The Three Musketeers

Art & Culture

There are films which are silly – like this one; there are films that are spectacular – like this one; and there are films that are spectacularly silly – and in that category, this film is a champion. Not so much dreadful, just really really ridiculous.

Hollywood has a love/hate relationship with history. On the one hand, it needs to locate stories in a recognisable past. On the other hand, the past has an inconvenient truth, which film makers feel the need to mess around with to serve their purposes. Never more so than here.

The original story by Alexandre Dumas (written in 1844) is set in the period 1625 – 1628, and is centred around the power struggle within France between Cardinal Richeiieu and the young King Louis XIII, and the conflict between France and England (under James I and Charles I). The reason for spelling this out is that although this latest version of Dumas’s story (already filmed dozens of times) sticks surprisingly closely to the original in terms of plot outline, it takes such vast liberties in other ways, as to render the actual plot almost insignificant. Specifically, we have an opening sequence which would not be out of place in a Bond film, where our three heroes steal Leonardo da Vinci’s plan for building a flying ship; this in turn allows the latter half of the movie to be dominated by not one, but two such flying ships – literally ships which are carried aloft by large air balloons. This in turn allows the film to morph into some kind of aerial Pirates of The Caribbean. If ever there was a case of less is more, this is it.

Because the reason that The Three Musketeers is endlessly remade is that it’s such a great story. Love, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, daring, adventure, conspiracy, plots and counter plots and of course, lots of sword fights – what more can you ask for? Milla Jovovich (as Milady de Winter) stripping down to her scanties and diving off a high building like some superhero, or evading razor wire like Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment? I could have done without that, as well as the duels that are like out takes from The Matrix, dialogue that is both corny and anachronistic (references to ‘the usual suspects’ for example). And then there’s the cast. Christoph Waltz fails to menace as Richelieu, Orlando Bloom smirks unconvincingly as Buckingham (who should be dead by the end of the film, but isn’t, because he’s leading an armada of ships and airships to invade France), and Mads Mikkelsen is a good deal less scary as Rochefort than Christopher Lee was in the 1973 version. Worst of all, however, is Logan Lerman who plays D’Artagnan as if he was a extra from a bad remake of Footloose (that would be the one out soon). He has zero charisma, sex appeal or charm, and can only have been selected on the basis of appealing to a certain American demographic – or else his mother was the casting director. Oh yes, and he was also Percy Jackson.

Other annoying details include making Louis XIII into an idiotic teenager who takes romantic advice from D’Artagnan, when in fact he was a 25 year old; introducing an underwater ninja look into the opening sequence; the volume of ropey special effects and CGI; the frequent use of guns (which were inaccurate and dangerous in those days); Buckingham’s hair do; and so on and so forth. But the amazing thing is that despite all the annoying aspects of the film, the historical liberties, the naff script, and the second class cast, the film just about hangs together (until the very silly climax) for one simple reason already mentioned. It’s such a good story that even Paul W Anderson –  a hot contender for Worst Film Director Alive – can’t cpmpletely bugger it up, hard though he tries. But you’re still better off watching the 70s movie.


Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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