The Three Musketeers (2011)

Posted on November 6, 2013

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Let me begin by saying that I have read a translation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel.

I adore the 1973 and 1974 films, starring Michael York, Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay, Richard Chamberlain, and Christopher Lee (I’m not as fond of the 1989 The Return of the Musketeers, or the 2004 The Lady Musketeer). Seriously: Christopher Lee as Rochefort? You can’t top that.

I took the 1993 Disney version with Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O’Donnell, Oliver Platt, and Tim Curry for what it was. Generally speaking, I enjoy it. Platt’s relish of his role as Porthos is obvious. Michael Wincott was a fantastic Rochefort, albeit no Christopher Lee. Rebecca De Mornay looked a little out of place in a costume drama, but Gabrielle Anwar and Julie Delpy were terrific. In retrospect, Chris O’Donnell was not as bad as people said back then.

 Probably the less said about the 2001 The Musketeer, the better.

 Which brings us to 2011.

Short Version

It wasn’t that bad.

Long Version

I often complain, in these reviews, that marketing gave away too much, or didn’t portray the movie properly. I’ve also made the comment that Hollywood marketing understands subtlety the way dogs understand door knobs, but let’s move on.

In the case of 2011’s The Three Musketeers, I thought the marketing nailed it. We were going to get an over-the-top, steampunk, swashbuckling, action movie. Sure enough, that’s what this is.

The movie only loosely follows Dumas’ story.

In the opening, Athos (Michael Macfadyen, who we knew from MI-5 and Death at a Funeral, and now Ripper Street) is on a spy mission in Venice with Aramis (Luke Evans), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich).

Milady betrays them to the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). So when D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) arrives in Paris, he finds the Musketeers in disgrace for their failure. Having already run afoul of Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen, from Casino Royale and, now, the Hannibal TV series), D’Artagnan picks a fight with all three of our Musketeers.

They have a brawl with the Cardinal’s guards, as you would expect, which King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) and Queen Anne (Juno Temple) find amusing. This arouses the ire of Cardinal Richelieu (Christopher Waltz, from Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained).

D’Artagnan hires a servant, Planchet (James Corden), meets Constance (Gabriella Wilde), and is soon racing to recover Queen Anne’s jewels from the Duke of Buckingham.

Flying warships! Clockwork traps! Gadgets! 18th Century scuba diving in Venetian canals!

Yes, those things are ludicrous, but thanks to the marketing, I was expecting them. I knew before I bought my ticket that I should not expect a movie loyal to the book.

If you hated it, or hate the idea of it, don’t worry. It bombed abysmally at the box office, only making about a ninth of its budget on opening weekend.

Why?

Well, first of all, none of the protagonists are particularly famous. There is little box office draw there. That’s too bad, because they vary from pretty good (Logan Lerman) to fantastic (Macfadyen, Evans, Stevenson).

All the big money went to bad guys (Christopher Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich). Bad guys are important, but they aren’t on screen as much. Milla basically plays an 18th Century version of her character from Resident Evil, all skin-tight bodysuits and ass-kicking (hardly surprising, considering Paul W.S. Anderson directed both). It would have been nice to see her get something more to do.

Second, Orlando Bloom is awful. He’s just terrible. He’s a mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash of a Duke of Buckingham. Simon Ward’s Duke of Buckingham was a far more interesting and multi-layered character.

Bloom’s performance is poorly thought out, but you have to remember that he’s freaking Legolas to legions of fans. If you put him on the poster, they want to see him. Although he is on screen more than the 1973 character, he’s still a minor character in this film. That had to disappoint people and start some bad word of mouth.

By the way, there is a standout performance in a supporting role. James Corden as Planchet is absolutely spot-on. As a big fan of Roy Kinnear in general, I thought Corden had big shoes to fill. He did a terrific job. I just wish the film had been a better spotlight for his talent.

There is nothing wrong with the direction. Paul W.S. Anderson is no Richard Lester, but then Lester was one-of-a-kind.

The swordplay is not as over-the-top as it was in 2001, but it is updated to modern expectations.

Conclusion

If you can come to this film expecting to see a steampunk swashbuckler rather than a rigorous adaptation of Dumas’ novel, I think you will have fun.

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Posted in: Movies