The Three Musketeers [Blu-Ray] Paul W.S. Anderson

The Three Musketeers [Blu-Ray] Paul W.S. Anderson
One of Hollywood's most likeable, but regularly derided, purveyors of action-packed popcorn entertainment, Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Death Race 2000) demonstrates a keen commitment to improving his craft, delivering his most coherent and visually accomplished film to date. A whimsical retelling of the classic tale, The Three Musketeers is a good fit for Anderson and he takes full advantage of the period setting, letting his production and costume designers run hog wild, creating Oscar-calibre work while he stages carefully choreographed sword fights and grandiose battles, with the helpful editing restrictions of shooting in 3D. Where it serves the interest of Anderson's vision, this version hews close to the original text, particularly in term of emphasizing certain character traits like Porthos's secret side gig as a gigolo and Cardinal Richelieu's skill as a swordsman. Elsewhere, it goes right off the rails, painting Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) as a near-superheroine and dialling up the ridiculous spectacle with flying battleships, Gatling gun canons and hilarious overacting by Orlando Bloom, as antagonistic pawn the Duke of Buckingham. The basic story is essentially the same: a cocky, brash, young, aspiring Musketeer by the name of D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman, 3:10 to Yuma) reinvigorates the recently double-crossed and dispirited famous Three (Athos, Aramis and Porthos), the lot of them joining forces to stop the Cardinal's plot to engineer a war between France and England, and seize the throne by revealing the young Queen (Juno Temple, Kaboom!) as an adulteress. Along with the aforementioned over the top action set pieces, hyper-stylization and jaw-dropping design work, Anderson makes great use of 3D, giving a massive sense of depth to the many stunning sets and, being unconcerned with subtlety, has great fun employing it to enhance the immersive feel of battle. To be sure, this is another silly film by a director who just wants to entertain a crowd, but entertain it does, with every element from the score to the performances designed to enhance the film's sense of playfulness. The 3D Blu-Ray/DVD pack is loaded with special features spread across both discs. Production features on the HD disc include some words from Anderson about his take on the story and his excitement about shooting a swashbuckling adventure, interview and behind-the-scenes footage of Orlando Bloom on playing the Duke, along with richly detailed features on set design and the integration of practical and special effects, and the wonderful, opulent palaces the crew found in Bavaria to pose as the dwelling of Louis XIII (an androgynous and at least bi-curious Freddie Fox). A collection of deleted and extended scenes is well organized, but contain little of interest. However, I highly recommend watching the extended climactic duel with unfinished effects at one-point-five speed; it's hilarious. In addition to a feature commentary with "The Three Budgeteers" (Anderson and the other two primary producers), "Did You Know?" mode adds occasional factoids to the viewing experience. The DVD contains unique character profiles with behind-the-scenes footage and some surprisingly astute character observations, as well as detailed features on the gorgeous costume and production design, a multi-part look at the action choreography and fight training, and a segment on the importance of conceiving a 3D film project from the ground up, in which Anderson displays a great understanding and passion for the technology. If only someone would have jettisoned the completely unnecessary and grating comic relief of James Corden's bumbling Planchet, The Three Musketeers would be a nearly wholly enjoyable piece of easily digestible entertainment. (Alliance)