Friday, October 28, 2011

Movie Review: The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers is a novel by French author Alexandre Dumas. There have been many film and cartoon adaptations made dating back to 1903; at least once a decade, sometimes more. You would probably be hard pressed to find someone who is unfamiliar with the synopsis, whether they know it or not. What, then, could Paul W.S. Anderson’s new adaptation offer that hasn’t been done dozens times before over the last century? One word: Steampunk.
In Venice, The Three Musketeers Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), with the help of Athos' lover, Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich), steal airship blueprints made by Leonardo da Vinci. However, they are betrayed by Milady, who gives the blueprints to the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). Upon returning to France, the Musketeers are forced to disband by Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) for their failure. A year later, young D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) leaves for Paris to become a Musketeer. He manages to offend each of the disbanded Musketeers, and challenges them to a duel. The four are brought to the young King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) and his wife, Queen Anne (Juno Temple) for dueling in public, but are given a full pardon. Richelieu, with the help of Milady, plants false evidence to suggest that Queen Anne and the Duke of Buckingham are having an affair, in hopes that war would erupt between the two countries, kill King Louis, and put himself (Richelieu) to rule France. To prove the Queen’s innocence and stop a potential war, the Musketeers must retrieve the planted evidence and her stolen jewels, from Buckingham, the most securely guarded location in England.
This adaptation of The Three Musketeers (2011) is very fast paced and focuses primarily on the action, and little on the characters. There are some token moments of character development that are vaguely interesting. Since those moments are all we get, the characters remain underdeveloped and simple. Arthos is interesting because he’s lost faith in the world, in people, and in love as a result of Milady’s betrayal. It is restored by the end of the film, but it is not revealed why. D'Artagnan is a quintessential arrogant young man out to prove himself to the world. His inexperience is taken advantage of a few times by other characters, but this doesn’t seem to make him any more humble. Milady is interesting with her political machinations, resourcefulness, and constant double-crossing. However, the fact that she is dishonest seems to be what defines the character. There really is nothing more to her than that. The script was awful and the characters were oversimplified, in spite of some good opportunities to make them more interesting.
Steampunk is basically sci-fi technology that is generally set in the Victorian era where everything is still steam powered. Air ships, mechanical computers, and steam- powered robots are all common in Steampunk. It can be interesting, but generally just adds unnecessary aesthetics. That is basically what it does for The Three Musketeers. Arthos uses an aquatic combat suit to take out enemies from underwater. Da Vinci’s vault has ridiculous booby-traps reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie. Milady has enough mechanical spy gear to make James Bond look like mall security. The climactic fight is between two air ships trying to knock each other out of the sky. None of these devices, or anything like them, should exist in that time period. It’s kind of like if someone were to make a movie of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and add a bunch of Steampunk technology. Nothing meaningful would have been added, it might detract from the movie's overall quality; it might be fun, but ultimately pointless.
Anderson’s The Three Musketeers was a fun action movie. It had flat characters, a dumb script, great special effects, and a creative setting. This really isn’t worth watching in the theaters unless you really value the 3D experience. If you’re already a fan of Steampunk, you’ll love it. If you are not, it is still kind of fun, but it’s definitely a renter if anything.

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