The Three Musketeers: ...And none for all

The Three Musketeers
U/A; Action, Adventure
Dir: Paul W.S Anderson
Cast: Matthew Macfadyen, Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Ray Stevenson, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Christoph Waltz, Gabriella Wilde, Freddie Fox
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)

The good news about this pointless adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic French novel is that it is probably director Paul W.S. Anderson's best work to date. Unfortunately, that isn't saying much, given that Anderson is the director of cinematic atrocities such as Mortal Kombat, Death Race and the Resident Evil films.

Yet, I'll be honest -- I walked into this movie with the lowest of expectations and walked out almost pleasantly surprised to find myself relatively calm, as opposed to the murderous rage I thought I'd feel after watching one of my favourite novels of all time get butchered on screen. Having said that, The Three Musketeers is hardly great cinema, despite the presence of an impressive cast (including Oscar winner Christoph Waltz and a smattering of solid British talent). However, its biggest misstep is that it's a Johnny-come-lately to an already tired historic reboot/adventure genre, as it takes obvious inspiration from Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes as well as the Pirates Of The Carribean movies.

Anderson utilises the film's $100 millon budget well in terms of CGI explosions and an outrageous 'airship' (a liberty taken by the screenwriters), but falters in terms of giving the film its own identity. There's promise in the beginning, as we're introduced to the three musketeers Athos (Macfadayen), Porthos (Stevenson) and Aramis (Evans) in a stylish and pulpy introductory sequence. Jovovich plays Milady de Winter and while her modern American accent is jarring, she does exude some enigmatic sensuality that suits the character -- one of the greatest femme fatales in all of literature -- fairly well.

The story is more or less faithful to the original, involving the power-hungry Cardinal Richelieu (Waltz) attempting to start a war between France and England in the 17th century by suggesting to King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) that his wife, Queen Anne, might be having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham (Bloom). Meanwhile, a young, hot-headed D'Artagnan (Lerman) makes his way to Paris to become a musketeer in the King's service, and ends up challenging all three musketeers to a duel at the same time.

With such rich source material, The Three Musketeers would've benefited from a zany and irreverent approach -- something a Quentin Tarantino or Matthew Vaughn might have successfully pulled off. However, Anderson attempts to play safe, walking that dangerous tightrope between faithful adaptation and modern re-imagining. He doesn't go the distance.

However, The Three Musketeers isn't an unwatchable movie. It boasts of some solid performances and even some interesting characterisation, particularly in the way it highlights Louis' flamboyant tendencies. On the downside, however, is an uninspiring performance from Lerman and a distinct lack of chemistry between him and his love interest Constance (Gabriella Wilde).

Had this movie been made in 2003, it would've stood more of a chance. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, the audience has already been there and seen that. Several times.

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