Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers must be at the top of the most filmed literary characters in Hollywood. Here we get another big screen, big-budgeted “adaptation” (in the loosest sense of the word) for the 21st century, done by Paul W.S. Anderson. With the director of Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator at the helm, expectations should not be high.
In this loud and effects-heavy version, the all too familiar tale of the musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis (played by British trio Matthew McFayden, Ray Stevenson and Luke Evans respectively) are unexpectedly teamed up with hot-headed D’Artagnan (American Logan Lerman) to foil Cardinal Richelieu (German Christopher Waltz)’s plans to control power through King Louis XIII, with the aid of Milday de Winter (Anderson’s wife Milla Jovovich) and Captain Rochefort (Dane Mads Mikkelson). Somewhere along the line the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) gets involved too.
For its pretty decent cast, this should have been an enjoyable straight-forward adventure romp. Unfortunately it turns out to be a case of too many bad guys and too little empathy with the musketeers to care. All of them are smug wise-crackers, with even the reliable character of D’Artagnan being an overly-pompous kid. That is on top of the horrible cheesy dialogue they all appear to spout in their mysteriously varying kinds of accents.
Story-wise, it’s muddled and baffling – having an airship be the focal point of a plot based in the 17th century is definitely not a good move. Yes, it is meant to be silly and light-hearted – presumably so it differs from the other adaptations – but all it does is rival the hot air balloon sequence in The Mummy Returns for shoddy CGI and far-fetched absurdness, but on a longer and more painful scale. The scene of a fleet of flying ships invading France headed by a maniacal Bloom perfectly encapsulates the film and what it is about.
At least the actors appear to be enjoying themselves; McFayden, Stevenson and Evans seem to have genuine chemistry, and Orlando Bloom hams it up as the English villain. James Corden makes an appearance as the unnecessary servant of the musketeers, providing light relief but turning out to be the irritating and unfunny butt of their jokes.
The bad guys, Christopher Waltz and Mads Mikkelsen, are far too good for this nonsense. It seems that they’re doing this for the money because they seem lacklustre in what should be meaty villainous roles. Milla Jovovich shows in the opening sequence that she’s not going to stretch her acting range too far from the Resident Evil franchise. However, the biggest let down is Logan Lerman as D’Artagnan – he’s cocky enough but disappointingly he lacks any charm or likeability.
Overall, as a family film in the mould of Pirates of the Caribbean, you can see that kids would love the fancy colourful costumes and big explosive set-pieces. Despite the fact some adults may also find it a good old-fashioned sword fighting yarn, there’s no denying the 90’s version does it so much better and is a lot less cheesy – it even does this with slightly more integrity to its source material.
So what is meant to add something to this tired story actually shows why this has come many years since the last adaption. Paul W.S. Anderson has just ensured there won’t be another all-for-one for a fair bit longer.
Watch this if you liked: The Mummy Returns, Pirates of the Caribbean.