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The Three Musketeers

2011 | 110 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

The Three Musketeers


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Theatrical release date

 21 October, 2011
 12 October, 2011

Country of origin

 United States

Technical aspects

3D (native)

Box office




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Screenshots from The Three Musketeers Blu-ray

The Three Musketeers Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, October 20, 2011

Alexandre Dumas’s novel “The Three Musketeers” has been adapted for the big screen countless times, finding great success (Richard Lester’s 1973 romp with Oliver Reed) and utter failure (2001’s martial arts turkey, “The Musketeer”) on its journey to find the preeminent cinematic incarnation that does justice to the original text while loading the frame with all sorts of swashbuckling antics. Director Paul W.S. Anderson falls short of sword-whooshing glory, but he certainly slaps together a pretty picture. His take on “The Three Musketeers” is a highly produced adventure that’s eager to please; unfortunately, every time the feature opens its mouth, disaster strikes, again confirming Anderson’s place as one of the most disappointing filmmakers working today. A feast for the eyes, this “Three Musketeers” is better seen than heard.

In 17th century France, trouble is brewing as Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) makes secretive plans to take control of the nation with Buckingham (Orlando Bloom), an arrogant captain who’s built himself a War Machine -- a flying ship constructed using plans stolen from Da Vinci’s vault. With King Louis (Freddie Fox) unaware of such chicanery, the fate of Europe lies in the hands of Athos (Matthew Macfayden), Aramis (Luke Evans), and Porthos (Ray Stevenson), three fallen musketeers who’ve given up their heroic ways after being deceived by the treacherous Milady (Milla Jovovich). Arriving in town is D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), an overconfident boy looking to make his mark as a musketeer. Having triggered the wrath of Richelieu’s enforcer Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen), D’Artagnan falls into the company of the musketeers, inspiring them to take up arms and thwart Buckingham’s plan of supremacy, also hoping to keep Milady under control as she cozies up to all sides to retrieve a priceless diamond necklace.

I’ve been hard on Anderson during his career, much to the irritation of his fanbase. Although the director hit a few appealing genre highlights with the aggressive “Event Horizon” and the junky video game adaptation, “Resident Evil,” Anderson’s been handed quite a few key franchises (“Aliens vs. Predator,” “Death Race”) that he’s turned into dust, even taking the sting out of the “Evil” series with ruinous sequels. Despite his passion for cartoon entertainment, there’s little evidence that suggests Anderson is a capable storyteller. “The Three Musketeers” is yet another dud to be tossed on a growing pile, another waste of a perfectly entertaining premise.

Although painful to endure at times, this take on “The Three Musketeers” is undeniably impressive in terms of sheer visual lavishness. Employing plush European locations (including towering castles and museums) while fitting the cast for extraordinary costumes of varying regality (tremendous work from designer Pierre-Yves Gayraud), the feature is utterly captivating in small doses, constructing a world of distinct heroes and villains, creating that irresistible adventure feel that instantly enlivens the material. It gives the cast something significant to play with, blending pronounced characterizations with a widescreen sweep. “Three Musketeers” is lovely to look at, and that’s exactly what Anderson is aiming for at times, employing slow-mo to pore over the details of the set design and the movements of the cast. It’s this attention to the metal guts of machines and the flip of fabrics that keeps the picture at least mildly compelling, giving the movie a distinct 2011 execution (coaxed along by 3D cinematography) to reinvent a tale that’s 167 years old.

While the technical achievements are impressive, the script (credited to Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies) is less inspiring, arranging a series of schemes and threats between too many characters competing for limited screentime. The dialogue offers deadly banter (sold with a curious range of unexplained accents) and inconsequential acts of intimidation, also including screen death in the form of musketeer servant Planchet, a role of comedy relief that’s pure torture to endure, performed shrilly by James Corden. At one point, the character is blasted in the face with bird excrement, which is a good indicator of the picture’s sense of humor. The script is determined to weave together a community of conniving players, each with something valuable to add to the central swirl of deception, but that’s asking quite of bit of these actors, with Bloom horrifically miscast as the debonair muscle of the overthrow, while Jovovich is far too breathy and blank to be playing a lady of extraordinary charisma and tightly corseted temptation. The ensemble is better suited for Anderson’s theme park stunt show aesthetic, which collects all manner of derring-do involving swords and guns into several highly choreographed sequences of action explosion.

The final battle of “The Three Musketeers” takes to the sky, gifting Anderson a chance to ruin the fun by moving the battle to the stagnancy of a greenscreen stage, turning high-flying merriment into noise pollution with a soggy climax featuring flying ships and rooftop duels. The feature’s convincing matinee charms are plasticized for the big finale, which would be a greater disappointment had the rest of the effort been extraordinary. Instead, the obese conclusion merely dents an already mediocre production. “The Three Musketeers” isn’t the worst picture Anderson has made in the last decade, but it’s depressingly representative of his work -- he’s always eager to dazzle, but clueless on how to engage.

Starring: Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Milla Jovovich, Luke Evans, Christian Oliver
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

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