Let’s just get this out of the way; if you’re looking for a faithful adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic, you should look elsewhere. It’s pretty evident seeing the trailer for this latest version of The Three Musketeers that this wasn’t going to be like any past filmed adaptation.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to see something that’s just pure balls-out fun, then you might want to give director Paul W. S. Anderson’s version of The Three Musketeers a chance. I know just saying the name “Paul W. S. Anderson” to some will automatically make them quiver. I don’t get it, I’ve always had a good time with his movies and I did with this one as well.
As we get started, it’s 17th century France and the familiar Musketeers (Athos, Porthos and Aramis) have had better days. They now find themselves obsolete with Cardinal Richelieu’s and Captain Rochefort’s guard replacing them as defenders of the king, though they still hold some favor with the very young and foppish King Louis XIII. Enter a an eager D’Artagnan, ready to make a name for himself as a Musketeer. D’Artagnan soon comes into contact with the Three Musketeers and through a conflict with Rochefort’s men, they soon come back into greater favor with the young king and eventually get involved to stop a plan that threatens to plunge England and France into war.
That’s a very broad description of the premise which I think is best said as “loosely” based on Alexandre Dumas’ story and as I said at the top, if you’re a purist and that’s what you want to see then don’t even bother. I’m a big comic book fan and I’m used to seeing creators come in and give new takes on classic characters. Some of them take, some don’t and I think the essential successful ingredient is at least maintaining some sort of flavor of the original. Well, the original Three Musketeers always hit me as being a tale of swashbuckling derring-do with a sense of fun and I think that that’s what Paul W. S. Anderson has achieved here. He’s taken this classic and given it a facelift as a Jules Verne-ish, steampunk-ish comic book that doesn’t take itself too seriously and I thought it was engaging as hell. Oh, I won’t deny that it has it’s moments of clunky dialogue and borrowing from other movies (an airship battle that borrows heavily from Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan comes immediately to mind), but it’s mixed together with a great cast, a truly spectacular look and a satisfying fast pace.
The Three Musketeers has a terrific look with lavish production and costume design, and well-shot fight scenes and effects sequences. I saw the movie in 3D, and personally, I think Anderson’s style is perfect for 3D. While this isn’t the best 3D I’ve seen this year (that still goes to Final Destination 5), it’s still very well done especially with background depth and how the detailed design stands out.
No actor will win an Oscar for this film, but still I think the cast gives it it’s all in just presenting this in a fun way. On the Good Guys side, we’ve got Matthew Macfadyen (Athos), Luke Evans (Aramis), Ray Stevenson (Porthos) and Logan Lerman (D’Artagnan). These four just look cool together and I think they all play off of each other nicely. James Corden plays Planchet, their servant and offers up moments of comic relief without getting obnoxious. Freddie Fox as the young King Louis XIII also offers up comic moments that are a little more broad, but he still comes off essentially as a sweet character. Juno Temple plays his equally young Queen and does a good job of giving off an air of regality.
On our villain side, we’ve got Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz (Cardinal Richelieu), the great Mads Mikkleson (Rochefort), Orlando Bloom (Duke of Buckingham) and Milla Jovovich (Milady de Winter). I think all of them do a fine job with standout’s being Waltz and Mikkleson. I have to say I was surprised to see Jovovich play a more villainous part, and pleased as well. She has some great action moments and of course, she’s just absolutely gorgeous in every scene she’s in.
I had a ball with The Three Musketeers. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet it doesn’t laugh at the material either. It really does have an awesome look that I think works well in 3D, but it’s not essential to your end enjoyment. Last year, I saw Ridley Scott’s take on Robin Hood and just didn’t like it because it took itself way too seriously and gave off the sense that Scott just wasn’t interested in making something that was remotely fun or inventive. Paul W. S. Anderson approaches The Three Musketeers in a way that I wish had been done with Robin Hood. The Three Musketeers ends with the promise of an inevitable sequel, though due to it’s poor domestic box office performance I doubt we’ll get to see it. And that’s a shame, I’d love to see Anderson re-visit this again. I certainly do recommend this if you’re looking for a fun ride, but if you’re looking for something that’s way more faithful, look elsewhere.