REVIEW: The Three Musketeers
Like most Americans, I learned about Alexander Dumas’ Three Musketeers from their countless adaptations on screen and in print. For me, it was probably Sheldon Mayer’s Three Mouseketeers reprints along with the rallying cry of “One for all, and all for one” shouted by just about every cartoon, sitcom and prime time drama at one point or another. Sure, there was the delightful two film adaptation made by Ilya Salkind that was instrumental in their approach to Superman the Movie and my kids grew up adoring the somewhat boiled down, tongue-slightly-in-cheek version from Disney with a great cast (Oliver Platt, Kiefer Sutherland, Tim Curry, etc.). It wasn’t until last year that I actually read the book in its entirety and it was a revelation.
Billed as a modern retelling, The Three Musketeers from Summit Entertainment, was therefore eagerly awaited. It had been over a decade since the Disney film so the time must have felt right and director Paul W.S. Anderson, certainly knew how to make commercial fare to appeal to today’s younger audiences. Screenwriter Alex Litvak certainly knows how to handle action given his work on Predators and the casting sounded right: Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) versus Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) and Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen). There was the sex appeal of Milady (Milla Jovovich) and her would-be lover Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom).
The problem seems to be that Anderson and Litvak forgot to read the novel and worked from people’s perceptions of the characters and settings. As a result, the movie is a loud, vapid mess that should be ashamed of itself. This may explain why the worldwide take stalled at around $132,249,913.
Rather than focus on the deep characterizations of the Musketeers and the overall power struggle between Richelieu and King Louis (Freddie Fox), they chucked all that for the plans for an airship designed by Leonardo Da Vinci that would alter the balance of power in Europe.
The movie is visually stunning with terrific sets and costumes evoking the sense of Europe in the 17th Century. And once you get past your revulsion of adding the unnecessary airship, the special effects are quite nicely done.
I wish as much attention was given to the actual characterizations so the Musketeers had some depth to them. The humor, what there is of it, falls flat. Instead, we got as much characterization here as Anderson seems comfortable with given his Resident Evil movies. The over-the-top plot devices such as the booby traps may give Jovovich something to do as audiences expect their female characters to do, but it’s all so ridiculously implausible that it robs the movie of any gravitas.
Thankfully, the transfer to Blu-ray appears faultless so if you enjoy empty spectacle, then you’re going to love watching this at home. The sound is as matchless so every boom will rattle your windows.
The film is available in a combo pack that boasts the 3-D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and standard DVD discs. There are deleted and extended scenes (14:18) in all formats along with Paul W.S. Anderson’s Musketeers (2:29), short featurettes with the cast and crew; Orlando Bloom Takes on the Duke (1:59); a look at 17th Century Air Travel (2:20); and, Uncovering France in Germany (2:14).
There’s a fine audio commentary with Anderson and Producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer. They all felt that in a world familiar with The Matrix, something from centuries earlier needed to be spruced up for modern audiences (to which I say feh). There’s a nice Picture in Picture option with tons of additional information, although some of it is culled from the featurettes. Additionally you can enjoy the text-based trivia and interview snippets all of which bloats the viewing experience to a mind-numbing 2:21.