“The Three Musketeers” (2011) Blu-Ray Review
The Three Musketeers
– for sequences of adventure action violence.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich, Luke Evans, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Mads Mikkelsen, Christoph Waltz
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: October 21, 2011
Blu-Ray Release Date: March 13, 2012 (Amazon.com)
The Three Musketeers is a modern retelling of Alexander Dumas’ timeless swashbuckling classic. This exciting adventure stars Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & the Olympians), Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean films), Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil films) and Academy Award®-winner Christoph Waltz.
With powerful special effects and explosive visuals, The Three Musketeers comes to life onscreen as Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), along with aspiring warrior, D’Artagnan (Lerman), embark on a dangerous and legendary mission across Europe to save both their King and country – “all for one and one for all.”
(from Summit Entertainment)
One classic story that seems to go through a redo every so many years is Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. Director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Death Race) is the latest to take on the beloved tale. The last attempt at telling the story appeared on the screen in 1993 (with also the characters appearing in The Man In The Iron Mask later in the decade), but in 2011, it still seems a little early to be attempting it yet again. Anderson may also not be the best choice to helm such a project. He takes more of a modern approach to the style and story that films like the recent Sherlock Holmes reboot did, with a hint of A Knight’s Tale mixed in. Anderson also plays the tone of the film more campy than serious. From admittedly directing Orlando Bloom to approach his role as Buckingham “like a rockstar” to using a great deal of slow motion and over-the-top action, Anderson’s Musketeers are undoubtedly an acquired taste. The basic original book’s plot elements and characters exist, but this version mixes things up some, adds big action sequences involving airships and changes up some of the character drama and relationships.
This version of The Three Musketeers is something of a mixed bag. If you’re a big fan of the book and a stickler for details, chances are you’re going to hate this more stylized, action-oriented reimagining. In some ways, it felt like a swashbuckling version of 2010’s The Losers in the way that Sylvain White had portrayed that film. Here, there’s a conflict between the modernized style and the time period the story is based in. It’s somewhat forgivable if you’re gifted with the ability to look past such things, but you’d really have to be more devoted to the action genre than the type of story Three Musketeers was conceived as. By filming in Germany (yes… he filmed a movie based in France on the streets of Germany), the film’s sets are often lavish and tangible. But it’s this tangibility that makes the painfully bad CGI at times all the more jarring. For starters, there’s a moment where a hole is blown underneath a canal in Venice and the water begins to get sucked down in what looks like a mini whirlpool. The effect honestly doesn’t look much more believable than a similar effect used in The Mummy in 1999. It’s poorly done and noticeably unnatural. We then see some water flooding several rooms afterwards and it’s pretty clear that it’s CGI and not the real thing. Later we see the effects of these giant airships which land in open fields and never quite look like they’re really there. In a day in age where some movie studios are churning out effects that can successfully merge a human with a CG background, The Three Musketeers sometimes looks like a direct-to-video movie. Thankfully, this look doesn’t persist throughout the entire film. Anderson’s on-location filming adds a lot of weight and reality to the film, but again, paired with the mediocre special effects, it’s a double-edged sword.
Maybe partly why the movie sometimes gets that bargain bin feel is also in the acting. While it’s well cast with reliable actors, the script isn’t strong enough, and Anderson doesn’t seem to be able to work strong enough performances out of his cast. The movie takes itself too seriously to be just stupid fun from beginning to end, and it takes itself too casually to be taken very seriously. Terry Gilliam’s underrated The Brothers Grimm is a decent example of a film that had a dark premise and tone, but never took itself too seriously. The cast practically winked at the audience throughout the journey and in The Three Musketeers, Anderson and company are clearly having fun with the movie, but it never quite seems as fun as they want you to believe it is. For example, the goofiest character in the film is by far Planchet, who’s played by James Corden (Gulliver’s Travels). He’s a bumbling idiot of sorts who seems to exist only to lug stuff around for the musketeers. He’s mildly amusing the first time he shows up, but painfully out of place every other time he does. Thankfully, that’s not all too often, but when they take him along for the film’s climactic mission, I was unpleasantly surprised. Freddie Fox overacts as a bratty teenage king, but he does a reasonable job of maturing his character by film’s end. I found myself hating him at first almost as much as I did Planchet, but he does redeem himself (unlike Planchet) before the credits roll. Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson) isn’t a bad choice for D’Artagnan (although his long-haired look is), but his performance seems a bit forced and his attitude too cocky for most of the picture. Even Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale), playing the sinister Rochefort, who is a terrific actor, can’t do a whole lot with what he’s been given to work with. The Three Musketeers (played by Luke Evans, Matthew Macfadyen, and Ray Stevenson) and Cardinal Richelieu (played by Christoph Waltz) all seem to be stronger characters and actors overall–but they’re certainly not without their cheesy moments (and even Waltz looks a bit bored with the role at times). Lastly, while the original score by Paul Haslinger (Shoot ‘Em Up, Underworld) is fine and sets the tone well for the movie, you’ll swear he borrowed cues from Hans Zimmer’s work in Pirates of the Caribbean and Sherlock Holmes. The fact that the score often seems borrowed from other–and better–movies also adds to the sophomoric feel of The Three Musketeers.
