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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Modern day "reinterpretations" of classic novels and films is nothing new. It seems that for every generation, there's a film version of some Shakespeare play, a Jane Austen novel, some new director's take on Robin Hood, and so on and so on. And usually, the theme is to tone down whatever subtext and subtlety the source material had and a up the AWESOME and the EXPLOSION factor. Such is the case with The Three Musketeers, the new, whizbang, hack and slash epic from schlock-meister Paul WS Anderson. The trailers would have you believe that this is a loud, over the top, exciting romp around renaissance period Europe, but there is one factor that should not be overlooked should you make the mistake of seeing this film. Brainless. The Three Musketeers, for all its spectacle (such as it is), is just a dumb as rocks, cliched as hell, boring action movie. Though there is something to be said about the "wink wink" nature that some of the people involved are taking, the fact remains that this 21st century update of Alexander Dumas' classic adventure novel is completely unnecessary and forgettable.

This is the last time we ever do Absinthe again, Aramis!

It's a period of conflict in Europe, with France in serious danger of being destroyed from all sides by... you know, that's actually not really made clear. To help combat these threats, the king employs musketeers, who are pretty much secret agents adept at death dealing and blowing shit up. James Bonds for the DaVinci crowd, if you will. When a plot to overthrow France from within, orchestrated by the devious Cardinal Richeliu, the sultry and deadly Milady, and the completely ridiculous Buckingham, is uncovered, the three musketeers in question, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, team up with the young D'Artagnan to stop it. This leads to a lot of of loud, uninteresting sword play, airship battles (???), and... more sword play.

The movie is an adaption of Dumas' work, and I use the word adaptation very loosely. To call this a faithful adaption is an affront to faithful adaptations the world over. The only thing the film borrows from Dumas' novel are the character names, and the setting. I don't remember anything in the novel about flying war galleys or the French king's fashion woes. The plot moves incredibly quickly, giving us almost no time to learn anything about the characters or develop any sort of tangible relationship with them. Even worse, what character development there is focuses on the wrong people. There is a whole twenty minute stretch where all we see is Richeliu, Milady, and Buckingham scheming, mixed in with some allegedly comedic scenes where the king just acts stupid, with not even a mention of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. That's right. In a movie called The Three Musketeers, the three musketeers are the least developed characters.


If anything remotely salvages the movie, it's some of the performances. Matthew Macfayden, Ray Stevenson, and Luke Evans all display winning chemistry and real personality as Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. They are so good together that you just wish you could watch of movie consisting only of them bickering with each other, because that would be sooooooo much better than what you got here.

Orlando Bloom and Christoph Waltz also do fine work here but for different reasons. While Macfayden, Stevenson, and Evans are playing it straight, Bloom and Waltz go the complete opposite direction and ham this shit up! They are absurd in this movie, especially Bloom, who delivers his lines as if he's doing the most over the top parody of Shakespeare since... I don't know. They clearly realized how stupid this movie is, and decided to just have fun with it. And more power to them, because that was what was needed for this!

Just look at how dashed clever I'm being!

Logan Lerman as D'Artagnan, on the other hand, is unfathomably awful!! I know for a fact that Lerman can do excellent work, so to see him squander this character with painful attempts at smarminess and gravity is just disconcerting, especially when you realize that the character of D'Artagnan is actually one of the better written characters.

Ditto for Milla Jovovich, who just does her usual thing. That is to say, relying on her beauty to get by and not really attempting anything resembling drama. Now this particular critic is one who doesn't really think to highly of Mrs. Jovovich's looks, so I really hated her in this!

Mads Mikkelson replays Le Chiffre again... and that's about it. Some people do well here, and their effort is apparent. Others do terribly. An all around mixed bag!

I don't really know what to say here. There is just so much wrong with this movie, and all those bad things become so much more apparent when you realize that there are some good ideas here. Instead of the traditional soldiers that other adaptations have painted them as, this version displays the musketeers as more of a black ops team, sneaking into a fortress, quietly and ruthlessly taking out the opposition as they go. And it's awesome! Unfortunately, this is only seen in the first 10 minutes of the flick. After that, it's back to just swinging swords around and blowing shit up! That would be fine, but the sword play is really dull. I commend the actors for doing all their own fighting and all, but it's just not exciting. It's just the four of them hopping around, dicing away at hordes of clueless, witless henchmen. And it's all completely bloodless, despite the fact that there are clear shots of stabbing and throat slicing and the like. I get that the movie is going for cartoony, but it toes the line a little too much.

Also, what the hell is with the captions that introduce everyone? That is just dumb!

Another thing that the flick royally screws up is a sense of the period. Ok, yes, I know it's not supposed to be realistic at all. There weren't any zeppelins of death 17th century France, but there weren't Americans either. The accents are all over the place here, with some doing British, some doing German, and some doing good old fashioned Yankee. And there's the dialogue, which is a laughable combo of 17th century prose with some elements of 21st century slang, as when someone utters the words "took a dump" in the same scene as some powerful monologue about bravery and love.

But the main problem is that The Three Musketeers didn't make me happy, nor did it make me angry. I didn't have fun, but I didn't have a bad experience either. I didn't feel anything about this movie. It elicited zero emotion out of me, and that, loyal readers, is the worst kind of movie, in my opinion. This is not the worst adaption of Dumas' book. The crown goes to the god-awful The Musketeer from a couple years back, but this one is close. The Three Musketeers has good ideas, and almost sees them through, but it is ultimately squandered by multiple bad decisions from everyone involved. I can't in good consciousness recommend this piece of crap to anyone. Stick to the book!

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