MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Romantic Action Adventure/ Stars: Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Milla Jovovich, Mads Mikkelsen, Gabriella Wilde, James Corden, Juno Temple, Freddie Fox, Til Schweiger, Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz, Carsten Norgaard, Nina Eichinger, Sara Evans/Runtime: 111 minutes
I feel it safe to start this review off by stating that there is no denying that distinct film helmer Paul W.S. Anderson’s 2011 take on the iconic story of The Three Musketeers is one that, in regards to its technical aspects, is a fairly well done example of skilled filmmaking. At the same time, that’s pretty much the only good thing I can say about this slice of cinematic pie. That’s because it may look pretty, but this slice of cinematic pie is also a wonderful example of how a lot of movies nowadays really don’t have that much going for them in regards to narrative, characters, dialogue, or anything of serious substance. Indeed don’t we have enough movies out there in the world that insult their source material instead of give it new life? Don’t we have enough that are just there to give us way overblown action beats? Indeed this slice of cinematic pie really does at the end of the day feel like nothing more than a petty excuse to update a story that simply does not require updating. I mean this is a movie that has both a moment where a Musketeer comes out of the water as if he were Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now and Anderson’s spouse Mila Jovovich engaging in slo-mo fights as if she were Neo from the Matrix whilst wearing a dress that would give her serious pause to catch a breath let alone be an outright pain to perform these kinds of stunts in. Oh and did I forget to mention the “riveting” moments of aerial combat between aircraft that look like the Hindenburg had a warship slapped onto it somewhere? Indeed if there was a driving force for the making for this film it would be “let’s see how much stuff we can cram in that will drive people absolutely insane and make for a movie that, despite being the bare minimum amount of loyal to the source material, still looks fairly cool”. As you can see, the answer in a slice of cinematic pie like this misfire would be quite a lot. sigh
The plot is as follows: Our film gets underway as we see that the iconic group that is The Three Musketeers which is made up of 3 men named Athos, Aramis, and Porthos respectively as well as a woman by the name of Milady have made their way to Venice to engage in a mission which, if they are successful, promises to grant them blueprints for a flying vessel that were done by no less an individual than Da Vinci. Yet whilst their mission is successful, we soon learn that Milady has set them up and promptly double crosses them and takes the plans and gives them over to a scheming English duke. To that end, we see that a year hence the group has been dissolved under the rule of a slimy cardinal by the name of Richelieu, but I don’t think anyone passed this memo along to a young man by the name of D’Artagnan who is an aspiring Musketeer and whose father, himself a former member, was his trainer. From there we see that our young hero heads off to Paris in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a Musketeer only to unfortunately cross paths with the despicable one-eyed captain of the Cardinal’s guard who proceeds to shoot him and nearly murder him. I say nearly because Milady chooses to intervene on his behalf and claim he is too handsome to kill or maim in any way. Of course it isn’t long before our hero is able to hunt down the proverbial 3 Musketeers and convince them, despite being without solid direction in their lives, to engage in a courageous fight against the Cardinal’s pack of guards. A choice that results in them getting an audience with no less a figure than King Louie. Thus as the Musketeers find themselves becoming embroiled in royal politics, they also find themselves becoming key players in a perilous predicament that could, unless they put a stop to it, result in a catastrophic conflict with England.
Now if I were asked to come up with the most spot on description for this take on The Three Musketeers then I would most assuredly say that this is an entry in the subgenre of movie magic known as costume movies that has the most motion and is among the loudest slices of cinematic pie I have ever had the misfortune of sitting through (indeed how I am not deaf from this movie remains an absolute miracle). Indeed this slice of cinematic pie strives to blend together a pair of completely distinct styles in the form of an iconic tale about scheming in a time of royalty as well as present day energetic action that deals more in computer effects and wire work rather than genuine human performances which is….a rather odd mix now that I really think about it. Be that as it may be, there is no denying that this is easily its helmer’s, and one of the year it came out’s, most visually stunning slices of cinematic pie. Indeed when looking at the film in that respect this is a genuine treat for the eyes and respectable enough that I could have seen it getting Oscar nods for both art helmsmanship and costume design….or at least it would have had the rest of the film been on the same level as those 2 ingredients. Indeed make no mistake: Anderson’s helmsmanship is quite stylish when working with this style, but whereas it may work in a world inspired by the video game Resident Evil I don’t think it works quite as well in 1600s France. I mean don’t get me wrong: I am sure that this film isn’t deliberately trying to insult and it is quite harmless in just being a mindless piece of cinema, but when you take it account that there are other movies like it that are better at that very function (or at least not having the audience watching it completely befuddled and sighing loudly at all the ingredients that just fall completely and utterly flat), then it would appear that there really is no reason for this slice of cinematic pie to exist in the first place other than to make some clearly creative people both behind and in front of the camera some quick and easy cash.
I mean there is absolutely nada about this slice of cinematic pie that either we as movie going audiences have not witnessed before, not seen before in a better movie, or seen done with even a modicum more purpose and respect to trying to find a genre and style duo that actually works. I mean don’t get me wrong: there is nothing bad with throwing convention to the wind from time to time, but there are just some mixtures that should be left undone as movies like this one and the Will Smith Western/Steam Punk fiasco Wild Wild West are able to show that perhaps some genres of movie magic are fine as is. Plus as if the odd mismatch here wasn’t enough to drive you up the wall then this film makes it even worse by not getting much of its remaining ingredients on the level either. Indeed the narrative is run of the mill, the surprises in it not really proving to be that surprising thus making a watch of this downright torture. Also, the cast of characters in this are terribly one note and any bonds they have with each other are simply there because the toilet paper script deems it so. Indeed here for your viewing “pleasure” are the arrogant and headstrong yet handsome lead, the beautiful yet slimy female, the comic relief and that’s not even covering the one dimensional antagonists, the main character’s love interest, and one other party that I’m seemingly forgetting. Oh right! The titular characters who, when this movie starts, act more like superheroes before seemingly remembering who they’re supposed to be and transform back into just mere masters of the blade by the end of the movie. Indeed every minute that passes in this film is just another step towards a predictable conclusion that also hints at a possible sequel which we thankfully will never get. Suffice it to say this film is a fairly good example at what happens when you get a movie with no novelty and is put together using ingredients seen a million times before and that no degree of visual flair can really make a serious difference with.
All in all the 2011 stab of the rapier that is The Three Musketeers might look good and sound terrific, but otherwise this movie is most definitely one you can do without. Indeed rather than being a serious attempt with this iconic story, this take is a dumb slice of cinematic pie that in many respects is unable to keep you engaged all while choosing to dabble quite heavily in fantasy elements and also throwing out even a shred of a narrative that an audience could choose to get behind. I mean there is such a thing as suspending your disbelief for a couple of hours and then there is just downright absurdity. I mean just because a story can get transformed into something of a spectacle doesn’t mean it needs to be. Yes I am sure there is an audience out there who is fond of this slice of cinematic pie, but in my opinion there is a lot of other movies out there should you be wishing to just engage in enjoyable time wasting that will check all of those boxes just fine. Otherwise you have been warned. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Three Musketeers “2011” a solid 2.5 out of 5.