Saturday, October 22, 2011

All For One and None for All

     In recent interviews, star Milla Jovovich has said this adaptation isn't your parents or grandparents' version of The Three Musketeers. And she's right about that.

     Director and producer Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil films) is not unfamiliar to the action/adventure genre. He knows how to direct sleek and stylish action sequences, but that's not enough. Here, he egregiously fails at telling the story of the musketeers, which is perhaps the most crucial part of the film.

     In this light-hearted version, the three musketeers: Athos (Matthew MacFadyen, Pride and Prejudice) Porthos (Ray Stevenson, Thor) and Aramis (Luke Evans, Immortals) are down-on-their-luck swordsman, just trying to merge themselves back into society. That is until a run-in with the cheeky D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) and they discover they still got it in them. They are quickly taken to see the King of France (Freddie Fox) where they are to be reprimanded, under the Cardinal's advisory (played by an underwhelming performance from Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds) for killing his men, but are spared. Soon after, the Queen's diamonds (Juno Temple, The Dark Knight Rises) are stolen and the trio and their young apprentice are asked to recover them from Milady (Jovovich). Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) round out this A-list cast playing the Duke of Buckingham and Rochefort, respectively.

     It's quite an amazing group of actors here, you have an Academy Award winner, a Bond villain, an action star, two very talented young actors and Mr. Darcy. It's a director's dream cast, but Anderson fails to use this to his advantage.

     I feel the fault here lies with Anderson, he can give us action, but hasn't learned the meaning of what it means to be an auteur of a film. This is harsh, I know, but I didn't get a sense that he knew he was telling the story of the musketeers, one of the most widely known and respected stories in literature, while watching this film. I give him credit for interpreting it in his own way; I'm sure Dumas never would have imagined his story be adapted into steam punk (Is that a flying ship?) And while I'm being nice, I'll add that Anderson was allowed to shoot in German locations, never allowed to be filmed before and the cinematography (by Glen MacPherson) is quite stunning at times, unfortunately it's not stunning enough to save the film.

     Between the jagged editing and awkwardly juxtaposed scenes, down-right cliche dialogue and overall lack of smooth narration, the film misses on illustrating a clear story. There were many secondary themes Anderson could have touched on and added depth to the story, but stayed away from, like Aramis' silent battle with his faith, Athos and Milady's love/hate relationship, a better background for D'Artagnan, or why Orlando Bloom is such a bad actor? There was just so much that was left to the imagination; the film chose to only scathe the shallow surface and left everything else in the deep.

     There's very little to admire here, but the film had its few moments. This version is a more light-hearted approach to Dumas' story with the occasional laugh here and there. That's thanks to D'Artagnan and Planchet (James Corden). The castles and exteriors were visually pleasing and an amazing array of costumes (by Pierre-Yves Gayraud) added the right look to the film. But as I said, it just wasn't enough to save the film from it's obvious fallacies and I would have to blame that on a lack of clear direction from Anderson and from a lack luster script by Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies.

     This isn't your parents or grandparents' version of the Three Musketeers. And unfortunately, I don't think our generation would want to take ownership of this adaptation either.

Rating: D+

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