Starring Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Orlando Bloom, Gabriella Wilde, James Corden, Freddie Fox, Juno Temple
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Expectations: Low, but I’m fairly excited.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
I won’t even try to pretend that I knew what was going on throughout most of The Three Musketeers, but I never really cared. The movie is chock full — and I mean CHOCK FULL — of imaginative, wild shit, so something as mundane and boring as an understandable plot just simply had to fall by the wayside. Sure, this is sure to add fuel to the detractors’ fire, but those who accept what the film is trying to do will enjoy it rather well. And those who stumble in looking for a traditional re-telling of the classic story will be absolutely crushed.
But I’m honestly not deeply familiar with the original tale, so really I don’t know how good of an adaptation this is. I’m pretty sure there weren’t any airships in the Dumas original, though. What I can comment on was how much this particular adaptation reminded me of a Shaw Brothers wuxia film. I don’t know if it was the swords, or maybe the over-the-top fantasy of the character’s actions in the action sequences, or the complicated plot involving various factions all jockeying for supremacy, or the exaggerated villains typified by broad strokes of melodrama, but all throughout the film I kept coming back to how much it felt like a Western version of an old-school wuxia film. It’s not nearly as entertaining as one of those, but seeing as there aren’t a lot of Western-made wuxia films, I have to give this one some slack, just like I did the same for some of the really early Shaw films.
Where The Three Musketeers really shines is in its production design, specifically the costumes. I’m not one to notice costumes much, and I generally find the films that get Oscar nominations in the category somewhat perplexing as to why they received the accolade over something else; it seems like a lot of personal preference on the part of the people voting. In any case, The Three Musketeers was absolutely robbed of a nomination AND an Oscar win for its costume design. It’s outstanding! There are tons and tons of costumes, and they’re all interesting, intricate and incredibly fun. If we can give sound Oscars to dumb action movies, why can’t something like this be up for a costume design Oscar?
The set design is also really well-done, with the “lair” of Christoph Waltz standing out as the film’s best location. The Three Musketeers was all shot on location in Germany, so I’m fairly certain that this is a real place and not a built set, but regardless, it’s brought to life by some rather bold choices. The room is completely white, but behind Waltz’s seat hangs a giant white crucifix with a golden flame backdrop. As eye-catching as this is, the large-scale, miniature war figurines set up like a huge game of Risk in the middle of the room are still interesting enough to fight for your attention. The scene is nothing without the grandeur of the room’s stunning architecture, though… and let’s not forget those costumes! It’s like a visual representation of the film’s plot, constantly taxing your senses and your ability to focus, providing an incredible amount of stuff to feast your eyes on.
Where the fun starts to crumble a bit, though, is when fatigue sets in. The human brain can only handle so much at once. This point in the film is not one that I can place my finger on for everyone, as we all have different breaking points. The Three Musketeers is a great way to find yours and then compare with your friends. I don’t generally recommend watching a movie in segments, but it actually might be preferable with The Three Musketeers. And for the record, I broke at around the point when the musketeers hijacked Milla Jovovich’s carriage and hoisted it into their airship… which is crazy because so much insane airship stuff happens after that. I should probably re-watch that section later on to experience its full glory, unhindered by the exhaustion of the first hour or so of the film.
The action is somewhat poorly filmed at times, making it hard to decipher exactly what’s going on at a given moment. This is more frustrating than it is bad, though, as there are more than this movie’s fair share of inventive and fun moments of fight choreography, with many of these even reminding me again of wuxia films. And keep in mind that I say all of this as a true fight film junkie, so if you’re not accustomed to watching a lot of fight films, you might not have the same negative issues.
I also can’t imagine why the reviews I’ve seen for this one are so overwhelmingly bad. Sure, the movie isn’t great, but it’s a B-Movie through and through, and it never once asks you to accept it as anything but. I mean, when the film opens with an Italian ninja rising from the waters of a canal to murder a guard with a throwing knife, you have to know what you’re getting yourself into, right? Did people actually take this movie seriously?
Whatever, I can’t worry about what other people thought. I thought it was bad, but highly enjoyable. Your mileage may vary, of course, but if you’re inclined to like really exaggerated, over-the-top nonsense, you’ll find more than enough to satisfy with The Three Musketeers. The art of the mainstream, high-budget B-Movie has run rampant throughout the Hollywood blockbuster, but The Three Musketeers is bold enough to embrace its cult roots and just throw caution to the wind. And those costumes… Très bien!