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The Three Musketeers

October 22, 2011
The Three Musketeers

There are so very, very many things wrong with The Three Musketeers that it’s difficult to know where to start. Luckily, I have this little bit of promotional copy, here: “Based on the legendary novel by Alexander Dumas”. Skipping over the fact that the man’s name is Alexandre, I would like to assure screenwriters Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies that Les Trois Mousquetaires is, in fact, quite real. More than that, it’s actually an excellent story, even translated from its original French. Maybe some day they might try reading it.

Actually, the basic story does at least manage to hit most of the usual points that other cinematic adaptations do. And, of course, it makes the usual mistake of treating “the three musketeers” as an establishment within the story itself, rather than just three particular comrades-in-arms among many in the Musketeers of the Guard with whose fortunes the young Gascon noble — strike that, he’s just a poor sod with a chip on his shoulder now — d’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) finds his own entwined. But this time Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (Matthew Macfayden, Ray Stevenson, and Luke Evans, respectively) form an elite paramilitary squad in the service of the young King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox).

Louis was indeed young, but here he’s a moronic, ineffectual fop more concerned with current fashion than any affair of state. We’re told that Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) wants to seize power, but by all accounts he has it all already. Still, he avails himself of the services of Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) — who evidently no longer merits her given name of Clarick — to undertake all manner of acrobatic catburglary.

In particular, she is to steal a diamond necklace from Queen Anne (Juno Temple) and to make sure it is later found in the possession of the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom), making the King believe in an affair between the two and sparking an international incident. Of course, in the novel there actually was an affair going on and the queen really did give the duke the necklace, but evidently Davies and Litvak believe their audience to be incapable of processing anything so complicated.

Oh, yes: and for some reason Buckingham has an airship. Which was designed by Leonardo da Vinci. And which looks exactly like a seventeenth-century galleon. But this is merely the most spectacular of all the asinine clockworks on display.

Besides the insults to the source material, to basic physics, and to the audience’s higher brain function — anything beyond “ooh, pretty” — there are the plot holes you could fly one of Buckingham’s airships through. People magically suss out the most baroque plots, and yet seem too stupid to act on their knowledge. Milady leaves obvious evidence of her burglary laying about, which conveniently vanishes when the camera’s back is turned. French musketeers in disguise have no accent to give them away to English armies.

Even where the story hangs together, it’s ham-handedly slapped together. The exposition is all but spoken aloud, providing the thinnest of excuses to string us along until the next fight, or shot down one of the actresses’ bodices. I’ve never known Paul W. S. Anderson to be a great director by any stretch of the imagination, but when he steps out beyond his video game/horror bailiwick he’s absolutely awful.

Incidentally, I managed to catch a 2D showing. As awful as this was I can only imagine how chaotic and disorganized it could be in 3D.

Worth It: not at all.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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