice of a universal scoundrel.
This film is meant to be bewildering in its far-flung ideas and anachronism, so I can forgive the filmmakers for the helter-skelter use of guns. Obviously no one in the crew remembered that you shouldn’t bring a knife to a gunfight, or else poor Athos, Porthos and Aramis might have found themselves hopelessly outmatched. Something that did throw me off, however, were the prominent British accents in a movie set in France.
The Three Musketeers is a fine film. The technical aspects of the picture are wonderfully done, and the actors seem to have fun in their roles. If you want a film full of action and a more-than-serviceable plot, this may be the one for you. Sure, it’s not deep, and it’s definitely not true to the book, but you could have deduced that from the trailer. The ending makes it clear that a sequel is in store—and I don’t dread that prospect.