The Three Musketeers (2011)
★ / ★★★★
Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans), and Porthos (Ray Stevenson), collectively known in France as The Three Musketeers, find themselves living us bums when their services are no longer needed by their country. Petulant and cocky D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), son of a former Musketeer, visits Paris in hopes of following his father’s footsteps.
King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox), to everyone’s knowledge, is an incompetent leader, more concerned about matters of the heart than actually running a country. Richelieu (Christoph Waltz), the Cardinal, wishes to take over the throne by making the king believe that his wife (Juno Temple) is having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom), thrusting France and England into war.
Based on the screenplay by Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies, “The Three Musketeers” attempts to appeal to the younger crowd by featuring an overabundance of action sequences involving tricky swordplays and flying ships equipped with cannons. Still, it all feels like a slow march to the death—all technical acrobatics and ostentatious visuals but the story is a complete mess.
We learn nothing about Athos, Aramis, and Porthos prior to their group’s break-up other than they are good at fighting and working as a team. So when D’Artagnan arrives in the city and we discover that the former trio waste their days drinking and wandering in the market, they look like fools instead of fallen heroes with plenty more to give.
Despite D’Artagnan’s complete lack of likability during the early scenes, he is supposed to be our point of view considering that he is young, full of optimism, and willing to prove himself to be worthy of being on the level of his heroes. But when he finds out what they have become, neither the script nor the actor provides emotional shift—such as disappointment, anger, or regret—in D’Artagnan. I got the sense that the filmmakers are afraid to delve into real emotions because they consider it too risky, “too emotional” or “sensitive,” for an action-adventure picture. As a result, the film comes off deathly one-note and boring.
The action scenes are shot beautifully, but it has one too many slow motion montages. The more they do it, I felt increasingly less impressed and more annoyed. Over time, I became more convinced that the slow motion action sequences would have probably worked better as a three-minute fashion video. For instance, when Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich), Athos’ double-crossing lover, jumps through booby traps, the slow movements highlight how her boldly designed and colorful fluffy dresses form perfectly angled waves. When she falls and gets up, not a smidgen of dirt is found on her outfit. She does not even break a sweat despite her gymnastic-like movements worthy of the Olympics.
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, despite “The Three Musketeers” taking plenty of liberty to deviate from Alexandre Dumas’ novel, the work is as weightless as the flying ships it features. There is nothing special or heroic about the good guys because the writers fail to give them emotional complexity. The bad guys are bad because they want power. The good guys are good because they want some sort of redemption. We might as well have just watched cardboard cutouts for two hours.