DIR: Paul W.S. Anderson • WRI: Alex Litvak, Andrew Davies • PRO: Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Robert Kulzer • ED: Alexander Berner • DOP: Glen MacPherson • DES: Paul D. Austerberry • CAST: Orlando Bloom, Mads Mikkelsen, Milla Jovovich, Logan Lerman
Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers is daft. This shouldn’t come as any great revelation however. If you’d encountered any promotional material or even noticed the name Paul W.S. Anderson in the previous sentence, you already knew that. And rest assured there will be a plethora of reviews criticizing it for being too daft, too incoherent and too irreverent toward the classic tale.
But heed not their critiques. If anything, The Three Musketeers, by all accounts, should have been a damn sight dafter! I’m not suggesting Muskehounds, though they couldn’t hurt… Don’t mistake me. This is perhaps the best 110 minutes Anderson has directed in the past 15 years, a powder keg of inventive sets, off-kilter humour, and plentiful B-grade action. That’s no criticism, the swashbuckling is generously shot, clear long takes prevailing and sprinkled with ample invention and stuntwork.
It’s ‘trés bonne’, as the Musketeers would say. If they spoke French. Which they assuredly do not. And that’s without even addressing the utterly preposterous 17th century Zeppelins brawling in the skies above Paris. Which, and this point is worth labouring, is utterly preposterous!
In seeming contradiction with the former paragraphs, you’re still left with the impression Mr Anderson was needlessly restrained. Longer, more plentiful swordfights would benefit everyone, while the set pieces lacked just that dash more bombast. Meanwhile the film’s mirth could have been easily corrected by taking James Cordon and kicking him into the Seine!
Unfortunately the cast seems confused as to the film’s tone. Ray Stevenson (Porthos) and Luke Evans (Aramis) are given precious little to do, besides chop and punch extras while Matthew ‘I can’t believe it’s not Clive Owen’ MacFadyen provides a convincing performances as the jilted Athos in an otherwise intentionally unconvincing role.
The pitch is not helped as Milla Jovovich (Milady… yes, Milady) hams it up in what can only be an intentionally derisive effort, Christoph Waltz plays a cardinal, and is less entertaining than that sounds, and Orlando Bloom, instantaneously forgettable as the Duke of Buckingham, proves why he’s not a bigger star.
But an unsteady tone is easily forgiven when it fluctuates between the comical and the absurd. The Three Musketeers would have improved if left to this chaotic dynamic. However, the presence of Logan Lerman’s D’Artagnan tends to sully the proceedings with mush, spouting tired clichés about ‘being yourself’, ‘making mistakes’ and ‘being in love.’
No one really cares Dogtanian! People parted with hard won cash to watch the clashing of steel against the backdrop of exploding…, well, everything. Why else would you see a Paul W.S. Anderson film?!
Unwanted mush and moderation aside, The Three Musketeers is a more amusing, more exhilarating romp than half the overly-solemn crap released this past summer. And despite what anyone might say regarding narrative, characterisation and pacing, this film features a blimp getting stabbed by a church steeple!
It’s fun. It’s humorous. It’s daft. So why not?
Rated 12A(see IFCO website for details)
The Three Musketeers is released on 12th October 2011