14 October 2011


One of the most memorable articles I've seen on Cracked is a speculative look at what it might be like if Michael Bay adapted The Great Gatsby into a movie. And as it turns out, Fitzgerald's novel is coming to the screen in the only slightly less ludicrous form of a 3D Baz Luhrmann version next year. But a juxtaposition that's just as ludicrous as Bay tackling Gatsby, is appointing Paul W.S. Anderson, hack director of the Resident Evil movies and Alien vs. Predator, to adapt Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers.

Desperate to mimic Pirates of the Caribbean with a grand sense of adventure and a bombastic score, the film winds up unintentionally closer to Blackadder, with illogical steampunk additions, like airships and booby traps. However, the plot is more faithful to the novel than, say, the 1993 Disney version. D'Artagnan comes to Paris from a small town, raised on tales of the King's Musketeers. Upon his arrival, he encounters Athos, Porthos and Aramis, and becomes involved with saving France from the dastardly warmongering of Cardinal Richelieu.

With Paul W.S. Anderson, you might already surmise that the steampunk label is, in this case, a licence to be as anachronistic as possible with no real reason, except "cos it's cool." In the way of most of these style-over-substance films, you wish it could be a little less "cool" and a little more "watchable". While I'm not under any delusional double standard about the inclusion of Indiana Jones-style booby traps, which are fine in principle, there is a scene which uses piano wire in much the same way as a modern film uses lasers. Literally, it feels like the razor sharp wires were subbed in for lasers at the last minute, when somebody pointed out, "Er, Paul, they didn't actually have lasers in 17th century France."

Another staple of Anderson's films comes to the fore in the casting of his wife, Milla Jovovich. Her expanded role as Milady de Winter might as well be a continuation of all the shit she does as Alice in the Resident Evil series, with French henchmen standing in for zombies. Anderson doesn't make movies, as much as he makes opportunities for his wife to dress up and fight people for his own entertainment. And so, in a movie called The Three Musketeers, there's less of the title characters than you might think.

That's a real shame, because the actors playing them are by far the best thing about the film. Matthew McFadyen reprises his Alan Rickman impression from Ridley Scott's Robin Hood to play Athos, Ray Stevenson provides larger-than-life comic relief as the token tough guy, Porthos, and while Luke Evans doesn't have a lot to do as Aramis, he's stoic and cucumber-cool while most of the rest of the cast are hamming it up. Poor Christoph Waltz has already done time opposite lesser actors this year, but he barely has any scenes with the real talents in the film.

Instead, we see him once again doing as he did for Robert Pattinson, this time with Orlando Bloom. The villainous and foppish Lord Buckingham is not the type of role Bloom normally plays, but he's no better for this development in his career. In his scenes with Waltz, the guy is very much acting down for his benefit. However, what really speaks volumes of how terrible the casting is, is the way in which Bloom has to do exactly the same later on for Logan Lerman, a dislikeable and limp D'Artagnan who stubbornly sticks with an American accent and a dopey expression.

There's an ill-advised bit of plagiarism from A Fistful of Dollars that really shows up Lerman's inadequacies as an actor. It should go without saying that he's not Clint Eastwood, but the film is so inept as to apparently have overlooked this. The special effects already look dated, the score is Hans Zimmer-lite and the plot is stupid enough that it can't really be credited at any point. The fight choreography is pretty impressive, but it's never consistently good enough, for long enough, that I could fully appreciate any of its better aspects.

The Three Musketeers may prove to be a guilty pleasure for some, but it is an unabashedly typical effort from Paul W.S. Anderson. A 12A-rated family adventure might seem like a peculiar detour for a director whose primary output is based in showing how hot his wife is, when she's wearing skimpy outfits and fighting people. And so, the final product is about as lame as you'd expect. It's not without promise, but the failure is only compounded by how that promise goes completely unfulfilled. Here's hoping that the cynical sequel hook at the film's climax goes wanting, because I don't think Anderson has it in him to improve, either.

The Three Musketeers is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Three Musketeers, why not share your comments below? I'd say that Anderson should go back to making Resident Evil sequels, but then that would mean there'd be more Resident Evil sequels.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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