D’Artagnan (Lerman) heads to Paris to become a Musketeer and becomes embroiled in a ‘plot’ involving the Queen’s jewels, the King’s manhood, Cardinal Richelieu’s plans for European domination, Milady’sdouble-crossing and Buckingham’s “war machine”.
Since cinema’s birth, there’s always been something irrestistible
about Alexandre Dumas’ D’Artagnan Romances. The high adventure, the swordplay, the cheek, the hair, the uniforms, and that fizzy cocktail of personalities: dour, boozy Athos, conflicted Aramis, jolly Porthos, hotheaded D’Artagnan. And yet, ever since Richard Lester’s glorious first stab in 1973 (Reed, Chamberlain, Finlay, York), that lack of resistance has only been rewarded with naffness: witness Disney’s creaky ’93 version (Sutherland, Sheen, Platt, O’Donnell), or Randall Wallace’s snoozy The Man In The Iron Mask (Malkovich, Irons, Depardieu, Byrne).
Such low expectations only benefit this latest incarnation of The
Three Musketeers, from the Michael Bay of B-movies, Paul W.S.
Anderson. It is absolutely, intensely and resolutely daft. For some
reason, Anderson and his scripters Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies
decided that the one thing the novels were missing was huge fucking airships. With machine guns. And flame-throwers. Also, it’s not enough that Athos (Macfadyen, moody), Aramis (Evans, cool) and Porthos (Stevenson, big) be Musketeers. They must also be an 18th-century blend of Ethan Hunt, James Bond and Batman who have to tackle OTT, Indiana Jones-style deathtraps. Meanwhile, why go to Dumas for your zings, when you can just plunder other movies? One entire exchange is lifted from A Fistful Of Dollars, and Princess Bride scribe William Goldman might want to be checking his pockets. Elsewhere, Lerman’s D’Artagnan is a smug, charmless little creep, James Corden’s Planchet squeezes out ‘comic relief’ like he’s constipated… And yet…
And yet… We know we shouldn’t have, but we enjoyed this. For, amid the guilty pleasures of the ludicrous “war machines” and Orlando Bloom’s even more ludicrous hairdo (as spaniel/fox/Lesley Phillips-hybrid Buckingham) there are some guiltless ones in the traditionally choreographed fencing, including a superb climactic cathedral-roof duel between Lerman’s D’Artagnan and Mads Mikkelsen’s nefarious Rochefort. Also, l’il D aside, the Musketeers are well cast, and enjoy an easy chemistry — enough for us to actually not dread the likelihood of a sequel. Actually, sod it: we’d look forward to the sequel. Even if it means more airships.
Stupid, with three o’s. But also fun, never boring, and never insulting (to anyone other than Dumas) — unlike certain of the summer’s A-pics…