The Three Musketeers is a modern retelling of Alexander Dumas' timeless swashbuckling classic. This exciting adventure stars Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & the Olympians), Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean films), Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil films) and Academy AwardŽ-winner Christoph Waltz.
With powerful special effects and explosive visuals, The Three Musketeers comes to life onscreen as Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), along with aspiring warrior, D'Artagnan (Lerman), embark on a dangerous and legendary mission across Europe to save both their King and country - "all for one and one for all." (from Summit Entertainment)
One classic story that seems to go through a redo every so many years is Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers. Director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Death Race) is the latest to take on the beloved tale. The last attempt at telling the story appeared on the screen in 1993 (with also the characters appearing in The Man In The Iron Mask later in the decade), but in 2011, it still seems a little early to be attempting it yet again. Anderson may also not be the best choice to helm such a project. He takes more of a modern approach to the style and story that films like the recent Sherlock Holmes reboot did, with a hint of A Knight's Tale mixed in. Anderson also plays the tone of the film more campy than serious. From admittedly directing Orlando Bloom to approach his role as Buckingham "like a rockstar" to using a great deal of slow motion and over-the-top action, Anderson's Musketeers are undoubtedly an acquired taste. The basic original book's plot elements and characters exist, but this version mixes things up some, adds big action sequences involving airships and changes up some of the character drama and relationships.
This version of The Three Musketeers is something of a mixed bag. If you're a big fan of the book and a stickler for details, chances are you're going to hate this more stylized, action-oriented reimagining. In some ways, it felt like a swashbuckling version of 2010's The Losers in the way that Sylvain White had portrayed that film. Here, there's a conflict between the modernized style and the time period the story is based in. It's somewhat forgivable if you're gifted with the ability to look past such things, but you'd really have to be more devoted to the action genre than the type of story Three Musketeers was conceived as. By filming in Germany (yes... he filmed a movie based in France on the streets of Germany), the film's sets are often lavish and tangible. But it's this tangibility that makes the painfully bad CGI at times all the more jarring. For starters, there's a moment where a hole is blown underneath a canal in Venice and the water begins to get sucked down in what looks like a mini whirlpool. The effect honestly doesn't look much more believable than a similar effect used in The Mummy in 1999. It's poorly done and noticeably unnatural. We then see some water flooding several rooms afterwards and it's pretty clear that it's CGI and not the real thing. Later we see the effects of these giant airships which land in open fields and never quite look like they're really there. In a day in age where some movie studios are churning out effects that can successfully merge a human with a CG background, The Three Musketeers sometimes looks like a direct-to-video movie. Thankfully, this look doesn't persist throughout the entire film. Anderson's on-location filming adds a lot of weight and reality to the film, but again, paired with the mediocre special effects, it's a double-edged sword.
Maybe partly why the movie sometimes gets that bargain bin feel is also in the acting. While it's well cast with reliable actors, the script isn't strong enough, and Anderson doesn't seem to be able to work strong enough performances out of his cast. The movie takes itself too seriously to be just stupid fun from beginning to end, and it takes itself too casually to be taken very seriously. Terry Gilliam's underrated The Brothers Grimm is a decent example of a film that had a dark premise and tone, but never took itself too seriously. The cast practically winked at the audience throughout the journey and in The Three Musketeers, Anderson and company are clearly having fun with the movie, but it never quite seems as fun as they want you to believe it is. For example, the goofiest character in the film is by far Planchet, who's played by James Corden (Gulliver's Travels). He's a bumbling idiot of sorts who seems to exist only to lug stuff around for the musketeers. He's mildly amusing the first time he shows up, but painfully out of place every other time he does. Thankfully, that's not all too often, but when they take him along for the film's climactic mission, I was unpleasantly surprised. Freddie Fox overacts as a bratty teenage king, but he does a reasonable job of maturing his character by film's end. I found myself hating him at first almost as much as I did Planchet, but he does redeem himself (unlike Planchet) before the credits roll. Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson) isn't a bad choice for D'Artagnan (although his long-haired look is), but his performance seems a bit forced and his attitude too cocky for most of the picture. Even Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale), playing the sinister Rochefort, who is a terrific actor, can't do a whole lot with what he's been given to work with. The Three Musketeers (played by Luke Evans, Matthew Macfadyen, and Ray Stevenson) and Cardinal Richelieu (played by Christoph Waltz) all seem to be stronger characters and actors overall--but they're certainly not without their cheesy moments (and even Waltz looks a bit bored with the role at times). Lastly, while the original score by Paul Haslinger (Shoot 'Em Up, Underworld) is fine and sets the tone well for the movie, you'll swear he borrowed cues from Hans Zimmer's work in Pirates of the Caribbean and Sherlock Holmes. The fact that the score often seems borrowed from other--and better--movies also adds to the sophomoric feel of The Three Musketeers.
