In the midst of the French Renaissance period, a young swordsman named D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) travels to Paris with the hopes of becoming a Musketeer. Brash and headstrong, within an hour of arriving in town, D’Artagnan draws the ire of Athos (Matthew Macfayden), Aramis (Luke Evans), and Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and schedules duels with each of them. Only afterward does he realize that all three are former members of the ranks he so badly wishes to join. Through a serious of exciting events, D’Artagnan soon finds himself allied with his heroes and before long, they soon discover a plot designed by Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) to destroy the delicate peace between France’s King Louis (Freddie Fox) and England’s Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). With the interest of their country in mind and an eye on settling a score with an old nemesis (Milla Jovovich), the Three Musketeers (and their new recruit) undertake a dangerous plan that will put all of their lives on the line.
Everyone knows the tale of The Three Musketeers and whether you are more familiar with Alexander Dumas’ literary work or any of the prior cinematic adaptations, you get the gist of this movie. There’s not much that is new here in the way of story and if you’ve seen the 1993 Disney movie of the same name starring Keifer Sutherland, then you should definitely know what to expect from this version. In fact, this Three Musketeers appears to be based far more faithfully on the script from 1993 than it is on Dumas’ novel. At times it plays like a shot-for-shot remake with exceedingly worse actors in the lead roles. I’m not universally opposed to remakes but I quite enjoy the ’93 version for what it is and see no reason why it needs to be updated. This begs the question: Why make this movie in the first place? Ah, but that brings us to the gimmick! In order to trick the movie up enough to give it that new car smell, the people behind The Three Musketeers have introduced outlandish technology and fighting styles to the story! By throwing in Matrix-like special effects and stuff like giant zeppelins that carry Buckingham to and from England, Paul W.S. Anderson and his team of writers bring some supposed freshness to an otherwise rehashed vision. Now it’s a brand new movie that everyone will want to see…in 3D!!!
Now here’s the rub as far as I’m concerned: I’m cool with a re-imagined take on a classic story. If Anderson and his cronies wanted to jam-pack the Three Musketeersnarrative with modern technology and hip dialogue, then I would have been fine with that. (I probably wouldn’t have liked it but I could at least accept it as a nice try.) But instead of an alternative history-type film, we just get these random pieces of technology and out-of-place special effects that muddy the water and basically create an atmosphere in which the film cannot be taken seriously as either a period piece or a modern re-imagining. Very easily, The Three Musketeers could have been turned into a steampunk vision of the classic tale and at the very least that would have been worth trying. As it is, it lacks the balls to reach for anything other than what it is: thoroughly mediocre, late-night-cable, throw-away entertainment.
There are some decent moments here and there and honestly, I expected much worse in the dialogue department. This script really isn’t half-bad and it would have been enough to make The Three Musketeers at least passable if the cast wasn’t so lacking in charisma. But just as the concept lacks boldness, the actors are irritatingly middle-of-the-row. Stevenson, Evans, and Macfayden are all capable actors, while Waltz can be truly magnificent but here they are all going through the motions. (To be fair, they are light years ahead of what Lerman brings to the table. Sheesh. That kid cannot act.) There’s no charm to what they’re doing and a little charm would have gone a long way in this situation. All of this makes The Three Musketeers a sloppy, heartless endeavor that serves little purpose other than to fill a blog post during a slow week.