The Three Musketeers is bright, beautiful and smarter than it looks

The Three Musketeers – 2011

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stephenson, Luke Evans, Mads Mikkelson, James Corden, Juno Temple, Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz, Gabriella Wilde, Freddie Fox
Screenplay by  Andrew Davies and Alex Litvak based on The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers is one of the more ridiculous films I have seen in the last year.  Through all of its flying ships, explosions, shrapnel and swordplay, there is a cleverness that is more than a movie like this usually displays.  Part of this is the influence of co-writer Andrew Davies.  Davies background includes both Bridget Jones films,  Circle of  Friends , and about a million British television serials.  The movie is rife with paths that have been rode hard and put away wet, but the acting is fun and fresh, with the overall appearance of those who are having the time of their lives.  There are some good lines, too.

“Afraid to face me in a fair fight?”

“No, I just don’t fight fair.”

This movie would be really easy to dismiss.  It should be just as easy to like.  Having no expectations definitely helped my acceptance.  The movie was savaged by critics, and while it did really well overseas, made a poor showing in the States.  No matter; each one of its $75 million looks like it made it to the screen.  Visually crisp direction, with an appropriate amount of flourish, The Three Musketeers gives me confidence in a storyline that I thought was dead after the Young Guns version beat it like a dead horse in the early 1990’s.

The key to any movie that has been done so often is in the bad guys.  This time out, the combination of Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) and Mikkelson (Casino Royale) up the ante in that either one of them would be a worthy adversary at the end of the movie.  Anderson standard-bearer (and wife) Jovovich (Resident Evil series) provides the ambiguity as Milady, walking the line between ally and adversary with a winsome smile on her face rarely seen in most of her other roles (like The 4th Kind).

The 3 Musketeers are appropriately B-Grade, but lets say it’s B+ level.  Macfadyen (Darcy from Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice) is probably the least interesting of the trio.  His droll Athos is not what I pictured as a leader, but he has his moments.  Luke Evans has been Appollo, Zeus and is about to become a Dwarf in The Hobbit. His Aramis is more interesting than he is usually played, but not by much.  Stevenson elevates Porthos above the booze swilling oaf he is normally presented to be.  His character is so evenly played, it is almost a shame didn’t get more screen time than the other two.  In particular, his scenes are wonderful in that he uses everything but his sword, while making it clear that he is no slouch with the metal.

Lerman as D’Aartagnan was a bit of a gamble, but it pays off pretty well.  He is young enough that he can toe the line of innocence, but deft enough with the sword that he seems the equal of Mikkelson’s Rochefort in their excellent dual atop Notre Dame Cathedral.  How they get there is delightfully terrible.

Perhaps the best portrayal is the awkward King Louis XIII (Fox) and his tense and awkward dalliance with his wife, Queen Anne (Temple).  In what amounts to a throwaway role, their back and forth gives a different angle on what would likely have been missed 99 times out of 100 other versions.  Their characters are equal parts shallow, complex, clueless and very aware.  Temple’s confrontation as Queen Anne with Waltz’ Richelieu is on par with the best dramatic acting of 2011.

How one interprets this movie will depend on what they bring with them.  If you don’t like Anderson and Jovovich, you probably will like this a bit less, but you will like it better than most of their earlier stuff.  The film looks spectacular in Blu-Ray and the gimmicks roll quite smoothly.  If you have a free Saturday night at home with the kids, this is as good as it gets.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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5 thoughts on “The Three Musketeers is bright, beautiful and smarter than it looks

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