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Forget Dumas and you just might enjoy it
on 18 September 2013
The `other' Paul Anderson's 3D version of The Three Musketeers - thankfully not retitled The 3D Musketeers - isn't quite the war crime of repute even if it does rework the material to within an inch of its life. Since there have already been umpteen more faithful adaptations, that's not necessarily a fatal flaw, and while it may turn Milla Jovovich's Milady into a Lara Croftish bungee jumping superspy in a 17th Century Mission: Impossible, at least it doesn't turn her into a ninja possessed by the Devil like the 2005 French version with Emmanuelle Beart...
In his favor, Anderson has a good visual sense that makes the most of his excellently chosen lavish and colourful German locations that look more French than France, his camera embracing the spectacle and constantly moving and prowling past obstacles and extras to make the most of the stereoscopic opportunities in a way that still works rather well in 2D. On the debit side, he can't get much of a performance out of anyone, with Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson and a sulky Matthew McFadyen doing an Alan Rickman impersonation lacking chemistry and seeming to all be acting in a different film to each other as Aramis, Porthos and Athos, James Corden's Planchet just dead weight and a waste of perfectly good oxygen while Logan Lehrman channels a pre-pubescent Tony Curtis without the depth to such an uncanny degree as a particularly underwhelming D'Artagnan that you almost expect him to say "Yonda lies da shatto od my fadda" if you thought he knew what a chateau was. Even Christoph Waltz is clearly bored out of his mind as Cardinal Richlieu as he "Yups" his way through scenes like he can't wait to go home but knows he's stuck here for another seven hours at least, and that's if they don't go into overtime. Orlando Bloom's lounge lizard Buckingham at least seems to be enjoying himself and Freddie Fox makes the most of his immature king but only a sorely underused Mads Mikkelsen really delivers the goods as the villainous Rochefort, getting the best swordfight on the roof of Notre Dame.
It doesn't help that the Musketeers seem strangely sidelined after their introduction, never really getting a chance to bond with each other or the audience and pretty literally standing on the sidelines while the court intrigue and plotting goes on centrestage. We don't even get an "All for one and one for all" until the end of the film. The plot is only the barest clothesline of the Queen's Diamonds section of the first half of the novel, reworked to accommodate airship battles (thankfully they have a pleasingly galleon-like design) and give the swaggering Buckingham a much larger part to play. The script is a mixture of the okay and the terrible, with some especially weak dialogue borrowed and bowlderised from better films, but the action scenes are more than decently handled with none of the MTV editing or orange and teal shakeycam antics of so many modern action films - you can actually tell what's going on and, if the swordfights have more energy than imagination, they're not the pitifully inept attempts at swordplay that let down Peter Hyams' The Musketeer. It's by no means a great film, but there are plenty of worse versions of the story and as a brain-off timewaster it passes muster even if the sequel-bait epilogue is just silly. And it's much better than Richard Lester's The Return of the Musketeers.
Whereas the US Region A-locked Bluray has an interactive featurettes running through the film, the UK release has to make do with 12 deleted scenes, director.s comemntary and four featurettes (also to be found on the US edition).