Still, I have to admit that the movie isn't entirely unenjoyable. Anderson knows how to direct his action pretty well (even if it borrows enough from other films to feel less like his own style), and there's just enough fun in the characterization and performances to make it a decent viewing. Still, it's one of those movies you can't expect much from and one that you'd need to be in the mood for to fully enjoy. Some of the sword fighting choreography is nicely done as well, which is always more fun to watch than an action scene that just strangely turns into a whole lot of things being blown to bits. And the film ends with a setup for a sequel (if there were one to be made) that is so grandiose and gigantic that part of me felt like that story may be more interesting than the one I just watched.
The content of The Three Musketeers is about what you might expect from a PG-13 venture. There's plenty of swashbuckling violence that proves lethal for many of the soldiers and guards who dare to get in the way of the Musketeers, but very little of it is graphic at all. A duel near the end of the film gets a tad bloody as a character earns a few cuts here and there, but even the dismissal of the villain in the scene is pretty tame. There is some profanity, albeit just a little, including a few uses of the "S" word which felt especially out of place. Milla Jovovich's Milady also tends to be big on playing up her sexuality to manipulate men, but beyond some passionate flirting and busty corsets, there aren't any direct displays of sexuality.
All in all, I may have been a bit more brutal on the film than I needed to be, but in retrospect, it's easy to put my finger on more things I didn't like about the film than I did like. Still, the movie exists with the sole purpose to entertain, and for the most part it did. So, in the end, The Three Musketeers is decent escapism, but if you're accustomed to better made films with better told stories, The Three Musketeers just isn't going to slice it for you.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 3/13/12)
Deleted Scenes (14:18) - There are a dozen deleted or extended scenes. The first is an extended version of Aramis interrogating the man in the gondola for a key. The next is an extended version of Porthos chained up (there's some innuendo here where Porthos asks the guard who he has to "screw" to get out. The male guard replies, "Not me"). What's interesting is the extended scenes get a little stamp in the upper right hand corner of the screen that brand the exact relevant moment in the scene as "Extended Footage." I've never seen this before, but it's a neat way to explain to those not super familiar with the scenes just what is "new" here. The third scene is a short one where a couple of the musketeers enter Da Vinci's Vault, followed by an extended version of the king playing chess with the cardinal (1 "d*mn"). Following that is a short scene where the queen scolds the cardinal after they meet with the musketeers and then more dialog upon Buckingham's arrival. The next scene is more of Buckingham and the cardinal in the war room, followed by some deleted girl talk between the queen and Constance. We then see a throwaway snippet of Planchet complaining to the horse about the musketeers, followed by a little extra dialog between Milady and Buckingham in the tower of London. Next is a very short scene of Athos finding Porthos and Aramis lying on the bottom of the airship after the battle and he asks them why they're just lying around. All of this concludes with the twelfth and final scene, an unedited, extended fight between Rochefort and D'Artagnan. In this version. Constance saves D'Artagnan from a sniper and it ends with Athos shooting Rochefort in addition to D'Artagnan finishing him off. The cut in the finished film works much, much better.
Featurettes (9:31) - These are a series of small teasers for "Access: Three Musketeers," broken down into four parts, totalling up under ten minutes. Each one just touches on their respective topics--"Paul W.S. Anderson's Musketeers," "Orlando Bloom Takes on the Duke," "17th Century Air Travel" and "Uncovering France In Germany"--but it is a little annoying that this forces you to watch the in-movie special feature option "Access: Three Musketeers" if you want to see everything. (1 "a" word, 1 "d*mned")
Access: Three Musketeers (3:12) - This is a full-length interactive extras track that plays as a menu overtop the movie while you watch it. You can select from six different topics or feature all of them at once, including "Ultimate Access," "Cast and Crew," "Achieving The Look," "17th Century Action," "Musketeer Fight Meter" and "Did You Know?" It does allow you to skip ahead to the next extra, but it's still kind of annoying that you can't watch them outside of the feature film. The making-of and character videos are the best part of this bonus feature.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 3/12/12)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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