Monday, October 17, 2011

New Release Review: The Three Musketeers (Paul W. S Anderson, 2011)

In this 2011 update of Alexander Dumas’ classic tale, Paul W. S Anderson (responsible for the Resident Evil series, Alien vs. Predator and Death Race) is the man at the helm. He brings his muse (well, his wife apparently), Milla Jovovich, back again for this overblown 3D action adventure that is as abysmal as anything I have seen this year.

This messy, convoluted script isn’t even worth delving into. But all you need to know is that the three legendary rouge musketeers, Athos (Matthew Macfayden), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans) are joined by a hotheaded upstart named D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), who has ridden into Paris seeking to make a name for himself. Instead he picks fights with Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen), the leader of Cardinal Richelieu’s (Christoph Waltz) private guard, and each of the musketeers.

Having been betrayed by Milady de Winter (Jovovich) during a Venetian mission to steal Leonardo Da Vinci’s plans for an airship, the musketeers are unemployed and useless. But fueled by a desire to seize the French throne, Richelieu sets plans in motion to have France, ruled by King Louis XIII (Feddie Fox) go to war with England, ruled by the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). In order to reclaim a stolen diamond necklace and halt the escalation into war, D’Artagnan and the musketeers are called to action, pitted against Milady and a ruthless Rochefort.

The Three Musketeers gets a tick for lavish production values and startling costuming (if ten too many jokes about clothes) because the film does look great. Scenes of the CGI air ships battling one another and then crash landing are quite impressive. There were plenty of laughs (maybe they were scoffs) from the audience at the overblown cheesiness of the latter. Some of the fight sequences were also a bit of fun. Unashamedly slapstick and cartoonish in quality, the unnecessary addition of 3D did make them somewhat nauseating, and if you think about it, they often result in nothing. Also, the film is never serious enough to warrant any feelings of tension, and in moments that are supposed to be emotionally involving, Paul W. S. Anderson resorts to slow motion stunts and conveniences. There are countless 3D gimmicks thrown in too, just to remind viewers they paid an extra four dollars.

Matthew Macfayden (Death at a Funeral and Pride and Prejudice) is usually pretty solid, but he just looks bored here and spends the entire film pouting and dwelling on Milady’s early betrayal. Milla Jovovich bats her eyelashes at everyone, pulls objects out of her cleavage, double and triple crosses everyone and performs moves that her character in the Resident Evil films would be happy to pull off. Where has Orlando Bloom been? Not improving his acting, it seems. He is woeful as Lord Buckingham, as suave as he is camp, with forced, and poorly timed delivery. Speaking of camp, how bout Freddie Fox and his assortment of getups?

None of the other performers are memorable, if only for making me cringe when I recognized their involvement. Ray Stevenson (who was great in HBO’s Rome and has been awful in everything ever since), Christoph Waltz (playing another slimy villain - that makes it three times this year), Mads Mikkelsen (who many will know, having seen the early films of Nicholas Winding Refn, can actually act) and Til Schweiger (who did…something) are the most notable. Also preposterous is the fact that Macfayden, Stevenson and Evans are all speaking with British accents, while Logan Lerman continues to speak with his American one.

The writers know they have built something ridiculous. I mean, how could they not? But there is no obvious place to start when picking it apart. Could it be the ridiculously contrived manner that D’artagnan bands with the legendary musketeers? Could it be practically every exchange between King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu? Could it be the fact that a violent, explosion-riddled assault on the Tower of London was commandeered with the knowledge that the prize – a diamond necklace that gets thrown around and incredibly survives shiny and in one piece – wasn’t even there? Could it be the fact that during an airborne hostage situation, D’Artagnan and the musketeers are given sixty seconds to come up with a plan before Rochefort calls “times up”? Seriously, it’s beyond outrageous. 

Though the film is preposterous, though its cheap attempts at humour (James Cordon provides a couple of laughs as a portly servant) almost always fail, and though it is an insult to anyone who admires the work of Alexander Dumas, I can’t say I was bored. Sure, it seems to go on forever, and there is an opening for a sequel, but I still enjoyed myself more than in the most recent Pirates installment. This film literally becomes Pirates in the air anyway. The Three Musketeers also borders on being ‘so bad it’s fun’. This doesn’t warrant a better grade than equally mediocre films, but it’s just a minor compliment. There will be plenty of people seeking out easy holiday viewing - if it lasts that long – and they will be moderately entertained, I’m sure.

My Rating: ★ (D-)


  1. I really did think this sucked as bad as you say it was but-
    1) I quite liked Pirates, so totally disagree on that. Though yes, I did have fleeting images of Pirates with Orlando Bloom being there in a ship and all (btw this film is another shining example of how Bloom should only act as Legolas and not do anything else).

    2) About the accent thing, I actually give this film points. This is my problem with Hollywood in general. Whenever they make a film which is not set in an English-speaking country (not ones with Asian people but still), everyone is friggin' British. I mean have you ever seen a film in which the Greek Gods weren't British? What's the point? Technically none of them should be speaking in English eitherways, who cares about the accent? There is a scene in this film somewhere when someone, I think D'Artagnan, tells another person to speak in French and they continue talking in English and I'm like "Uhm..."

    3) I liked Juno Temple sort of, just wanted to say that. Also Lerman's clothes, which were very cool.

    Nice review for a terrible film.

  2. Ah. Paul W.S Anderson. Now it makes sense.

    I saw a preview for this one for the first time this weekend and I have to say, it looked like an elongated Saturday Night Live spoof. Seriously, films are STILL ripping off "The Matrix?" My God, let it end!!!

  3. Oh boy. And to think, I actually liked Event Horizon which was the only good thing that Paul W.S. Anderson did.

  4. @ Nikhat - I didn't even recognise Juno Temple haha. Bloom was terrible, and he seems incapable of doing anything unless its some sort of period film and he has to wear a big hat. I just thought the accents were really inconsistent, and for a film predominantly set in France, it was just silly. This was about 40 minutes shorter than POTC (thankfully), so I was amused by how terrible it was and forgot to get bored. In the latter, I had no such pleasure.

    @ Nick - Yeah, he might have jumped over Bay as my least favourite director in Hollywood. I saw a trailer too, before Captain America I think, and we all guffawed by how bad it looked. It is!

    @ I haven't seen that. But i did catch a couple of the Resident Evil films - and I had no idea he directed Alien vs. Predator until I looked him up. At least it was better than AVP: Requiem haha.

  5. I'm not looking forward to this .... at all.

  6. I attended a screening. You too?

    Low, low, low expectations my friend and you may have a laugh or two, no maybe once.

  7. See, as I was reading your synopsis of the plot, my mind started going 'blerhh......' That's how convoluted it sounds. So many films this year that I'd rather just skip altogether!

  8. Yeah, you got it. That was a simplified plot, too. It was all over the place. Don't bother with it!

  9. I wanted big and ludicrous and silly, with swords and airships. That's pretty much what I got. Still, I'm not surprised one bit that just about everybody hates this film. Good review Andy. Check out mine when you get a chance.

  10. Sometimes it's a bit of fun to watch something silly - but something as uninspired and dumb as this film was an insult. The plot was near-incomprehensibe and to turn this classic Dumas tale into a camp, air-headed, bullet-time endeavour was was a waste of much time and money.