The Three Musketeers: Ridiculous, not ridiculous fun

Published: October 25, 2011
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The Three Musketeers stumbles clumsily from passage to passage, but on the whole, for viewers, feels like having pigeon poop dropped on one. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Very early on in The Three Musketeers, the servant Planchet (James Kimberley Corden), in a scene that falls distinctly flat, is discourteously awoken while sleeping on the balcony, by loads of pigeon droppings on the face. In more ways than one, this failed scene sums up the entire film; not only does The Three Musketeers stumble clumsily from passage to passage, but on the whole, for viewers, feels like having pigeon poop dropped on one. 

Directed by Paul WS Anderson, whose career highlights include mediocre video game based films like Mortal Kombat (1995), Dead or Alive (2005), and the Resident Evil films, The Three Musketeer is one unfathomable effort. In fact, with completely random, dull, and over the top action sequences peppered throughout, including out of place chain guns and flame throwers, this movie from Paul WS Anderson often feels similar to his excessively loud video game movies.

The plot of the film loosely follows The Three Musketeers novel by Alexandre Dumas, while also taking some influence from the vastly superior Richard Lester cinematic adaptation of 1973. Set during the 17th century in France, the tale shifts into gear with prodigious swordplay talent D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), who arrives at Paris from his humble family farm, dreaming of becoming a musketeer like his father.

Upon arriving, he decides the best way to make an impact is to look for trouble, and soon finds himself entangled in good natured duels with the three musketeers, Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), who happen to find themselves out of favor. But, with public dueling being against the law, the group of four is attacked by the guards, who are loyal to Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz), a man with a grudge against the musketeers.

Later, after defeating the guards, the four heroes are forced to present themselves to the very young King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) and his wife, Queen Anne (Juno Temple), who to the Cardinal’s annoyance, reward the musketeers, rather than punish them. At this point, after we learn that the musketeers are penniless and without purpose, D’Artagnan’s love interest, the queen’s lady-in-waiting Constance Bonacieux (Gabriella Wilde), approaches him with news of a political plot by Cardinal Richelieu, who plans to plant evidence of an affair between Queen Anne and the English Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). We are shown that Cardinal Richelieu hopes that the rivalry between the king and the English duke will be enough for the king to be driven mad by the evidence, and thus leave the Cardinal in power instead.

D’Artagnan convinces the musketeers to travel to England, where in a swashbuckling adventure they attempt to retrieve the evidence from the Duke of Buckingham, while also dealing with the treacherous and sultry Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich).

While the plot may seem quite standard, the movie is a very different interpretation of the classic literary tale. Some of this re-imagining – like the steam punk architecture and the war ready airships –  are quite nifty, and work fairly well. Other aspects -like the extremely modern dialogue, the chummy interaction between the king and the musketeers – feel awkward especially when the plot of the film only makes sense with the sensibilities of that period. For example, while the period dictates that a king could possibly execute the queen based solely on flimsy evidence of adultery, the modern day behaviour of the characters makes the plot point feel out of place, and even a touch disturbing. Also, by the sensibilities of that period, it makes sense that the musketeers can’t directly inform the king of the plot against him, and instead must retrieve the planted evidence. But, when it is the Beverly Hills 90210 version of The Three Musketeers these formalities don’t make sense at all. Why go through all that trouble, if they are so friendly with the king? Why not simply tell him of what they know?

Regardless, these discrepancies could have been forgiveable, had the overall dialogue not been so god-awful, and brain numbing. Unfortunately, none of the narrative is moderately interesting, and is only good for inducing eye rolling. The romantic dialogue in particular is quite horrible. And unfortunately, in typical Hollywood style, all of the characters speak with English accents, including our French heroes.

Sadly, the action sequences don’t make for compelling viewing either. For a film about sword play, there is very little of it, and what little that exists, isn’t impressively choreographed. Then, there are the 3D effects, which make the film unusually dark, and feel slapped on. What are worse are the excessive CGI effects, which are just overblown, and unattractive, and feel like an unpleasant assault on the senses.

It has to be said that the movie seems to have taken cue from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which wasn’t very good either, but Johnny Depp, at the very least, was a lead character with charisma. Though to the film’s credit, it feels as if the cast are aware of the ridiculousness of the film, and produce relaxed and laid back performances. Unfortunately, while The Three Musketeers is indeed ridiculous, it is just not ridiculous fun. And ridiculousness, without amusement, is just an unacceptable commodity.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.