Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Three Musketeers: Illogical but Entertaining

(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, dated 15 October 2011, retrieved from

Cast: Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Matthew Macfayden, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Rating: 3 stars
One says a little prayer when one hears that the maker of Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil is on a mission to reinterpret Alexandre Dumas. And what comes out of it is the lovechild of Pirates of the Caribbean and American Pie, baptised in The Matrix. What else could envision Milady DeWinter (Milla Jovovich) doing somersaults and rappelling, with a gigantic airship for a backdrop, showing ample cleavage enhanced by a seventeenth century version of the Wonder Bra?
The cast, production and storyline scream, “Strike One for the European Union!” You have a British antagonist, French sidekicks, and Italian genius speaking with British accents in a French story sponsored by German franchises. The three musketeers themselves are played by actors who represent England, Ireland and Wales, and the fourth is an American-accented upstart straight out of a teen movie. How healthy for international politics!
The last thing you should expect from the film is logic. Unmindful of anachronisms, and with scant regard for Dumas’ storyline, the only aspect of this version of The Three Musketeers that is in line with the original plot is the business of the Queen’s necklace. Now, the necklace is somehow key to the nuptial bliss of King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) and his bride (Juno Temple). And so, the safety of the necklace is the foremost concern of the three aging musketeers (Matthew Macfadyen as Athos, Ray Stevenson as Porthos, Luke Evans as Aramis) and the nincompoop they allow into their hallowed circle (Logan Lerman as D’Artagnan). D’Artagnan finds the time every now and then to play life coach to the King, and manages to find a love interest in Constance Bonacieux (Gabriella Wilde).
In a twist that may have had Dumas rolling in his grave, Athos is rather put out after being double-crossed by his former lover Milady in a secret mission to steal a blueprint for an airship, drawn up by Leonardo Da Vinci, from Venice. Worse, she’s colluding with the smooth, scheming Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) and a metrosexual Englishman, Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) who has a strange foppish fixation with sartorial matters.
With kitschy wit for dialogue, the actors struggle not to ham their scenes. Most of the film is grounded in swashbuckling action, which exploits the 3D medium – complete with missiles and boots flying at the audience. Thankfully, Hollywood believes that Frenchmen can have British accents, though its war movies have Britons playing Germans and speaking stilted, guttural English.
The enormous budget the producers had at their disposal has helped stock up the film with grandiose fight sequences, and the costumes are beautifully designed (by Pierre-Yves Gayraud). That, combined with neat editing and intelligent sound design, makes for great production value.
Dauntingly, the end seems incomplete and hints at a sequel – which may not be the best idea, given that the latest editions of The Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter franchises have already made their contributions to 3D fatigue. And the storyline won’t support a franchise, either – replace the Queen with a mother-in-law and the musketeers with honest domestic help, and you have a classic Indian mega-serial plot.
The Verdict: The movie is not rational, but it’s not boring. If you’re looking to while away a lazy afternoon, go. But divorce the film from the Dumas novel before you sit.


Da Undertoad said...

i think it is just as well to forget the novel in any adaptation.
i kinda like it when smartarse swashbuclers speak smart mouth 21st century and the 'chicks' can buckle swashes as well as the men. I hearken back to Maureen O'hara playing pirate queens.
I wisj someone would do a really clever Captain Blood, here in India, in English, with slang, in which ever language.Honest to god adventure in which the good guys win and the bad guys get their comeuppance.

Da Undertoad said...

Peter Sabatini's Captain Blood.

Nandini Krishnan said...

That sounds Baz Luhrmann-ish to me. Do you like his work?

The only book-to-movie transition that's worked for me is LOTR. I'm a die-hard Tolkien fan, and I thought Peter Jackson pretty much put on screen whatever I'd imagined when I read the book.

I've seen some great theatrical adaptations, where a certain American/ European play is shifted to an Indian milieu etc, and cleverly so. Yet to see that happen on film.

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