Still, I have to admit that the movie isn’t entirely unenjoyable. Anderson knows how to direct his action pretty well (even if it borrows enough from other films to feel less like his own style), and there’s just enough fun in the characterization and performances to make it a decent viewing. Still, it’s one of those movies you can’t expect much from and one that you’d need to be in the mood for to fully enjoy. Some of the sword fighting choreography is nicely done as well, which is always more fun to watch than an action scene that just strangely turns into a whole lot of things being blown to bits. And the film ends with a setup for a sequel (if there were one to be made) that is so grandiose and gigantic that part of me felt like that story may be more interesting than the one I just watched.
The content of The Three Musketeers is about what you might expect from a PG-13 venture. There’s plenty of swashbuckling violence that proves lethal for many of the soldiers and guards who dare to get in the way of the Musketeers, but very little of it is graphic at all. A duel near the end of the film gets a tad bloody as a character earns a few cuts here and there, but even the dismissal of the villain in the scene is pretty tame. There is some profanity, albeit just a little, including a few uses of the “S” word which felt especially out of place. Milla Jovovich’s Milady also tends to be big on playing up her sexuality to manipulate men, but beyond some passionate flirting and busty corsets, there aren’t any direct displays of sexuality.
All in all, I may have been a bit more brutal on the film than I needed to be, but in retrospect, it’s easy to put my finger on more things I didn’t like about the film than I did like. Still, the movie exists with the sole purpose to entertain, and for the most part it did. So, in the end, The Three Musketeers is decent escapism, but if you’re accustomed to better made films with better told stories, The Three Musketeers just isn’t going to slice it for you.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 3/13/12)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers is available on single-disc Blu-Ray, single-disc DVD and a 2-Disc 3D Blu-Ray set. The Blu-Ray disc comes loaded with some extras that take a decent look at the making of the film and are a nice addition to the set…
Deleted Scenes (14:18) – There are a dozen deleted or extended scenes. The first is an extended version of Aramis interrogating the man in the gondola for a key. The next is an extended version of Porthos chained up (there’s some innuendo here where Porthos asks the guard who he has to “screw” to get out. The male guard replies, “Not me”). What’s interesting is the extended scenes get a little stamp in the upper right hand corner of the screen that brand the exact relevant moment in the scene as “Extended Footage.” I’ve never seen this before, but it’s a neat way to explain to those not super familiar with the scenes just what is “new” here. The third scene is a short one where a couple of the musketeers enter Da Vinci’s Vault, followed by an extended version of the king playing chess with the cardinal (1 “d*mn”). Following that is a short scene where the queen scolds the cardinal after they meet with the musketeers and then more dialog upon Buckingham’s arrival. The next scene is more of Buckingham and the cardinal in the war room, followed by some deleted girl talk between the queen and Constance. We then see a throwaway snippet of Planchet complaining to the horse about the musketeers, followed by a little extra dialog between Milady and Buckingham in the tower of London. Next is a very short scene of Athos finding Porthos and Aramis lying on the bottom of the airship after the battle and he asks them why they’re just lying around. All of this concludes with the twelfth and final scene, an unedited, extended fight between Rochefort and D’Artagnan. In this version. Constance saves D’Artagnan from a sniper and it ends with Athos shooting Rochefort in addition to D’Artagnan finishing him off. The cut in the finished film works much, much better.
