“ Genre: Action & Adventure / Suitable for 12 years and over / Director: Paul W.S. Anderson / Actors: Matthew MacFadyen, Logan Lerman, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Milla Jovovich ... / Blu-ray released 2012-02-27 at Entertainment One / Features of the Blu-ray: PAL „
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[Film Only Review]
Last weekend (although it seems much longer ago), I went to visit my big sister to begin the mammoth task of Christmas shopping. As per our non-official tradition, we ended up picking up a relatively cheap movie to watch on Saturday night. So our film ended up being The Three Musketeers (2011 version), a bargain £5 from Asda. Being a fan of the 1993 version, I was dubious whether I'd find this enjoyable or not, but we decided it was worth a shot and took it home. As we said, you can't go too wrong for a fiver - can you?
The film starts out in Venice, around the beginning of the 17th century. Here we meet the dashing musketeers - Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans) working together with the rather attractive Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich). The four are on a daring mission, and seem to be successful - until they are betrayed and the treasure is handed over to the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). Cut to Paris, where the Musketeers are disbanded by Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz), the slightly suspicious advisor of the young King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox). Almost content to live their lives in a slightly drunken stupor cared for by their manservant Planchet (James Corden). But along comes D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman), a young boy from the country who manages to get on the wrong side of not only the Musketeers, but Richlieu's henchman, Captain Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen). A swordfight later, and a lady in waiting to impress (Gabriella Wilde), D'Artagnan and the Musketeers set out to uncover and thwart a plot that threatens Queen Anne (Juno Temple) and the safety of France - and perhaps even mess up the Duke of Buckingham's hairdo!
The cast is rather a mix of characters - and as usual I haven't heard of some! As soon as I realised Milla Jovovich was in it, I knew her character wouldn't exactly take a backseat - and she didn't. It was quite cool to have a Milady de Winter who could pull some serious moves, even in the fantastic outfits she was placed in. I was slightly dubious about Orlando Bloom as a bad guy, just because he seems to have fallen into the 'pretty boy' niche quite nicely. Even though he was still a pretty boy, he managed to pull of the character quite well - especially as there was a slight flamboyant element to the character which could easily have been overplayed. I was a little disappointed with Matthew Macfadyen as Athos, as although he was supposed to be down in the dumps; his portrayal just seemed very flat all the time - even with some cracking one-liners. Luckily, Ray Stevenson and Luke Evans managed to counteract this quite nicely, and bring a bit of spark into the Three Musketeers. I think the casting worked quite well (other than Athos), and the writer's and actor's generally managed to put a new spin on some well-known characters. Louis' bumbling attempts to show affection to Anne was rather heart-warming; and even D'Artagnan wasn't as annoying as Chris O'Donnell's portrayal in 1993 (which, trust me, was a relief!).
The Three Musketeers is based on the novel written by Alexandre Dumas. Now I have never really read this book, so I can't compare the film to it, but I know it is part of a series - including the Four Musketeers and the Man in the Iron Mask. The basic plot of the two films is relatively similar - the evil cardinal carries out a plot to overthrow the King, which the Musketeers, forever loyal, try desperately to thwart. However, I have now seen both films and there is a glaring difference between the two, involving an air ship (and that's all I shall say on the matter). This has made me add the book to my list of books I want to get around to one day - just to actually work out which is closer to the novel (I'm actually hoping the airships happened, as these are a rather fun addition to the story).
This offering of the Three Musketeers is a British movie (as you may have been able to tell from some of the line-up). I know it got some bad reviews at the time, but it isn't all that bad. Yes, there are some cheesy lines, and perhaps not enough sword fights, but it is a rather light-hearted watch. I would even say that the cheese was an element of what made the film so good - it makes a potentially dark film a bit of good-natured fun. The lack of swordfights does make it a little more suitable for younger viewers (although the original was PG and this is a 12 I think) - I personally find this one a little less gruesome, and a little more exploding! Overall, I find this offering a bit of fun that is perfect for light-hearted family viewing on a Saturday night (or whenever you prefer to view your movies). All I would say is expect a little bit of cheese, and a good dosing of fun!
After being betrayed by the double-agent, Milady de Winter (Mila Jovovich), and losing plans for an airship to the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom), the famed "Three Musketeers" - Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Luke Evans) - are forced to disband. One year later a poor nobleman, D'Artaganan (Logan Lerman) leaves Gascony to pursue a career as a musketeer. Chance encounters with the dastardly Captain Rouchefort (Mads Mikkelsen), the henchman of the scheming, Cardinal Richelieu (Christopher Waltz), and the aforementioned Three Musketeers, lead D'Artagenan into a series of scrapes. These events will eventually lead him and the Musketeers to embark on a mission that will pit them against Richelieu and Buckingham...
Did we really need yet another re-make of Alexander Dumas's swashbuckling novel? Like "Oliver Twist", there seems to be no end of adaptations of this story. However, when consulting online movie guides I note that aside from Disney's stab (or should that be thrust?) at the classic back 2004, there really hasn't been a genuine big studios attempt at it since 1993's "The Three Musketeers". Not even the great Michael Wincott could rescue this "Young Swords" cynical take on the story and the film's heart was sorely missed. I guess it is just that the 1973/74 back-to-back pictures ("The Three Musketeers" & "The Four Musketeers" respectively) worked so well that it is rather difficult for me to see anything else replacing them. The film had such a perfect balance of slapstick buffoonery with action and a strong cast that anything else just seems unnecessary. Comparisons might be made between the beloved "Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory" and the rather coldly received Tim Burton adaptation, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Sometimes film-makers get it right with the adaptation - even if it is not entirely faithful to the source material - and all films that follow become less about trying to get the book to the screen and more about trying to match the stand-alone picture that bears its name.
