After more than 20 adaptations of the famous swashbuckling novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, here comes another one. This rendering is a postmodern re-reading by Paul W. S. Anderson, steampunk-styled and slowmotion-shot, boasting German-French-British co-production, and the biggest budget ever. Oh yes, it is the first one in 3D.
Fidelity in adaptation disputes seem inane in 2011, especially in this case, where the plot doesn’t divert too dramatically from the original (with the exception of the flying battleships built according to Leonardo Da Vinci plans). The story is well known: Young D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) is headed for Paris to become a Musketeer and manages to meet the entire cast of the main characters on the same fateful day: the nefarious one-eyed Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen) and scintillating Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich, gorgeous), the leader of the once legendary trio Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), the soulful former priest Aramis (Luke Evans), and muscular Porthos (Ray Stevenson), all of whom D'Artagnan impresses with his brazen cockiness and rustic charm.
While young King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox), bipolar, bad at chess and bored with big politics, is preoccupied with the latest fashions in coiffure and dress and a very cute crush on his fresh-faced wife Queen Anne (Juno Temple), Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) is the one playing with the country’s fate (metaphorically and otherwise – there are adorable ‘toy’ ships on the floor of his ‘office’). The three somewhat embittered Musketeers joined by the ideallistic D'Artagnan have to battle Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom, strangely styled) to save France and the honour of the Queen. Thank God there is Barbie-faced Constance (Gabriella Wilde) for a peachy kiss before the credits roll.
Alex Litvak (Predators) and Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice 1995) are the writers here, and it is no wonder that The Three Musketeers are a steampunk comic one minute and candy-coloured costume adventure the next. Anderson plays with intertextuality here and there (some critics call it stealing), alluding to Pirates of the Caribbean (and hoping against hope for a franchise: games, toys, keep dreaming), The Princess Bride and The Empire Strikes Back, Pulp Fiction, as well as referencing Bond, Indiana Jones and Batman movies, comic strip and cartoon clichés more generically. Two supporting actors – Christopher Waltz as Cardinal Richelieu and Til Schweiger as Cagliostro – will be instant reminders, to some viewers at least, of another movie that took liberty with famous historical events, the delightful Inglourious Basterds, which doesn’t elevate The Three Musketeers’s B-movie status but rather encourages unwelcome comparisons.