There are some stories and characters that if you just adapt and stick to the bare bones of what has made them timeless classics, you can always, with very little effort or talent, make a half-decent, watchable film. I’m not talking about a masterpiece everytime but just a film that when you leave the cinema or turn off the DVD, you nod, your happy with the last two hours you’ve spent and you move on. If you have any skill or talent at all, you can take those timeless and amazing characters and make something brilliant.
The kind of characters I’m talking about range from legends like Robin Hood and King Arthur to classic novels like 1984, Animal Farm or even The Count of Monte Cristo. Even adapting classics like Peter Pan, changing Robinson Crusoe and making Castaway or picking a character that it’s almost impossible to destroy, like Sherlock Holmes, and practically everytime, if you stick to what makes those stories and characters work, you can create a film that’s both watchable, fun, true to the original and 9/10 times, good!
Then Paul W.S (Three Musketeers was a book?) Anderson comes along and decides he’s going to try a different approach with some classic, literary heroes – The Three Musketeers. His new approach is not to focus on the original, timeless and classic story and then create a film that could potentially jump-start a new series/franchise for a new generation of viewers unfamiliar with the book, but instead try so desperately to force a new franchise that he destroys the initial film completely! He decides that 3D, ridiculous CGI, a complete ignorance of the original story and a film that screams “please make a sequel!!! Please!!!” is the best approach!
The film starts strongly, opening with our three heroes and establishing their three differing approaches to any “mission” and subsequently showing their three key personalities. The first mission has action, cool sword-play and a good, modern approach to the tale. Then, that is the last we see of it! We never again see the Three Musketeers in all their swashbuckling glory, showcasing their unique approaches to combat. The modern approach to the original is actually an excuse to take key scenes of the book, get through them as quickly as possible, so we can see the cool effects that Anderson seems to have shoe-horned in.
The winning formula for a good Musketeer’s film is here. The three actors playing the Musketeers all do a perfectly decent job but none of them really set the screen a-light! Logan Lerman playing D’Artagnan is more irritating than appealing and Christoph Waltz, playing our “main” villain Richelieu, is heavily under-used considering playing a villain is what he does best. Instead, it’s decided that Orlando Bloom should have a go at playing the villain. Orlando Bloom can be great, he holds his own well in Pirates of the Caribbean, but here he is trying too hard and desperately wants to be the scene stealing baddie in the same style as Alan Rickman in Robin Hood.
If there is one thing you should be able to do well with a Musketeer’s film that is sword fighting. This should be the one thing you see more than anything else. Other than one key battle in the middle of the film, where the Musketeer’s take on fifty men, it’s never really there. For a film that seems to be trying desperately to be the new Pirates of Caribbean, the one thing it misses is the brilliant sword fighting that the Disney series did so well!
Instead it wants to focus on the inclusion of huge airships and make the final act of the film an air-battle! Not very swashbuckling, French renaissance, Musketeer is it? What’s worst is that this “finale” is done so badly that I didn’t realise it was the grand finale! When the film ended I felt like I’d watched the first half of a film and was still waiting for the grand pay-off that this kind of film usually warrants!
(Mild Spoiler Ahead!!!)
This was when Anderson decided to do the most infuriating thing The final scene is the oncoming invasion of England forces. Huge ships, both on sea and in the air. A huge battle fleet, ready for a huge war like finale… then the film ends!!! Literally, Anderson shows us what we could have had in some sort of cool film, action ending and then takes it away. It’s becoming a bad habit of films to deliberately try hard for a franchise or series but I’ve never seen it done as badly has it was here.
(End of Spoiler!!!)
Overall, the key ingredients for a brilliant film are all here! The Three Musketeers are swashbuckling, heroic french soldiers who live in a time of chivalry, beautiful woman and have an evil, manipulative villain. Why anyone would want to change what makes the original story a classic is beyond me but that’s exactly what Paul W.S Anderson does here. Subsequently we get a rushed, empty and incomplete film that is trying so hard for a sequel that it forgets to make the initial film any good!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)