The Three Musketeers

a film by Paul W. S. Anderson

This umpteenth adaptation of the most famous of Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckling novels may not be what most would call great art, and there is more than a strong possibility of it making a great number of critical worst of the year lists, and it is riddled with problematic holes in both screenplay and performance, but when all the smoke clears and all the sword fights and airship battles and palace chess games and secret trap doors are played out and closed down, this Steampunk-inspired version of the story of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and their young friend D'Artagnan, is great fun indeed.

Paul W. S. Anderson's Three Musketeers, certainly may not be the best Musketeer adaptation ever produced (the 1973 Richard Lester version takes that particular cake) but this free-for-all rendition of the Dumas book, with its cocksure swagger and arrogant posture, is a bold, bravura take on the classic. Once one gets past some of the sillier dialogue, and the semi-lead performance of whippersnapperish Logan Lerman as equally whippersnapperish D'Artagnan (my God, it's a young Chris O'Donnell all over again!), one can really begin to enjoy this fanciful frappe of a film. The movie, with its succulent set pieces, is a wonder to watch, and its cast, save for the aforementioned boy toy tween heartthrob, play all their parts to the best of their swashbuckling abilities.

Starring Matthew Macfayden, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson as the titular trio, Oscar winner Christoph Waltz as the conniving Cardinal Richelieu, Mads Mikkelsen as brazen bully Rochefort, Freddie Fox and Juno Temple as the teenage King Louis XIII and Queen Anne, Orlando Bloom as the dandy and dastardly Lord Buckingham, and the director's wife Milla Jovovich as the treacherously beautiful and dangerously lithesome Milady de Winter, The Three Musketeers is a funny, silly, romp of an adventure story that may indeed play fast and loose with Dumas' original, but pulls it off in its own special audacious manner. And even the 3D, a technology that more oft than not seems rather superfluous, plays its own reasonably exciting part in the whole shebang.

I may be quite alone in my fervent, and possibly unwarranted liking of this movie - a lone favourable voice shouting perhaps in vain, into a vast sea of dissenting criticism - but I truly see no major flaws in its making. Yes, the dialogue can get a bit silly, but no sillier than in any of the Errol Flynn swashbucklers of old (though those films had the advantage of starring Errol Flynn). And yes, Lerman's D'Artagnan is an insufferable nitwit, but luckily the rest of the cast outshines him, making his annoyances of lesser consequence. And yes, if one is not attuned to the aesthetics of steampunk, one could quickly become tired of the out-of-time and out-of-perspective doo-daddlings of a film supposedly set in the 17th Century. But to those naysayers, I just shrug and move on.

No, every film cannot be a Renoir or a Rossellini - even this film snob knows that - and if one were to let oneself go, one could really like a film that is lesser than what it probably should be. One could just sit back and relax and become enthralled in a movie with action, intrigue, kick-ass flying warships and plenty of sexy skullduggery - even if it doesn't delve any deeper than it's three-dimensional surface. One could indeed quite enjoy a movie as frivolous and fun-loving as this latest version of The Three Musketeers. There's no shame in that. No shame at all. [10/26/11]