I’ve been a fan of Alexandre Dumas’ novel for a long, long time. Given Hollywood’s propensity for ruining classic literature, however, I wasn’t looking forward to Paul W.S. Anderson’s recent 3D adaptation. (Anderson’s not-so-impressive track record includes “Death Race,” “Alien versus Predator” and “Resident Evil”). That being said, it was Halloween night and I was out with my guy friends…”The Three Musketeers” was the logical choice.
To its credit, the film doesn’t totally diverge from its source material. Young adventurer D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman, last seen starring in “Percy Jackson”) travels to Paris to join the King’s Musketeers. On the way, he is accosted by evil Count Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen) but spared by his mysterious companion Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich, an Anderson movie fixture). Upon arrival in Paris, he encounters the legendary Three Musketeers – cynical Athos, comic-relief Porthos, and religiously inclined Aramis – and promptly runs afoul of scheming Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz.
For the most part, “The Three Musketeers” stays within Dumas’ narrative framework. There are some serious departures (especially in the last half-hour) but the gist of the story is the same. When the action happens, it’s a lot of fun – the 3D is actually done well, and some of the airship action scenes are innovative. The swordfights are also particularly well-choreographed, evoking the old Errol Flynn-era swashbucklers. Anderson fortunately resists the temptation to insert modern themes or political subtext, preferring to focus solely on the adventure.
Unfortunately, this also means that there isn’t a lot of substance underlying the style. “The Three Musketeers” is flashy, flamboyant, and expensive-looking, but devoid of intelligence or emotion. At no point are viewers led to actually sympathize with the characters, a flaw likely attributable to the film’s short runtime (the movie needed at least another half-hour of character development to do the book justice). There is, unfortunately, little to recommend “The Three Musketeers” above any other film – it’s serviceably entertaining and relatively inoffensive, but never challenges the viewer in any way.
Worldview and sociopolitical elements are nonexistent (although Aramis’ Christian faith is treated with some respect throughout). In terms of objectionable material, there’s a fair amount of swordplay and bloodless violence (as well as a few profanities and some scantily-clad women), but the boundaries of the PG-13 rating are never pushed.
Leaving the theater, all I could think was “that movie had so much potential.” Again and again, I saw wasted opportunities for excellence – the dark history between Athos and Milady, D’Artagnan’s maturing process, the relationship between the Musketeers, and on and on it goes. Anderson, however, just doesn’t capitalize on the excellent material available to him. When compared to the other recent Dumas adaptation, “The Count of Monte Cristo,” the deficiencies of “The Three Musketeers” are painfully obvious.
Should you see it? If it’s a toss-up between watching “The Three Musketeers” and something like “Real Steel,” the choice is obvious. “The Three Musketeers” isn’t terrible, but it offers nothing new or substantial. There are far, far better ways to invest one’s time and money.
An unfortunately substance-less interpretation of Dumas’ classic.
Normalized Score: 1.0