I’ve read that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, when writing a Sherlock Holmes story, used to start with the solution and then fill in the plot and clues that would lead to that solution. My suspicion is that something similar happened here. I think someone said, “Hey, you know what would be really cool? If there was an airship battle over Notre Dame that knocked gargoyles off the roof!” Then someone else said that it would be even better if they were steampunky airships, and then someone else said that it would be even better if there was lots and lots of swordfighting, too.
I’ve read that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, when writing a Sherlock Holmes story, used to start with the solution and then fill in the plot and clues that would lead to that solution. My suspicion is that something similar happened here. I think someone said, “Hey, you know what would be really cool? If there was an airship battle over Notre Dame that knocked gargoyles off the roof!” Then someone else said that it would be even better if they were steampunky airships, and then someone else said that it would be even better if there was lots and lots of swordfighting, too. A fourth person walking past, who happened to be a movie executive, only heard the part about the swordfights, assumed that they meant something about the Three Musketeers, and somehow this movie happened.
It certainly isn’t based on the Dumas novel, no matter what the credits say. There are three musketeers with the same names as the Dumas characters, plus D’Artagnan, and a few of the same villains, but there the similarities end. Matthew Macfadyen, who was the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, gets to be good guy Athos. Aramis is played by Luke Evans, also from Robin Hood, where he’s credited as “Sheriff’s Thug”. He does much better here, obviously. He also played Apollo from Clash of the Titans, and will graduate to playing Zeus in The Immortals next month. Busy guy. And Porthos is Ray Stevenson, Volstagg from Thor. So not people you want to mess with, really.
Milla Jovovich, however, has no fear of them whatsoever. She’s survived the Resident Evil series, so a few guys with swords don’t scare her. She’s Milady, sometimes called de Winter, though she has lots of names, and strange ideas about what love means. Sometimes she works with the Musketeers, sometimes with the Duke of Buckingham, and sometimes with Cardinal Richelieu, who runs France. Orlando Bloom is the Duke of Buckingham (who is not gay here, like the real Duke of Buckingham was), and he had the most ridiculous hair I’d ever seen. I almost laughed out loud. Christoph Waltz, from The Green Hornet, is much less laughable as the power-hungry Richelieu.
He gets to run France because the King, Louis XIII, has hair that’s even more ridiculous than Buckingham’s, who did not keep the Worst Hair Ever title for long. The hair on the king’s head isn’t so bad — it’s long and very feminine, but that was the style — but the tiny mustache and beard keep people from taking him seriously because they look so fake, since he doesn’t look old enough for facial hair. So everyone listens to Richelieu instead, because they don’t have to try not to laugh while they’re looking at him.
Oh, and then there’s D’Artagnan, played by Logan Lerman from Gamer. He’s a country boy from Gascony, where everyone sounds American, off to make his fortune as a Musketeer in Paris. Apparently news travels very slowly between Paris and Gascony, because the Musketeers have long since been disgraced and disbanded. Since there were only the three of them left, though, and they’re all sharing a house, the disbanded part isn’t as drastic as it sounds. D’Artagnan’s father, a long-ago Musketeer, tells his son to go ahead and get in trouble, to make mistakes, to learn and to live. It isn’t such bad advice, but his offspring takes it way too seriously. He gets shot on the road after picking a fight with the wrong guy (Rochefort, one-eyed captain of Richelieu’s personal guards, played by Mads Mikkelsen, also of the aforementioned Clash of the Titans). For good measure, D’Artagnan also sets up three duels within an hour of arriving in Paris. That’s more trouble than dad meant, I think.
But since he’s so good at finding trouble, he soon gets caught up in the intricate political machinations and wild swordplay that is the lives of the Musketeers. Okay, really, it’s more like wild drinking and verbally abusing their hapless servant Planchet, who’s also James Corden from Planet 51, and the political machinations are actually not at all intricate or even subtle, but still. D’Artagnan even finds love with Constance, played by Gabriella Wilde, who is lady-in-waiting to the Queen, played by Juno Temple. They were both in some frightening looking movie called St. Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold, which seems to have started with someone saying, “Hey, you know what would be cool? If a bunch of pretty young women in schoolgirl outfits went looking for pirate treasure!”
It certainly isn’t a boring movie, obviously. This is already a long review and I’ve hardly touched the plot. Since there isn’t a great deal of plot, though, it’s probably better to skip most of it. The surprise twists are utterly unsurprising, and you see all the shocking betrayals coming a mile off, but they didn’t rely on those, thankfully. Several of the characters are terribly likable, such as Planchet (which is a term for a coin yet to be stamped, or a blank, so probably an in-joke there) and the king, despite his unfortunate facial hair. So if you’re able to sit back, enjoy the characters and the visuals, forget that the plot is thinner than a piece of paper, and don’t mind having to believe at least six impossible things, then you, like me, will probably give this one three out of five. I might have gone with three and a quarter, but I was forced to subtract for the painfully obvious lead-in to a sequel at the end. Given that even Real Steel, from two weeks ago, is still outperforming this at the box office, though, they’ll have to have huge Blu-ray sales to get anywhere near The Three Musketeers II: All 4 1 & 1 4 All