In 2001 we had the rather badly conceived "The Musketeer", where Asian style action cinema was used to take the picture in a different direction. However, what it did foreshadow was the possible caution film-makers were taking not to have their picture resemble the tone of previous incarnations. In this adaptation we have the steam-punk genre being used. It can be a rather risky thing, as what comes across as imaginative and artistic to some; can be mistaken as being unintentionally anachronistic to others. It all looks pretty glorious. There are slow motion sequences and nothing particularly new from an action direction point of view, but there is some very imaginative special effects. The airship is a trademark of steam-punk and a big visual element as well as a plot device in the movie. Its inclusion is a heavy nod towards the genre as a whole. However, I really liked the ingenious 17th century imagining of laser security and the various pieces of gadgetry. This all works very well. It's a 3D picture, so expect plenty of debris flying towards the scene as well as prolonged sword thrusts. I watched it on a 3D television and so got the full benefit of this aspect, but not watching it this way won't really spoil the experience.
The cast is all able with the bad guys getting all the glory for memorable performances. Orlando Bloom plays a villainous Buckingham much in the same way as he played a vain caricature of himself in the comedy series "Extras". Mads Mikkelsen is a capable Rouchefort, but he is no Christopher Lee or Michael Wincott despite having their trademark eye patch (Dumas's Rouchefort never wore one). Mila Jovovich, on the other hand, could give Faye Dunaway a run for her money. Her character is as dynamic as she is cool - creating the perfect image for an all-action duplicitous femme fatale. However, best performance lands in the lap of Christopher Waltz again. Ever since he ate up the entire "Inglourious Basterds" picture with his villainous SS officer and won some deserved awards, he seems to be Hollywood's choice to play the bad guy. He is a perfect Richelieu - cunning, devious and charming.
Having said all this, "The Three Musketeers" does not pretend to be anything more than a vehicle 21st century action. There is little in the way or quotable lines and no one is more than a two dimensional character at best. It is a shame that more isn't done with Dumas's characters. Being flawed by design, they should fit in perfectly with today's audiences that are more intrigued with Byronic heroes and sympathetic villains than ever before. Aside from all the enjoyable nonsense about airships, a lot of the story remains faithful to the original as do the characters. Having said that, the direction and editing is done at such speed it is as if someone were whizzing through the novel so they can insert more special effects scenes in. It's going to please some in the term, but hardly make the piece a memorable classic. Then again, it's miles better than "The Wild, Wild West"!
***FILM ONLY REVIEW***
Now 'The 3 Musketeers' has been made into a film several times and this is the newest incarnation, directed by Paul WS Anderson and released in 2011.
It's a pumped up version of the Dumas story, which reminded me a little of the style of 2009's 'Sherlock Holmes' with Robert Downey Jnr. It doesn't stick too closely to the original text, to understate it dramatically! It takes the base elements of the tale and throws them in the air, Anderson choosing to rely on action, CGI effects and lunacy at the expense of storyline and characterisation.
An actor previously unknown to me, Logan Lerman, takes the role of D'Artagan - naive yet cocksure country bumpkin/swordsman who comes to Paris, hoping to join the famous Musketeers. Lerman is fresh-faced and boyishly attractive. He does a decent enough job in the role, but I couldn't find him convincing - his arrogance should surely be a cover for his insecurity, but I didn't get any sense of depth there.
The jaded Musketeers themselves are played by Matthew McFayden (Athos), Luke Evans (Aramis) and Ray Stevenson (Porthos). I don't have a problem really with any of their portrayals, but again, the depth of characterisation wasn't there - we have a few nods to their differentiating features and that's your lot.
The rest of the cast do reasonable jobs of their roles: Milla Jovovich as Milady, Christoph Waltz as an understated Richelieu and Mads Mikkelson as Rochefort. Freddie Fox makes a great spoilt yet vulnerable Louis XIII, while D'Artagan's love-interest Constance is played by the stunning Gabriella Wilde. In this version of the story, the man-servant Planchet (James Corden) felt thrown in and his antics left me cold. Orlando Bloom plays Buckingham and is quite effective as the calculating politician. He has very silly hair in this...
Talking of silliness, the film starts off sort of silly, with some National Treasure/Indiana Jones style trap avoiding and treasure hunting (in this case, for blue-prints for a war-machine) - then it turns into vaguely recognisable Musketeering - then it gets really really really silly towards the end. Don't get me wrong, it was watchable and full of thrills and spills, but the plot is just sketched in and barely hangs together. Why any of these people were doing any of the things they did is inexplicable. The characterisation is gossamer-thin, and that's a travesty given the source material.
It's such a well-known and much-done tale that obviously they decided to do something different with it and settled on the sound and fury approach. It is fun: it does buckle its swash and there is a lot of humour in it. But it is just so silly! Its tongue is so far into its cheek that it's licking someone else's face.
To be honest, I prefer the 1973 version with Ollie Reed and Roy Kinnear... And the 1993 version with Kiefer Sutherland... And the '80s children's cartoon series Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds!
If you're in the mood for a bit of daftness and swash-buckling, you could do worse than rent this DVD. But if you're reading Dumas in English lit, definitely don't cut corners and think you can get away with just watching this movie, haha!
The Three Musketeers is available on DVD for around £11 and Blu-Ray for around £15 from Amazon currently.