The new Three Musketeers is a perfect example of a film that had quite literally everything going for it, but drops the ball so badly and misses the mark so completely, it is horrifying.
Before I excoriate this film, a preview:
And now, its deets:
Released October 21, 2011
Written by Alex Litvak, Andrew Davies, and (sort of) Alexandre Dumas
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Logan Lerman, Matthew McFadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich, Mads Mikkelsen, Christopher Waltz, and Juno Temple.
* * * *
I want to thrash this film, but let’s start with a summary. The story in the film resembles Dumas’ original tale, but the film was happy to replace real character development with clever lines, bouncing action, and slow motion. What a shame. So you have a charming young lad who’s an impressive fencer and who longs to be a Musketeer (really unaptly named, all things considered..). He shows up in Paris, gets in trouble immediately, and makes connections with the legendary three: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. (Don’t forget the last one, it might win you a million dollars.) Now the four have to save France.
One interesting aspect of The Three Musketeers was the steam punk elements. The zeppelin, the gear, and the gadgets, while really cool, all tended to be jarring and feel out of place. You get the feeling that the production designer and/or the screenwriter decided very deliberately to drop gadgets and gizmos in very strategically to hopefully add some ‘wow factor’. While I enjoy original steam punk ideas, these were already tired cliches very clumsily used.
Let’s start with what should have been a home run, but really contributed to the singular joylessness of The Three Musketeers: the acting. I listed every significant name of the actors in this film. There are some excellent performers there! Matthew McFadyen is a joy in most of his work, as is Orlando Bloom and even Ray Stevenson. Christopher Waltz? Remember his work in Inglorious Basterds?
Then, of course, there’s usually fun Mads Mikkelsen. And Logan Lerman isn’t usually irritating. Then there’s the lovely Juno Temple.
Almost without fail, each of these actors seemed to be having so little fun, taking so little pleasure in their too-clever lines, that life was sucked from every scene. I say “almost without fail” because Juno Temple lent emotion, spark, and weight to her scenes. But she was the only one, which is very odd.
Next, let’s talk about setting. The film, of course, was set in France during the era that Dumas set his original story. Fine. But the setting was so underused and was only there as props for stunts and action scenes. I like my settings to add proportion and to be a part of what is driving the story. The Count of Monte Cristo is a GOOD example of setting being well done.
The overall production value of The Three Musketeers, is solid enough, I suppose. Lots of explosions, loud bangs and thuds during fights, clanging swords, etc. So pretty good sound editing, all in all. And the costumes and lighting and set-pieces are all impressive and sometimes spectacular in scope. But with zero joy, zero heart, and a lifeless story, that doesn’t matter.
With all the action, clever dialogue, fast-moving plot, and the remarkable cast, you should be safe in assuming that The Three Musketeers would be a rip-roaring, swashbuckling good tie. Not so much. There is so heart and no fun in this film. It’s a joyless enterprise. Tragically so.
Content warnings: Some sensuality, plenty of violence though none of it bloody.
Writing: 2 Acting: 1 Overall: 1.5
Don’t believe me? See if my review matches those on Rotten Tomatoes.
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