Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Matthew Macfadyen, Milla Jovovich
Runtime: 110 mins
This film is showing at City Screen. Click here for more information.
There have been many adaptations of The Three Musketeers, so coming up with a fresh interpretation is a challenge for any director. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Paul W.S. Anderson’s ‘steampunk’ vision involves a 17th century France filled with flying battleships, ninja fighting moves and laser riddled vaults.
The resulting film is bizarre and hard to watch, mainly because the plot is completely nonsensical. At the beginning, an Indiana Jones style task force steals a secret weapon designed by Leonardo da Vinci. One of the central conflicts revolves around a horse being mistaken for a cow. A 17th century king refuses to execute his disloyal queen because he is worried about there being ‘insubstantial evidence’.
Aside from the convoluted storyline, the dialogue is wooden and anachronistic, littered with lines such as: ‘lovely outfit – very retro’ and ‘ah – the usual suspects’. In any case, speaking is mostly eschewed in favour of numerous explosions, collapsing buildings and fights conveniently situated by some of France’s main monuments, including Notre Dame.
It is probably a good thing that Anderson focuses on the action scenes, since this is what he does best. The sequences are undeniably slick and well choreographed: exciting and complex, but executed in a way that is easy to follow. The battle between two flying ships is especially enjoyable, even if there is no particular reason for it to take place.
Therefore, The Three Musketeers should have a solid appeal for two audiences: young children, and lovers of action films. Except, given the 12A certificate and period setting, it isn’t the most obvious choice for either. Unfortunately, the grating anachronisms and lack of logic will probably deter the family market.
Thankfully, the cast – mostly relative newcomers – embrace the film’s absurdity, approaching their roles with enthusiasm. Christopher Waltz is particularly good as the evil Cardinal Richelieu. Admittedly, the acting is exaggerated, but this is needed to keep the tone light. On a more positive note, the costumes are inspired; the novelty of seeing Orlando Bloom (Buckingham) with a quiff and James Cordon (Planchett) in a wig lasts a surprisingly long time.
In short, anyone hoping for a faithful or intelligent interpretation of Alexandre Dumas’s classic novel will be disappointed. It is impossible to take this film seriously, and it is inadvisable to try. If you can ignore the glaring anachronisms, wooden dialogue and slow motion fight scenes, The Three Musketeers is watchable as a light-hearted action flick.