The huge box office success of The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is perhaps the only way to explain why we have a new movie about the Three Musketeers. Sensing an audience appreciation for swashbuckling and pantaloons, Hollywood no doubt went in search of an already established brand and, et viola!, rediscovered Alexandre Dumas' classic tales of derring-do in 17th century France.
I'm not sure which, if any, of Dumas' Musketeers novels Paul W.S. Anderson's film (penned by Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies) is based on but it involves airships (100 years or so too early for such an invention but never mind), the director's wife (Milla Jovovich), an Oscar winner (Christoph Waltz) and a plot to bring about war between France and England predicated on the whereabouts of a necklace.
That piece of jewellery is stolen from the Queen of France (Juno Temple) and intended to implicate her in an affair with the dastardly Englishman, the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom), whose eyes and ears in the French palace belong to Milady (Jovovich). But she just happens to be a double agent, working with Cardinal Richiliue (Waltz) who wants to bring about war as a means of usurping the young, foppish King Louis VIII (Freddie Fox), a monarch more preoccupied with the colour of his pantaloons than politics.
But what of the Musketeers, I hear you ask. Surprisingly, and sadly for fans of Dumas, the trio are the least interesting and underdeveloped characters in the film. Following a failed mission in the film's opening sequence, which sees them one-upped by Milady and Buckingham in obtaining Leonardo Da Vinci's plans for said airship, Athos (Matthew McFadyen), Aramis (Chris Evans), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) are left broken men and shadows of their former heroic selves.
But their spark (if not the actors' interest; MacFadyen delivers his lines with undisguised boredom) is reignited when young D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman), fresh from his father's farm, rides into Paris and manages to pick a fight with all three men, not to mention the Cardinal's guard, led by an unrecognisable-to-me Mads Mikkelsen.
D'Artagnan's pluck and swordsmanship impresses the Musketeers and he will eventually rally them to take on the Cardinal, Milady and Buckingham in defense of the French throne, as well as to impress the Queen's lovely (and possibly chronically fatigued) lady-in-waiting.
The Three Musketeers could certainly be enjoyed by a younger audience (despite all the swordplay there is very little blood), and certainly a less demanding one, but for the very little it does well - Fox and Temple make for quirky royals; Paul D. Austerberry's production design is impressive, as is the art direction, and the costumes by Pierre-Yves Gayraud - Anderson's film is offset by all it does badly.
While most everybody is speaking with English accents, despite mostly being French (not uncommon in these types of films), Logan Lerman doesn't even attempt to disguise his American accent. Jovovich poses rather than acts, while Bloom is only ever one dastardly chuckle away from twirling his moustache. And Christoph Waltz, while not disgraced here, really should fire whomever it is who keeps insisting he read screenplays where he is earmarked for the role of villain. Hollywood typecasting much?
As for the 3D in The Three Musketeers, it's neither here nor there but much like the film itself, is completely unnecessary. And while the film ends with the suggestion of a sequel, I think that's more wishful thinking on Anderson et al's part as all evidence is to the contrary. To bastardise the Musketeers' motto, all for one and one is all there should be.