3/12/2012

Movie Review: The Three Musketeers

When I was a little kid and slept over at my grandparents’ place, my grandfather used to read “The Three Musketeers” to me when I went to bed. It was an edition from the 1940s with very exciting illustrations -- but saying that my grandfather actually read the book to me would be an exaggeration. He read a little here and there, one line there, a paragraph there, hither and thither, and totally without context. I’ve never had the complete book read to me, and even if I’ve later had the book in my own bookcase, I’ve never read it myself. To be honest, it seems to be pretty dusty.
I have however seen quite a few movie adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ (the older one) classic. A lot of this type of movies aired quite often on television in the 1970s. Or -- that’s how I remember it, but I suppose the screenings were scarce, after all. It just struck me my friends and I called the genre “fencing movies”. “Scaramouche,” starring Stewart Granger and Mel Ferrer, was one of our favorite movies.

“The Three Musketeers” from 1948, starring Gene Kelly, is probably the one I remember the most, but I also caught several other versions, made both before and after ‘48, a couple of them were even French. And we shall of course not forget Richard Lester’s very cool version from 1973, often classified as the best of the bunch. But I have no memories at all of the brat pack version that appeared in ‘93, except for that awful theme song from Bryan Adams.
Besides these big, well-known version, there’s of course a whole bunch of minor obscurities; Italian and Spanish B-movies, and in
‘63 Zorro met the three French heroes in an Italian epos. Don’t ask me how that happened, Zorro lived several hundred years later. Sophie Marceau was the daughter of d’Artagnan in 1994’s “Revenge of the Musketeers”, the musketeers show up in “The Man in the Iron Mask”, and 2001 saw the truly awful “The Musketeers”, directed by Peter Hyams.

Paul W.S. Anderson’s brand new (well, almost brand new -- it opened over here in Europe a month or more ago) “The Three Musketeers” is a typical movie you aren’t allowed to like. Mainly because it’s directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. But I can honestly say I’ve no big issues with Anderson. I don’t belong to his fan club, but unlike many rabid, often younger critics, I think the “Resident Evil” movies are pretty fun, as well as “Death Race” and some other movies. Another reason that has to make “The Three Musketeers” bad, is the fact that it’s in 3-D, that it builds almost entirely on special effects, and that it has almost nothing to do with the books by Dumas. Yes, movies like this often tend to be wearing and rather unwatchable.
OK -- sue me, but I actually found Anderson’s version pretty … fun.
Milla Jovovich is Milady, and in this version, she’s some kind of action heroine, not unlike Jovovich’s own Alice in the “Resident Evil” movies. She’s collaborating with Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Portos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), and they’re reminiscent of a superhero team; they have different abilities and can be likened to ninjas.At first I thought it was Orlando Bloom who played Aramis, but soon Bloom shows up as the Duke of Buckingham -- and he looks exactly like Luke Evans, but with a different hairdo. Very confusing. Check out the photos below.

                                   Luke Evans as Aramis -- or is it Orlando Bloom?

                               Orlando Bloom as Buckingham -- or is it Luke Evans?
As you all know, Milady is a sly lady, so she betrays the three musketeers and travels to England, where she hangs out with the duke.
We’re of course also introduced to d’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), the farm boy who wants to become a musketeer and who’s trained by his dad, who’s a retired musketeers. In this version, d’Artagnan really is a youngster and not a guy in his thirties. But this Lerman kid is a very pale and boring d’Artagnan, and looks like a girl. Anyhow, the brave youngster rides off to Paris, where he immediately becomes the enemy of the evil Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen with an eye-patch) and soon also of the three musketeers. But after, along with the musketeers, having eliminated 40 of the king’s guards, they become friends. d’Artagnan also falls in love with the fair Constance (Gabriella Wilde), one of the queens court dames.

Christoph Waltz is the sinister cardinal Richelieu who has evil plans in the making, and what do you know if something that’s actually in the book suddenly happens: the queen’s jewels are stolen! This is the only part of the book I recognize. Except for this element, the movie is all action and fencing and escapades. Buckingham has built himself an air ship, leading to battles in the sky. Not unexpectedly, the ending leaves a door open for a sequel.
Musketeer puritans will probably think this movie is an outrage, an insult. And yes, “The Three Musketeers” is pretty damn stupid and silly. But I can’t avoid finding the movie entertaining and fun, and most of all impressive, almost majestic to look at. The movie was shot in Bavaria (what did you expect? France?), but huge amounts of the locations are re-created with CGI. On the whole, the 3-D is good, and if you don’t care about the plot that maybe is somewhere in the movie, it’s possible to just lean back and enjoy the sceneries and the action. The latter is in the same tradition as “Resident Evil” and similar movies; it’s modern, often in slow-motion, it’s unrealistic, and it’s very far from Gene Kelly. But when d’Artagnan finally duels with Rochefort on the roof of Notre Dame, it finally feels like a classic “fencing movie”.

I actually liked “The Three Musketeers” more than the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” flick -- but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one. But then, Milla wasn’t in the pirate movie, and I always like Milla. In this musketeers movie, you’re rooting for the über cool Milady. So, if I give this movie two Abmoxes, I add a third one just for Milla. Til Schweiger also shows up in a small role as Cagliostro.
“The Three Musketeers” opens in the States on October 21. It already plays most of the world.
Images: Rolf Konow ©2011 Constantin Film Produktion GmbH, NEF Productions, S.A.S., and New Legacy Film Ltd. All rights reserved.
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