I may have to double-check to verify the correctness of the statement I am about to make, but this 2011 version of “The Three Musketeers” just might be the most extravagant and insanely preposterous adaptation of the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas. At first this doesn’t sound like too big of a shocker, but have you ever thought about how many films throughout history that would cover? This gives most summer blockbusters a run for their money. Here is a little activity you can do at home: go to Wikipedia and type “the three musketeers in film” into the search engine. Click enter and count out how many total adaptations there are.
Now the fact that the film is nuts is not necessarily a knock against it. It just happens to be the first observation that immediately pops into my head. Though it must be duly noted that it is most likely the film that least adheres to the original source material, which will be the magic words that will alienate all the Dumas purists out there. And who better to handle an unfaithful film adaptation than Paul W.S. Anderson, the director of those “Resident Evil” movies that have almost nothing to do with Capcom’s video game series?
Based on just the fact that he had ANYTHING to do with “Resident Evil,” I was ready to pass this off as just another mindless action picture that wouldn’t do anything for me. My hasty extrapolation turned out to be at least half-correct. This is a very, and I mean VERY, dopey action movie that tags on the whole Three Musketeers novelty about as well as it promotes the candy product of the same name. But what came unexpected was just how much dumb fun this bombastically silly cashgrab effort ended up being.
From the start of the damn thing, there is that clichéd scene that takes place in a narrow passageway that looks completely safe to the naked eye but is actually crammed chockfull of projectiles and booby traps that are set to blow once somebody steps foot in this area. This prompts an utterly ridiculous sequence in which a character does a powerslide through the smoky, explosive carnage…in slow motion…while wearing a chic dress of the time period. If you are not prepared after this, just go ahead and assume that the rest of the film won’t impress you. For me, it succeeds as guilty pleasure entertainment. Shame on me. I really should know better.
The story is a matter of peace and war. The musketeers, Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans) and Porthos (Ray Stevenson), along with a younger man named D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) who departed from home to become a musketeer himself, are to prevent a war between France and England that is decided upon a diamond necklace and some fake love letters addressed to Queen Anne (Juno Temple), which would suggest an affair between her and the dastardly Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom), who has a levitating airship, might I add. All of this hubbub is set in motion by a resentful cardinal (Christoph Waltz) that wants to take the throne from King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox, the most petite looking man since Cillian Murphy), and a duplicitous beauty called Milady (Milla Jovovich).
Did I mention the airships? Well, they are designs created by Leonardo da Vinci that Buckingham steals from the three musketeers in the opening moments. They are without a doubt the oddest addition to this adaptation, and they sorta resemble those flying pirate ships out of video games like “Final Fantasy” or “Skies Of Arcadia.” Throw in another airship in later scenes and you have a few battle sequences that mimic the first “Pirates Of The Caribbean” film.
There is somewhat of a comedic angle to the film as well, though it may be questionable just how much of the humor is on purpose or not. The script has a penchant for throwing out anachronisms that offset the 17th century vibe, with characters saying more modern words like “sexy” and “fart” while using expressions like “that’s so retro.” Sorry fellas, but the record for best out-of-place saying still belongs to Jeff Bridges in “TRON: Legacy” with “You’re really throwing off my Zen thing, man.”
It almost feels weird giving a film like this a recommendation. It was an enjoyable experience, yet I acknowledge that it isn’t a particularly well-made movie by any means. Sure, the set designs are pretty spectacular, the action is exciting, and the costumes appropriately look the part of French post-Middle Ages fashion. But it does have more than a few shortcomings that would normally irk me. The script’s only shining moments are the one-liners, we spend more time with certain characters than others (seriously, what was the point of Luke Evans other than to just be the third musketeer?) and the third act is another one of those climaxes that doesn’t match up to the earlier scenes (to be honest, it almost made me drop down to perhaps a more deserved two-and-a-half star rating).
Point is: If you plan on walking into a film by Paul W.S. Anderson called “The Three Musketeers” expecting an elegant, well-written historical action film that stays close to Dumas’s tale as if it were Scripture, expect to be let down big time. And also know that you, good sir or madam, are a moron for ever holding such unrealistic expectations. Let us not forget about the fact that Anderson also did “Resident Evil.” This is certainly not “one for all” (zing!), but sometimes we all like a little bit of junk food in our diet. This like a sugar buzz with no nutritional benefits…but man, did it taste sweet.