The Three Musketeers (a movie review)

I will admit right at the get-go that I have always wanted to write the word “steampunk” and there are so few chances in life that I am really excited about this! Here goes: The Three Musketeers (2011) is a bizarre mish-mash of the most boiled down and basic plot of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and its previous film adaptations, a large helping of Pirates of the Carribean style battles, a dash of Matrix-style fighting, a dollop of completely contemporary speech, all served up in a vaguely sci-fi stew that gives it more a steampunk feel than a classic one.

With IMDb listing 55 possibilities when you search The Three Musketeers (this include sequels and cartoons), it could be argued that we did not need another version. However, such iconic stories are always going to be retold generation to generation, like Pride and Prejudice (with only ten versions listed on IMDb). This version is more fun than the stilted 1993 Kiefer Sutherland/Chris O’Donnell version, but it doesn’t begin to approach the delightful 1973 Michael York/Richard Chamberlain version.

The story remains mostly the same – the young, talented, but hot-headed D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) ventures to Paris to become one of the legendary king’s guard, the musketeers. However, the three most legendary have become depressed, broke has-beens. Matthew Macfayden (Death at a Funeral, MI-5) maintains his acting integrity while clearly enjoying playing the leader of our famous trio, Athos.  The woman who done him wrong, Milady de Winter, is played surprisingly enough by Milla Jovavich (Resident Evil), who manages to get in her requisite stunts and fights, even in the voluminous dresses required here. He and his friends, Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Artemis (Luke Evans), along with D’Artagnan, soon set out on a quest to save the honor of their queen and to foil the evil Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz, Oscar winner for Inglorious Basterds).

This is all fine and good, and if the girl to whom D’Artagnan loses his heart, Constance, is completely without acting talent, it doesn’t do much damage here. Damage is done by the addition of the Pirates of the Carribean tone– the steampunk elements. (Ha! Twice!) While The Three Musketeers was never the most serious story, even in Dumas’ original, the use of self-aware asides and modern language somehow diminishes the story rather than makes it more comedic. Direction by Paul S. Anderson, with previous screen gems such as Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil gives the proceedings an even lower brow.

It is the airships (yes, plural) that were the end for me. Throwing a Pirates-esque ship battle in the air between Hindenberg/schooner-type ships that can go easily from England to France and back was just too much. Throw in the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom, enjoying himself immensely) saying after descending from the airship, “It handles like a dream,” makes it too silly to redeem.

I admit it was mildly entertaining, but the ridiculousness of the presentation overwhelms it. To say it is Dumas as written by Disney and directed by the Warshowski brothers would be accurate but also makes it sound far more clever than it actually is. The ending begs for a sequel, but we will hope that is only a pipedream of the studio. If you are interested in the story, read the book or watch the 1973 version, which is campy fun which still does justice to its source material.

by Heather Craig

Return to Issue 52