The Three Musketeers, from Director Paul W.S Anderson, was my choice for the ‘big, stupid movie of the week’, and it admirably lived up to to that label. I’m always reluctant to watch the grand, Hollywood adaptations of literary classics as, like many others who have enjoyed the stories, I feel uncomfortable with the liberties taken. Equally however, it’s always interesting to analyse why such amendments have been made in line with the expectations of the target audience.
The story is originally based on the novel Les Trois Mousquetaires from Alexandre Dumas, and the film loosely follows the plot, give or take a few deaths. The movie opens mid-mission, introducing the three Musketeers, Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), Aramis (Luke Evans), Milady De Winter (Milla Jovovich) and dastardly English villain, the Duke of Buckinham (Orlando Bloom) who rocks up to foil the mission. Fast forward a year, and we’re introduced to a young man named d’Artagnan (Logan Lerman). D’Artagnan travels to Paris to join the Musketeer guards but upon his arrival, his brash actions rouse the disgraced musketeers to a duel. Before the fight can commence, they are surrounded by the Cardinal’s guards and must unite to fight their way out. This victory re-establishes the musketeers in the eyes of the public, and subsequently, the royalty. Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz), hungry for power and exasperated by the young Monarch he must serve, devises a plot to engulf France in a war with England, where, in the chaos, he can claim the throne for himself. The musketeers are trusted to overthrow the plot, and defeat the Cardinal’s agents, Milady De Winter and Rochefort.
The Three Musketeers can only be described as a painfully average film. With blockbusters, the audience comes to expect grand spectacle and lavish set-pieces (and Musketeers delivers on both counts), however, to really make a film of this calibre stand out, there needs to be something extra special on the human level. Whether it be a sharply written script, or a charismatic performance from the lead actors, these elements have the potential to raise the film from the realm of the mundane to something that has a little extra substance. The Three Musketeers alas, does not contain any such substance. It is a glamourised retelling of the Musketeer story that revels in the opportunity to play with swords. The action is predictable, and the choreography is wholly unoriginal. The scenes of time-mapped swordplay are hugely reminiscent (if not just ripped off) from 300, and there is very little ‘fun’ in the spectacle – something that films like Pirates of the Caribbean excel in.
As usual, the French (read: not American) setting seems to give license to populate the cast with ‘Europeans’ (they’re the same thing right?) although somehow, among the cast of multi-national talent, not a single French actor can be found. The titular Musketeers hail from England, Wales and Ireland respectively and the French royalty are characterised by sounding like characters from The Queen. The acting is nothing special, and the Englishness soon starts to grate. Lerman is surprisingly effective as the lead, however his talents are dulled when performing alongside his love interest Gabriella Wilde, whose beauty does not distract us from her substandard and annoying performance. The final insult however is the inclusion of alleged English comedian, James Corden, who has a small role as Planchet, the servant and ‘comic relief’ which only served to give me violent thoughts.
The Three Musketeers is essentially a mixed bag that only serves to produce a very average film. In all facets of its execution, there are positives and negatives but no consistent strong positive that you can hold on to throughout the duration. Right now, there are few similar blockbuster films, so if that’s what you crave it may be your only choice, but don’t expect to be wowed.