Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Three Musketeers (2011): A Review


Daring Don't...
The Alexandre Dumas swashbuckler The Three Musketeers has been adapted numerous times (I counted at least four film adaptations from 1921, 1948, 1973, and 1993).  Not having seen any of the others (though I did try to watch the 1973 version but started to nod off and decided it wasn't worth continuing) nor the variations of the Dumas novel (such as the Mickey Mouse version or any television adaptations) and never having read the book (but aware of the plot), the 2011 version of The Three Musketeers is my first actual encounter with Athos, Porthos, Aremis, and D'Artagnan.  I have to imagine the book is much, much better than this adaptation.

It is Venice, and Athos (Matthew Macfayden), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Luke Evans) are breaking into a secret vault where DaVinci kept many private papers.  Aiding our trio is Milady De Winter (Milla Jovovich).  Once they pass many traps, Milady gets the papers, but to the trio's surprise, she betrays them to the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom).  The plans are for a flying war-machine, and the Duke, the trio's enemy,  is delighted.

We move on to three years and one day later.  D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman), a kid from the French countryside, goes to Paris to join the fabled Musketeers, the King's personal guards.  Alas, that group was disbanded by the villainous Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz).  He is plotting to seize power from King Louis XIII (Freddy Fox), a bumbling boy interested only in being a fashion plate.  The plan involves framing the Queen (Juno Temple) as an adulteress, with incriminating letters supposedly from Buckingham (whom the King hates) and the prized jewels His Majesty gave her in Buckingham's possession deep within the Tower of London.  

By this time D'Artagnan has both irritated and joined the Three Musketeers, who are loyal to the King and want Richelieu out of power.  Thanks the Constance (Gabriella Wilde), the lady-in-waiting for whom the brash and cocky D'Artagnan has fallen for, the Musketeers have five days to which go from Paris to London, break into the Tower, steal back the diamonds, and return them to the Queen.  How else but by airship?

Somehow, I don't want to blame director Paul W.S. Anderson for trying to appeal to modern tastes by throwing in a lot of contemporary effects to his update of The Three Musketeers.  Allow me a slight digression in that while I didn't finish the 1973 version, I got the idea that that version was played for laughs, more as a comedy than a straight adventure.  Here, we get a lot of sequences that on paper might look good, full of action and such, but which on screen are drowned by their sheer excess. 

The opening scene in Venice starts out The Three Musketeers in a bizarre fashion, making Athos into some underwater samurai and being both excessively elaborate and rather cliched (seriously, a booby-trapped hallway?).   Jovovich (who is coincidentally Mrs. Paul W.S. Anderson) has to move in such a way that the movie ends up as Resident Evil: Renaissance (they haven't made that movie yet, have they?).  A couple of fight sequences (actually, almost all of them) are slowed down Matrix-style, which doesn't add anything to the scenes.

Even worse, comes what is suppose to be the climatic moment: the air battle between the Musketeers' stolen airship and the surprise ship the Cardinal had constructed.  The sight of it didn't elicit excitement, more a "seriously?" reaction.  It's an air battle that appears dragged out, and yes, ridiculous.

If one could put that aside (a tall order), what can't be put aside is the fact that the actors in The Three Musketeers appear to be in two different films altogether.  Macfayden as the stalwart leader plays Athos in a totally serious manner, straight, without a drop of irony (I could argue a little too seriously and humorless).  Bloom, on the other hand, is totally camp to the point of parody.  I have long argued that Orlando Bloom is completely incapable of playing a contemporary character and is only suited for costume pictures.  However, his Buckingham in The Three Musketeers makes me wonder whether that still holds.  He was totally vamping it up throughout the film.  Even in his first scene he appeared to have been directed to ramp up the ham factor so high the movie bordered on being declared un-kosher. 

At one point, Buckingham declares "Double everything". Apparently he meant the acting.

Stevenson as the tough Porthos and Evans as the more pious Aramis were a little more balanced than Athos or Buckingham.  Waltz did better than his ridiculous turn in The Green Hornet, but part of him couldn't resist making the Cardinal a touch of camp. 

I digress to say that Anderson (along with screenwriters Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies) couldn't resist throwing in overtly symbolic touches (such as when the Cardinal is playing chess while overlooking a grand map of Europe).  Anderson's camera work of constantly circling the characters was becoming both repetitive and nauseating, not to mention distracting.

Now, going on the Lerman, while he may yet be a good actor, he is not enough of a screen presence to carry the film.  I don't think his facial expression changed and no one could imagine D'Artagnan as he played him to be inspirational.  Instead, he's just a brainless kid who is pretty but pretty bland as well.  If he was suppose to be comedic, he didn't make me laugh; if he was suppose to be serious, I couldn't take him seriously.  It would have been slightly more believable to have cast Michael Cera as D'Artagnan (given that in his goofy wig, Lerman looks like Cera in a goofy wig). 

At first, when I first thought the movie was over, I says to myself, "It was pretty lousy, and the movie does hint at a sequel (always a death knell for me), but it was so idiotically goofy I could forgive a great deal".  It isn't until we get a scene after the screen goes black that I turned on the film.  We get a scene that is not only illogical to the point of stupidity (I'm suppose to believe a character who had jumped off a dirigible into the English Channel ended up alive and merely wet), but a blatant statement that said "We Are Going to Make ANOTHER ONE!" 

"NO, NO, NO!" says I. 

I don't mind it being all for one, but I do mind if it's all for one more. 

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