I’ve said before that I think Paul W.S. Anderson is the best bad director there is, and he proves that again here, delivering a load of very good action set-pieces and individual scenes, but overall creating a movie that verges on the incoherent.
Logan Lerman plays D’Artagnan, a country boy who heads for Paris with the hope of being a musketeer like his father before him. However he’s arrived too late, as the legendary Porthos (Ray Stevenson), Athos (Matthew MacFadyen) and Aramis (Luke Evans) are out of favour and the musketeers are no more. However they manage to get back in the king’s good books, which leads them into a grand conspiracy by the evil Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) to seize power, which involves stealing the queen’s diamond necklace and creating a situation where the king will believe his wife is cheating on his with the dashing Duke Of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom).
The musketeers and D’Artagnan set off to recover the jewels, trying to outmanoeuvre the duplicitous Milady and Richelieu’s dedicated forces. As you’d expect, they get into plenty of derring-do along the way.
There are some very good things about The Three Musketeers, including an attempt at giving the Musketeers the distinct personalities they have in the book, but which they’ve lacked in most movie versions. It also has some excellent action scenes, with great sword-fights, explosions and plenty of OTT swashbuckling action. However you get the impression that so much time was spent working out what would look cool in 3D, that there wasn’t much time left for ensuring the film as a whole made sense.
Particularly early on it feels like they’ve missed important scenes out, so that things jump forward in a way where it’s difficult not to feel like you must have missed something vital. Although that becomes lightly less problematic as the movie goes on, it never quite feels like it’s making sense. The only thing it cares about is getting the characters from big action scene to big action scene, without much care about how. Even within those set-piece scenes, while they look good the coolness factor is treated as massively more important than logic, so they’re full of things that are either very dumb or which need the audience to overlook the stupidity and lack of logical coherency to what they’re seeing. Indeed, it’s difficult not to think there are much easier ways to deal with pretty much every situation in the movie. However those ways wouldn’t involve explosions, airships, sword-fights and derring-do, so no one bothers to do it.
It’s quite frustrating, as The Three Musketeers does look very good and Paul W.S. Anderson has a good visual style as a director, but it’s almost as if he needs a co-director who’s in charge of actually telling the story and ensuring that side of the film is as good value for money as the action sequences. Of course it does mean that if you don’t care about story, you’ll probably love the movie, but if you’re one of those pedants who demands coherency and a sense of flow in their films, you’ll find this a frustrating experience.
It really is as if the movie either didn’t think or didn’t care about anything except the action, so that its full of little niggling annoyances, such as that apparently in 17th Century France, French people had English, American, German or Danish accents, but not one person had a French accent. No one cares about creating a consistent internal logic for this or anything else, and so you end up with a bit of a mess.
It also doesn’t help that while the film wants D’Artagnan to be a cocky young buck who men want to be and women want to be with, he largely comes across as an arrogant asshole. As he’s the character whose eyes the movie is largely told through, it’s a little grating. You also have James Corden supposedly providing comic relief but just being annoying, and Orlando Bloom not so much chewing the scenery as Buckingham, as loudly masticating it and then spitting it out. Evans, Stevenson and MacFadyen are solid as The Three Musketeers themselves, but many of the other characters leave a lot to be desired.
If you’ve got a 3D set-up, it does look extremely good with the third-dimension enabled. Anderson may have rather underdone the story, but he obviously spent a lot of time working out exactly how to set things up in 3D so that it uses the extra sense of space without overwhelming your senses and causing your eyeballs to flit all over the place as they try to work out what they’re supposed to be looking at. Even if you’re not watching in 3D (the BD release includes both 3D and 2D versions of the movie), the Blu-ray picture is very sharp and shows off the opulent settings and very effective production design.
Quentin Tarantino considered The Three Musketeers his 11th favourite movie of 2011, and you have to presume he liked it so much because the swashbuckling action is indeed very good. It’s more difficult to believe he genuinely felt everything in-between was really first rate. Some may enjoy the film as a guilty pleasure, but it largely feels like a lot of sterling effort undermined by an inability to tell a coherent story.
And one final thing, why in pretty much every Musketeers movie, do the titular characters never actually use a musket?
Overall Verdict: Some excellent action scenes and a good use of 3D can’t hide the fact the story feels like it’s missing chunks and there’s very little logic to what’s on screen.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac