It’s easy to picture the people who keep financing Paul W.S. Anderson’s forgettable movies as a smug cabal of European money men desperate to crack Hollywood’s deathlock on summer blockbusters – but if you think about it logically, someone has to be behind it; and that someone also seemed to want yet another adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale to be directed by the man who kept insisting on giving us Resident Evil movies.
The results are pretty much what you’d expect, unlike most of Anderson’s output, which usually pour straight through the brain like a sieve leaving absolutely no trace of itself in the memory, The Three Musketeers manages to contain so many baffling aspects you find yourself scrutinizing them, hoping that in making sense of all the various stupid and strange decisions will somehow unlock the very secrets of the entire universe… or something.
Cocky young swordsman d’Artagnan heads to Paris hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Musketeer, a special guard loyal only to the King, but after getting a swift dose of reality at the hands of the sadistic Captain Rochefort, who answers to the scheming Cardinal Richelieu, he goes on to find that the musketeers themselves have been disbanded.
However, this doesn’t stop the confident little shit bumping into his heroes Porthos, Athos and Aramis and unknowingly challenging each one to a duel for various petty insults (coincidence seems to be a big deal in 17th century France), but when d’Artagnan arrogantly desides to fight all of them at the same time, Rochefort’s men arrive to break things up. Of course, the only thing to get broke is them and after getting hauled in front of the young King Louis XIII for a slap on the wrist, get let off scott free after sharing some banter and a couple of war stories with the starry eyed royal.
However, there are dark forces moving against the King and Richelieu has an incredibly complex plan in motion to utilize athletic spy Milady de Winter in order to help him seize power by making it seem that Queen Anne is having an affair with the Duke Of Buckingham; on the other hand, the Duke has a thing going on with Milady himself and she has handed him blueprints for mighty airships she has stolen from Leonardo da Vinci’s vault which would give him superiority in battle.
In the middle of all these plots and defections, the now four musketeers must fight to protect the king and France against enemies both outside and in who would take power for themselves no matter the cost.
I often give Paul W.S. Anderson’s output a fair bit of stick and this time will be no different – but I feel that it’s only fair to say that despite all the many things I found wrong with the film, it was actually pretty fun dissecting a movie that takes Alexandre Dumas’ classic characters and then tries to turn them into G.I. Joe. It actually reminded me of that old Family Guy episode where Peter Griffin directs a musical based on The King And I and turns it into a sci-fi, kung-fu adventure with robots and women in bikinis, to which Lois remarks that to do that to such a famous story take a fair amount of creativity; and so we watch the director “pizzazz” up the famous tale by adding explosions, massive flying warships and having Milla Jovovich pull some spine stretching Matrix moves as she consistently hurls herself around in slow motion.
The baffling filmmaking decisions come thick and fast and there’s a good chance you’ll miss a few while you’re pondering the latest head scratcher that’s locked your brain in a headlock of illogic; try this on for size: British Dexter Fletcher puts on an American accent to play d’Artagnan’s dad presumably because Logan Lerman is also American, even though everyone else in this version of France speaks with an English accent, unless you’re Mads Mikkelsen (Scandinavian) or Christoph Waltz (Austrian). See what I mean, it makes no damn sense – but there’s plenty more where that came from. Orlando Bloom struts around proceedings like a horny rooster in an Elvis Presley pompadour, acting not so much like he’s in a different film to everybody else but more like a different form of entertainment entirely and seems to be featuring in a massively intricate christmas panto of which only he can see the audience.
Bloom’s apparent mental health aside, the movie also frequently forgets to make the musketeers themselves the focus point of the story and declines to give them breathing room to create any kind of character at all. As a result of this I repeatedly kept being surprised every time Luke Evans appeared on screen as I genuinely kept forgetting he was even in this bloody thing.
Alternatively, Waltz, Mikkelsen, Jovovich and Matthew MacFadyen’s Athos seem to be working way too hard for a film that seems to think having birds repeatedly shit on the face of James Corden’s dopey man servant is utterly, fucking hilarious and that is convinced that the more annoyingly smug Lerman is the more the audience will embrace him.
It’s almost a shame, because the sword fighting is actually pretty badass and the production design is predictably gorgeous, even when a bloody great airship is crashing through it, but Anderson’s inability to make his characters as solid and tangible as the endless amounts of masonry he detonates at regular intervals makes it tough to give the remotest of craps. In fact, the 1980’s kids cartoon show Dogtanian And The Three Muskehounds had be believing more in the characters than this tepid slice of buckled swash and for all of its bell and whistles it’s still just a case of balls for one and one for balls…