Sunday 9 October 2011

The Three Musketeers review

The Three Musketeers (12A/PG-13, 110 mins)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

This umpteenth version of Alexandre Dumas’ novel announces itself from the off as a Pirates of the Caribbean style fantasy, much too interested in delivering 21st century thrills even though it’s set in the early 1600s.

We meet the three musketeers, the king’s elite guards, who are introduced to us as spies and assassins, and young D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) who longs to join up with them, even though they're all washed up.

Young king Louis XIII is on the throne of France, but Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) is plotting to start a war with England so that he can take over the running of the country, with only the musketeers able to foil his scheme.

A surfeit of baddies certainly doesn’t help to keep matters manageable. As well as Richelieu, there’s Mila Jovovich as M’lady, here turned into a super-assassin, Orlando Bloom’s Buckingham and Mads Mikkelsen’s Rochefort, each of them given a centre stage turn as the musketeers disappear for long stretches, leaving behind a useless teen angst subplot about the king and his bride.

All this takes place against truly lavish, opulent sets and magnificent computer generated recreations of Paris and beyond. No expense has been spared and every moment on screen looks glorious. But with the niceties out of the way, let’s take a look at what doesn’t work, which is pretty much the rest of it.

First things first, get some fun, charismatic actors to play your musketeers. Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson and Luke Evans are solid enough, but no one’s idea of star attractions, while Lerman fluctuates wildly between an American accent and various parts of Europe.

Next, get a director with the first clue about staging action. It’s a movie full of swordfights and explosions and therefore mildly diverting as it goes, but the action scenes are modelled after 300 and Resident Evil, only without the benefit of sane editing.

The numerous fancy booby traps and devices give it a certain pizzazz, no question, but it becomes all about the whizz-bang, with the anachronistic weaponry and gadgetry an attempt to turn it into a shiny confection rather than a period piece.

Dismal dialogue means it starts out silly and only gets sillier still by the time James Corden rocks up as Planchet with the sole purpose of having a bird shit on his head, and his attempts at comic relief are painful.

And though it’s marginally better than the Peter Hyams swing at the story from a decade ago, The Musketeer, that really isn’t saying a great deal.

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