Featurettes (9:31) – These are a series of small teasers for “Access: Three Musketeers,” broken down into four parts, totalling up under ten minutes. Each one just touches on their respective topics–“Paul W.S. Anderson’s Musketeers,” “Orlando Bloom Takes on the Duke,” “17th Century Air Travel” and “Uncovering France In Germany”–but it is a little annoying that this forces you to watch the in-movie special feature option “Access: Three Musketeers” if you want to see everything. (1 “a” word, 1 “d*mned”)
Access: Three Musketeers (3:12) – This is a full-length interactive extras track that plays as a menu overtop the movie while you watch it. You can select from six different topics or feature all of them at once, including “Ultimate Access,” “Cast and Crew,” “Achieving The Look,” “17th Century Action,” “Musketeer Fight Meter” and “Did You Know?” It does allow you to skip ahead to the next extra, but it’s still kind of annoying that you can’t watch them outside of the feature film. The making-of and character videos are the best part of this bonus feature.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 3/13/12)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Milady and Athos kiss and she seductively pushes a key into the cleavage of her dress; Aramis says to a woman, “I’m not really a priest.” She says “I’m not really a lady,” to which he replies, “I have 10 minutes.” and wraps his cloak around her as he goes in for a kiss; Milady shows cleavage in her dress; Milady drops the outer part of her dress to expose a more revealing, smaller, corset-like outfit. She dives off a roof in this outfit, which reveals a garter and her upper thigh when she lands on a balcony; The king askes “Does consummated mean what I think it means?” to which the cardinal sternly answers, “yes it does;” As Milady flirts with Buckingham, he pulls off the hood she’s wearing and makes a comment about wanting to search her (the scene ends there); Athos asks Milady to take off some jewelry and she suggestively asks, “Is there anything else you’d like me to take off?” but nothing else happens or is said; Constance, Milady and the queen show cleavage in their dresses frequently.
Vulgarity/Language: 2 “S” word (plus an incomplete one), 3 “a” words, 7 “d*mn,” 2 “h*ll,” 1 “Swear To G-d,” 1 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “t*t,” 1 “b*stards”
Alcohol/Drugs: Athos stops a drunk man from continuing to drink; D’Artagnan accidentally runs into Athos and he complains about spilling his drink on himself; The musketeers have drinks at their dinner table; The musketeers often comment about wanting to drink or suggesting that they drink.
Blood/Gore: The bridge of a man’s nose is bloody; A bandage on D’Artagnan’s arm is slightly bloody; We see a small bloody cut on D’Artagnan’s clothes. We see some blood on the back of his hand when he stops a blade. Later we see some blood on his cheek and blood on a sword blade as he grips it; We see a tiny bit of blood around two wounds in a man’s coat as he dies with a sword sticking out of his chest.
Violence: We see the quick shot of a dagger flying out of the water and into a guard’s throat. He then falls into the water; Athos pulls out two devices that shoot blades into multiple soldiers. He then kicks one into the water. Milady holds a gun on him as he holds a knife at her stomach; A man drops down onto a gondola and fights several men. Then he holds a man’s head under water before taking something from him and knocking him overboard; Porthos pulls chains out of the wall and beats some guards up with them, then wraps them around his captor before head-butting him; We see a trap tripped where spiked spheres shoot out of the wall. Milady then runs through, tripping all of them; Soldiers open fire on the musketeers. One of the musketeers shoots a guard; A bomb explodes part of the canal and a rush of water takes out a man; Some men are poisoned which temporarily paralyzes them; Two men spar with swords for practice; A boy is shot in the arm. The shooter then hits a man in the face; D’Artagnan runs through a crowd and knocks into several people; D’Artagnan and the musketeers start a big brawl with a bunch of the cardinal’s guards, with many of them being stabbed with daggers, run through with swords and punched/hit; A man breaks a sword over his knee and throws it away; Milady runs through a horde of soldiers, slicing them with her sword; We see the cardinal sparring with swords with a few other men; A cannon blasts open a room via the window and both sides exchange heavy fire. A man tosses several bombs into the room to make their escape; A person pulls a gun on another and fires, but nothing happens; A person jumps off of a flying vehicle high above the ocean; An airship fires on another airship; A man hits another man in the face with a gun; two ships fire their cannons on each other, causing much destruction; Rochefort shoots a man in the chest who questions his orders; D’Artagnan fights several soldiers in the belly of a ship; A ship crashes into a building just as a man tries to shoot another man with two guns, but the impact throws him off his feet; The musketeers board a ship and a swordfight breaks out; Two men swordfight, with the first half of the fight ending as a man falls down the side of a slanted rooftop. It ends when one of them is stabbed with a sword and drops off a rooftop to his death; An airship crash lands at an outdoor banquet.