Published Oct 20, 2011Considering that Alexandre Dumas's 1844 adventure novel, The Three Musketeers, has been adapted in just about every conceivable way― endless films, television shows, videogames, animations and even porn ― it begs the question: "What exactly does director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator, Death Race, Event Horizon) have to say about the novel that hasn't been said before with more panache?"
It appears that the answer is "very little," and the loose, playful handling of the much darker source material suggests that broad notions of romanticized male bonding, textual interpretations and intentions are of far less significance than battle sequences, sexy corsets, snarky one-liners and indestructible videogame heroines.
Superficially, the explicit plot points and character archetypes are apparent, with the poor D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) getting in a pissing match with Rochefort (Mads Mikkelson) over an insulted horse on his way to meet the titular Musketeers, all three of whom he inadvertently angers while fleeing through Paris. A later duel bonds the four, bringing them to Louis XIII's (Freddie Fox) palace where they are enlisted in a quest to retrieve the Queen's (Juno Temple) jewels from the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) in order to defend her honour, lest her infidelities be revealed.
The distinction is that instead of the Queen being an outright slut and the Duke of Buckingham winding up dead at the hands of a later decapitated Milady (Milla Jovovich), it's all handled through a vague series of misunderstandings and vault heists, wherein Milady jumps through booby traps and dangles from the ceiling with Bond-esque contraptions. There's also a giant airship to add to the visual component, reinforcing the goofy tone and occasional gag about bird poo.
In taking away many of the murders and sexual shenanigans, Anderson's adaptation ultimately has a wider accessibility to a younger, less discerning audience. And since the actual plot is convoluted and occasionally doesn't even make sense ― is stealing jewels and writing pardons really the best way for the Cardinal (Christoph Waltz) to gain power over France? ― the appeal is purely visceral.
In that manner, The Three Musketeers actually works, in a popcorn sense, having a naturally propulsive nature and an endless array of cleverly conceived battles. Sure, the cheesy slow motion and puerile handling of character interchanges are exactly what one might expect if the director of Mortal Kombat handled a period piece, but if you turn your brain off and ignore the utter stupidity of the conflicting array of subplots, the experience of watching this overt stab at a new franchise is kind of fun. (Alliance)