Alexandre Dumas first published “Les Trois Mousquetaires” in 1844. It tells the tale of a young man who travels to Paris in order to join the Musketeers of the Guard, a light cavalry unit charged with protecting the King of France. The tale has become a classic, still widely available in print today, and has seen iterations in nearly every form of media there is; there have been tv shows, radio programs, video games and of course numerous films.
I have to imagine though, if Dumas saw this particular iteration, by Paul W.S. Anderson of “Resident Evil” fame, his thought would be “What the $&#% is this?“
From the very first scene, when a steampunk frogmen Musketeer emerges from underwater and assassinates a handful of guards using mechanized weaponry, only to have Mila Jovovich’s Milady de Winter appear from nowhere to put a pistol to his head, I was like “Oh, boy, here we go”.
Yessss, this particular version of the classic tale features the unmistakeable directorial stylings of Paul W.S. Anderson. Between the ludicrous set-up scenes brimming with stupefying dialogue that connect the dots of the ridiculous plot lie frequent interludes of swashbuckling and cannon fire supplemented by generous portions of cheap CGI. Within minutes of the film’s start, Mila Jovovich is dodging spiked musket shot, matrix style, in super slow motion. Later, she reprises the stunt by making a spinning dive through a hall trapped with razor wire.
Certain elements of the classic tale still remain… D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) still travels to Paris and encounters Athos, Porthos and Aramis (Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, and Luke Evans, respectively). Together the quartet do battle against the Cardinal Richelieu’s (Christoph Waltz) forces, led by Captain Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen). The film diverges, however, as the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) rolls into town with a futuristic blimp based on a design by Leonardo Da Vinci. A tale of quadruple-crossing espionage and political maneuvering unfolds, as Richelieu attempts to embroil France in a war with England in order to seize control of the country, and the Musketeers scramble to foil his plot.
It’s easy, at nearly any given moment in this film to think, “Oh my God, that is so stupid.” Yet… it’s hard for me to imagine that Anderson isn’t “in on the joke.” The movie is set (for the most part) to a bouncy, semi-comedic sounding score. The characters, dialogue, plot and action are all SO ridiculous that its impossible to deny intentionality. Surely, this is an artistic choice as opposed to some failure or shortcoming. So to me, your enjoyment of the film will be a referendum on how much you enjoyment you derive from this particular artiste’s brand of filmmaking. Bad acting, a silly plot, completely unbelievable action… there’s absolutely no objective reason to grade such a movie well aside from the fact that there’s a certain pleasure inherent in completely disengaging the critical functions of your brain and watching something laughable.
As such, this film was a definite candidate for one of my patented “split grades”. It’s impossible to give a legitimately good grade to a film that causes you to think “this is a joke, right?”, yet I’m not too uptight to acknowledge the silly entertainment value such films often present. And for a while, the light, disposable non-taxing nature of this film was winning me over. But the grand finale tipped the scales for me, by the end there was simply TOO MUCH abject stupidity to swallow. So, instead, I’m forced to award it a straight up…