PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'The Three Musketeers': Impresarios of Schlock

The musketeers aren't much easier to tell apart than the Ninja Turtles, and they don't wear helpful colored bandanas.

The Three Musketeers

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Logan Lerman, Matthew Mcfadyen, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Milla Jovovich, Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Year: 2011
US date: 2011-10-21 (General release)
UK date: 2011-10-12 (General release)

After years of bringing videogames to the big screen (Mortal Kombat and the Resident Evil series), Paul W.S. Anderson graduates to adapting printed words with his version of The Three Musketeers. It's a savvy choice for an impresario of schlock: the book has been adapted so many times that one more bastardization doesn't much matter.

In fact, Anderson's version -- which opened cold on 21 October -- works best at its most ridiculous and potentially offensive to devotees of Alexandre Dumas. The movie recasts Athos (Matthew Macfayden), Aramis (Luke Evans), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and newcomer D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) as something of an impossible missions force, pulling off dazzling, elaborate, sometimes noisy heists for the sake of the French crown (in the opening sequence, they retrieve flying-machine blueprints from the secret vault of Leonard Da Vinci). This adjustment allows Anderson to indulge his love of a particular image: Milla Jovovich (his off-screen wife) sliding down booby-trapped hallways. Here this scenario (which occurs semi-regularly in the Resident Evil films) has Jovovich in period dress as Milady de Winter, a Musketeer ally.

But Milady betrays the trio early on. After joining forces with the evil Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) while also working with the conniving Cardinal Richelieushe (Christoph Waltz), she’s effectively replaced on the good-guy side by fresh-faced D'Artagnan, who seeks to rouse the musketeers from semi-retirement. This development is vaguely faithful to the original story, but tedious for the movie, because Lerman is a far less assured B-movie presence than Jovovich (who returns to a cartoony comfort zone here, playing an international woman of mystery after strong legitimate performances in Stone and A Perfect Getaway).

If Jovovich has developed some action-movie authority, Lerman is instantly less credible. D'Artagnan is supposed to be cocky -- we know this because his associates say so repeatedly -- but Lerman is too bland to register as arrogant. When he spends his earliest moments challenging other characters to duels, he seems equal parts dim, suicidal, and psychotic.

In this he adds to the film's more general psychosis. Though the central story hook is similar to the Dumas novel -- the musketeers must retrieve a stolen necklace to avoid an international incident and possible war -- Anderson's penchant for mayhem leaves an unnecessary number of corpses in his heroes' wake. When the four swordsmen take on 40 of the Cardinal's men before the story even kicks in, it's supposed to be impressive and entertaining rather than mass murder.

While the body count is disturbing in an offhand, PG-13 sort of way, the movie falters more obviously more when it addresses more conventional aspects of the story, like palace intrigue or witty derring-do. Given its mixture of historical costumes and anachronisms -- along with a Hans Zimmer-aping musical score and the presence of Orlando Bloom -- The Three Musketeers is plainly copying Pirates of the Caribbean as well as Sherlock Holmes. But given Anderson's skill set, it plays more like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (The musketeers aren't much easier to tell apart than the Ninja Turtles, but they don't wear helpful colored bandanas.) Amid the film's antics, Bloom may be up to something else as well, as he changes up his insipid hero image by playing a mustachioed baddie and seems to be having fun, but his swashbuckling experience might've been better utilized playing an actual musketeer.

Instead, the movie settles for enjoyably cheesy action sequences involving swordplay, old-timey gunfire, and that flying ship business. Stranger, Anderson also seems convinced that he's making a romantic story, placing undue emphasis on D'Artagnan's colorless romance with a palace girl, the bittersweet parting of Athos and Milady, and the mildly cute attraction between King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) and his new queen (Juno Temple). As they regard each other with bizarre shyness, they embody a junior-high romance version of French royalty (and as in many junior high schools, no one seems to know any French).

Such story details don't do much to distract The Three Musketeers from its focus on "costumes, fireworks, and such," as one character describes the climactic ball scene. Anderson crashes the party with amusing bluntness, dropping an airship onto Notre Dame. Here his newfound fondness for shooting in 3D is something of a boon even for 2D audiences, as it keeps him from overcutting his silly action sequences.

It doesn't, however, keep him from shameless franchise-baiting, as the finale promises bigger and crazier adventures with the zeal and honesty of a carnival barker. As such, the final shot of The Three Musketeers will be familiar to any Resident Evil fan for the way it expects the audience to get excited about a massive action sequence that may or may not happen in a sequel, but would have enlivened the current movie. Given its lackluster box office, that Musketeers sequel now looks unlikely. But Resident Evil 5 will be coming soon enough.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.