Review for The Three Musketeers (2011)
The Three Musketeers
Dir: Paul W.S Anderson (2011)
Paul Anderson is very much the definition of "much maligned". He has helmed a spate of movies that have enjoyed varying degrees of financial reward, whilst consistently managing to get panned by critics. In many cases the negativity has been much deserved, whether it be for his hyperactive Resident Evil films, the woeful Alien vs. Predator (2002), or the ill-advised Death Race(2008), unanimously dismissed by most as an empty headed revisiting of a worthy b-movie. On the other hand, his debut, Shopping (1994) was an exciting low-budget debut, while Event Horizon (1997) contained much to admire. Although on the surface, this was simply Aliens without a monster, there were also elements of a psychological edge that intrigued, in addition to some stylish, genuinely cruel violence. It appears when he does stretch himself, Anderson is perfectly capable of achieving a high standard of interest that matches his technical prowess.
The Three Musketeers unfortunately does not see Anderson stretch himself and return to that early, largely interesting form. Instead, this is Hollywood-style filmmaking at its most brash and crude.
In this take on Alexandre Dumas' novel, the Musketeers are disbanded for failing to steal blue-prints at the request of Cardinal Richelieu. As a result, the folk heroes meander around Paris, plundering barrels of beer and generally behaving like louts. D'Artagnan is a cocky, thoroughly modern chap who arrives in Paris, intentionally stumbling into the threesome and making trouble with them in order to get their attention. Aiming to become a Musketeer himself, he also falls foul of Captain Rochefort, and predictably joins up with The Musketeers.
Meanwhile, Richelieu is plotting to take over the country, by framing the Queen of England, and instigating a war for which his own king will be found culpable, leaving him the crown. From there, a twisting, winding plot involving the Duke of Buckingham, Milady, and Richelieu unravels, with everyone essentially plotting to swerve the other. It's up to the Musketeers to save Queen Anne from the plot, rescue the damsel, and defeat the separate entities of the Duke, and Rochefort. Whew.
Unfortunately. while this is all taking place, the viewer is left to simply await each new set piece, with nothing in-between to get one's teeth into.
Logan Lerman is both flat and unlikeable as D'Artagnan. He really is a genuinely unappealing chap, who provides no empathy to sit alongside his cocky bravado. Orlando Bloom takes on his villainous opposite as the Duke of Buckingham, coming up equally as short. Here he's got all the flamboyant conviction of a second-rate Batman foe during the tail end of Adam West's run under the hood.
Likewise, showy performances are concocted by the likes of James Corden and Christophe Waltz (who I usually genuinely like) aren't necessarily bad, but infuriately the actors playing these parts are simply pandering to expectation by recreating the character that everyone associates them with. Essentially, they're self parodies. Milla Jovovich leads the way here in terms of ludicrous accents- she really does sound ridiculous. Equally daft are her Matrix-style manoeuvres during sword play sequences, and dramatic pouting as the camera prowls across her body. Faring better though are the more home-grown performers. As Athos, Matthew Macfayden carries himself very well, while Northern Irish actor Ray Stevenson recreates his charismatic Volstagg from Thor to good effect as Pathos.
Back to the accents however -they really are something. It's good to know that none of the cast took this film seriously, as it's impossible to do so as a viewer. But it really is distracting attempting to believing this story when nobody in it has a consistent accent, or even one that can be particularly associated with any one country. Rather than attempt to sound French, everyone appears to have been directed to inject their character with an otherworldly, vaguely "European" straining. At times it's comically silly, but at others, simply annoying.
A lightness in tone is always to be expected however with this material, which usually results in a family friendly, adrenaline pumping series of action sequences. Disappointingly, The Three Musketeers does not provide this.
Part of the problem with the otherwise well-staged fight sequences is the flashy camera work and irritating use of slow-motion. Very rarely, and only in very specific instances does slo-mo genuinely add to the thrill of a good fight. Much of the time, it distances the viewer from the action, as is the case here. A supposed period adventure film just doesn't require such technical melodrama.
In fact, it's the advancements and modernity of The Three Musketeers that make it so unappealing. I can't fathom how anybody could possibly want to see such a tale told with Milla Jovovich sliding along the ground in slow motion, as bullets whiz past her alluring face. Nor do I understand how this is the sort of film in which nauseating zooms of the spaces between walls in CGI is supposed to add to the product. The Musketeers take to the skies in giant hovering ships that add little entertainment to duels that should be inherently thrilling anyway, without the need for a lame Pirates of the Caribbean-type reference point.
The Three Musketeers is not devoid of entertainment value though. The odd moment of comedy raises a smile, and the terribly silly performances do have instances of charm. Where the director has also succeeded is in creating a rough patchwork on which a fine series of images are assembled, even if they don't come together as a whole. It's as vast, indulgent, and empty as filmmaking can be, be every so often, it doesn't half look decent.
The Blu-ray release of this film offers the feature in both standard and 3-dimensional HD. Obviously, this will be the preferred format for most buffs. For me, my review copy on DVD still looked pretty spectacular, and I can't imagine it looking better in 3D, rather like almost every 3D release it probably looks murkier and induces a twitchy eye. Obviously disagreeing, the Musketeers crew wax lyrical about the production aesthetics, and in particular, the 3D process in a "Making of" feature. Anderson claims it's the next natural development a' la colour, or talkies. Jesus, I hope not. The bonus material is overflowing with fawning praise for one another amongst the contributors, without them really actually saying anything interesting. There's plenty on here though, and to be fair, some of it is fairly interesting in the shape of several featurettes. Corden's comment abuot resembling a Bee Gee in his costume is better than anything in the film.
A relatively handsome home disc release, does not right the wrongs manufactured in this film. The cover art-work boasts that the film is "action packed". It's true, but that does not make it anything approaching good and rather, the action lacks razzmatazz. High-definition aficionados will find this a nice looking film to appreciate within a very decent package. At the centre of it though, The Three Musketeers is a limp, unsatisfying chore.