If you're walking into The Three Musketeers
aware that the film is directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (the Resident Evil
films), then there's a strong chance that you've already lowered your expectations for this latest incarnation of The Three Musketeers.
If you're not aware that this is a Paul W.S. Anderson film, then consider yourself fully informed now.
Dumb down the expectations.
Expect very little originality.
Bring your earplugs.
Maybe, big maybe, just then you might be at least modestly entertained.
What we learn within five minutes of the opening credits of The Three Musketeers
is that Logan Lerman is no Johnny Depp, neither in physical appearance nor in thespian swagger. With this version of The Three Musketeers
taking place in 3-D, Lerman's cinematic shortcomings are only amplified larger than life. Lerman is the young D'Artagnan, who arrives in Paris picking duels with each of the famed musketeers before joining them in a battle with Cardinal Richelieu's guard, led by Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen).
Pay attention to Cardinal Richelieu here, because Christoph Waltz practically steals the film anytime the Oscar-winning actor is on the big screen. While one could easily argue that the actor's getting a bit stereotyped as the baddie, Waltz has a knack for keying into a movie's vibe and playing the baddie to perfection whether it's high drama, action/thriller or, in this case, ham-fisted campfest in 3-D.
Co-writers Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies have penned the film in such a way that poor ole' Alexandre Dumas must be rolling over in his grave. Calling the dialogue wooden would be an insult to wooden dialogue, while it seems that nobody involved with the picture can seem to figure out exactly what it's supposed to be or how it's supposed to feel. Have you ever watched a film where you could tell that they were trying to convey a certain time period, location or attitude? It's sort of like when a film takes place in New York City, but only a few members of the cast can actually do a New Yorker accent. In The Three Musketeers,
the actors go in and out of early swashbuckler mode with hilarious frequency. One minute it feels like we're watching an old-fashioned pirate movie, but in the next you can't help but expect Bill & Ted to show up.
With the exception of the film's opening scene, a mid-fight action sequence for Athos (Matthew MacFadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans) and Porthos (Ray Stevenson), aka The Three Musketeers, along with their faux companion Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) in an effort to uncover plans for a flying airship. If you know the literary version of The Three Musketeers,
then a good majority of the rest of the film will unfold predictably. If you don't know the story, then there's very little chance you're going to venture into the theatre anyway.
Poor Logan Lerman is clearly out of his element here and clearly overwhelmed by either the richness of the material or director Paul W.S. Anderson's willingness to smother the material underneath a thick layer of CGI, horridly dark 3-D special effects and blandly choreographed action sequences. Even worse, Lerman has zilch in the way of chemistry with his supposedly leading lady, Constance (Gabriella Wilde). The two performers bring to mind the awkwardness of Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen, but in this case there are no dazzling special effects to save the day.
The only thing that really saves the day is, as previously mentioned, Christoph Waltz. Waltz manages to find that perfect balance of camp and genuine badness, a balance that fellow baddie Orlando Bloom never finds as he seems bound and determined to play it seriously here.
There's no question that a certain amount of the badness here is quite intentional, but the film completely lacks the charm, innocent fun and cartoonish swagger of Captain Jack and the Pirates of the Caribbean
films or, for that matter, the early 50's swashbuckling films.
While it's a foregone conclusion that Paranormal Activity 3
will sweep opening weekend box-office receipts, one can only hope that America ignores this film enough to ensure that the obviously prepared for sequel never gets a second thought.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic