More and more it seems that you can trust Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil: Afterlife, Alien vs. Predator) to put out a commercial piece of money-making, pop culture garbage. This year’s hack job is none other than The Three Musketeers, the 50 billionth adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ famous novel. With terrible acting, bad CGI and gimmicky 3D (despite being filmed in 3D), Anderson proves that his best movies are still Mortal Kombat (1995) and Event Horizon (1997) – perhaps he peaked too early? Indeed, for Anderson, adding tension to the film means making the finale the only sequence in which characters bleed when sliced or diced. It’s a cheap trick that’s indicative of the complete dearth of good writing and direction.
Alas, this action adventure is the same story that we’ve seen defiled before. D’Artagnan, played by the likable Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief), is a young hothead who travels to Paris in order to become a musketeer. He’s introduced in a sappy scene featuring some of the most pretentious music I’ve heard this side of Uwe Boll’s In the Name of the King – it’s like the score is trying to compensate for the fact that the characters can’t convey any kind of genuine emotion so it has to do all the heavy lifting. There’s no subtlety. Eventually D’Artagnan runs into the titular musketeers, Athos (Matthew Macfayden), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), who are relegated to supporting character status and barely register beyond ‘that one’s girlfriend dumped him’, ‘that one is portly and strong’ and ‘that one is religious’.
The foursome are catapulted into a deadly game, where various parties are attempting to engineer war and seize the French throne from inept, childlike King Louis XIII. This includes an unnecessarily complex scheme involving the Queen’s jewellery as well as steampunk-esque air ships, the latter of which seem to be in the film if only to capitalise on the rampant success of the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
Anderson’s wife Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) is Milady de Winter, an obvious double agent, but it feels like she’s still playing Alice from the Resident Evil series. She’s here to kick butt (in slow motion, then sped up, then in slow motion again) and look good while wearing impractical dresses – her acting however, is atrocious. The same is true for most of the actors. Even usual greats such as Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) and Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) are constrained by the material, putting in lousy performances as the plotting Cardinal Richelieu and chief henchman Captain Rochefort respectively.
Orlando Bloom is the only one who ups his game, and by that I mean he abandons his wooden persona and instead opts for campy exuberance in a hilariously bad, over the top performance as the Duke of Buckingham. Honestly, this one falls into ‘so bad it’s good’ territory – I completely lost it whenever he was on screen.
And that’s how I felt for much of the movie: ‘so bad it’s good’. How Freddie Fox as the King managed to keep a straight face during filming is beyond me… he’s dressed like an avant-garde peacock! My word! Those outfits! Surely Anderson intended this as a comedy? How could he not? Still, The Three Musketeers is so stupefyingly terrible that I wouldn’t dare recommend it on a general level, but if you’re like me and have a broad sense of humour you might find some modicum of fun with it. The only problem is that you’ll be laughing at it rather than with it. Sorry Anderson, you fail at making comedies.
I saw the movie in 3D and, like usual, it was impressive for about the first 10 minutes but then I stopped caring; Anderson’s use of the technology tends to the gimmicky with lots of stuff filmed to fly out of the screen and abuse your face.