Paul WS Anderson, director of the entertaining Resident Evil films and Event Horizon, takes on Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel and creates a film that is solid bordering on dull.
Young D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) travels to Paris in order to become a member of the legendary Musketeers. Reality does not live up to his dreams as he finds them disillusioned after the failure of their last mission and he makes enemies of Porthos (Ray Stevenson), Aramis (Luke Evans) and Athos (Matthew Macfadyen). However a common enemy in the form of Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) unite them as his power games threaten the French monarchy. In order to help the Queen survive Richelieu’s plotting the Musketeers must regain their sense of honour and defeat the machinations of Richelieu, the beautiful and deadly Milady De Winter (Milla Jovovich) and the fiendish Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom).
The past months have seen numerous literary adaptations released and all have been high quality, The Three Musketeers is probably the weakest of the lot. After numerous faithful adaptations this version looks for its own identity and inserts steam-punk airships, ninja musketeers and lots of action scenes which sounds so wonderful. They are all here in the film and it seemed so bland because the script is dull.
Events run along in an unsurprising manner and when it is not being bland the dialogue is pretty cliché with the characters delivering it without any of the spark needed to make it interesting. The Musketeers are pretty disappointing outside of a fight.
Lerman as D’Artagnan was solid, Macfadyen is absolutely dry and dull as Athos, Luke Evans played Aramis straight and it is only Ray Stevenson who seems to be having fun. The big disappointment is Christoph Waltz who should have dialled up his malevolent Richelieu performance to 11 as in Inglorious Basterds but tones it down so much it felt bland.
I never thought I would ever say this but Orlando Bloom gave the best performance.
His scheming Duke of Buckingham is all evil sneering English aristocrat stereotype and he even twirls his moustache. It’s gloriously camp and raised the most laughs. Anderson also continues his campaign to make sure the audience knows that his wife Milla Jovovich is very sexy with slow-motion shots of her in action and the camera’s gaze fixing on her in various alluring dresses and positions. Jovovich as Milady is wonderfully feline, amoral, athletic and yes she is wonderfully sexy and delivers her lines with aplomb.
Where the film succeeds is the action scenes and the set design. Anderson’s ability to direct action scenes is very good and The Three Musketeers is packed full of great sword fights and set-pieces. There is little in the way of gore but they are very athletic and reach decent crescendos. Anderson tones down his use of slow-motion but when it is used it looks good and he maintains a lucid control of the action and cuts smartly between various characters so we know what is happening and enjoy it. This extends to the rest of the movie which has a nice rhythm and whips along and never feeling like it is two hours.
Visually the film is a mixed bag. The 3D added very little and some CGI was painfully poor, particularly the airship which looked very fake when placed in establishing shots of rolling countryside. In its favour are the sets which are wonderfully operatic with Versailles stuffed full of ostentatious beauty and cast members in flamboyant dress. For a mid-size production the visuals are very enjoyable and create a Saturday morning cartoon texture especially when coupled with the action.
The end has been left open for a sequel and it would be foolish to think such a thing impossible but outside of the fights the film was unexceptional and not very compelling. It is great to look at and competently acted but not much else.
The Three Musketeers 3D
Released: October 2011
Running time: 110 mins.
Director: Paul WS Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ray Stevenson, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Matthew Macfadyen, Christop Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Logan Lerman