Wednesday, 12 October 2011



Why on Earth drag this old warhouse out of the attic yet again? Certainly the last trip to the Dumas well, Peter Hyams' The Musketeer, was an utter disaster notable only for trying to fuse swordfighting with martial arts and for casting EastEnders' Arthur Fowler as a drooling pervert. The three Richard Lester films of the 70s and 80s (though we didn't really need The Return Of The Musketeers) are probably the best and most enjoyable of them, with their huge star casts; the youthful Stephen Herek version (nicknamed Young Swords at the time) was okay but hardly essential. And they're just the most recent in a string of versions that the IMDb would have you believe date back to 1903! What have they brought to the table this time? Given that it's a Paul WS Anderson film, the answer is 3D. (I should mention that I didn't bother with the 3D this time out.)

Much of the familiar framework of The Three Musketeers remains intact: enthusiastic fool D'Artagnan journeys to Paris to become a musketeer just as they've been disbanded; he picks fights with Athos, Porthos and Aramis before they all team up to take on the fiendish Milady De Winter and the dastardly Cardinal Richelieu as they scheme to discredit the king, execute the queen and take over the country. Happily, D'Artagnan has just met Constance, who fortunately happens to be the Queen's lady-in-waiting, and the now-four Musketeers set off to foil the villainous plot with renewed vigour and loyalties.

Though the romantic leads are pretty terrible (Logan Lerman and Gabrielle Wilde), the film is stuffed with big names not even bothering to disguise the American accents. Milla Jovovich (obviously having fun as Milady), Christoph Waltz as the Cardinal, James Corden in the Roy Kinnear peasant role from the Lester films; plus Mads Mikkelsen, Juno Temple, Matthew McFadyen and - oddly considering he was such a drip in the Pirates films - Orlando Bloom! Sadly too much of the film is reliant on CGI effects sequences, such as an extended airship battle and collision over 17th Century Paris, and some of the computer FX shots would have been deemed substandard fifteen years ago.

It rattles along, and it's fun to watch the supporting cast (though emphatically not the leads); there's some nicely snarky dialogue for the villains and it even sets itself up for a sequel that I genuinely suspect will never happen. It's a romp, it's a silly, lightweight film, there's no sense of seriousness behind it, and you do start wondering whether the country would be better off in the evil grasp of Richelieu than that of a king more concerned with the colour of his outfit than the tiresome details of international politics and peace treaties. Ultimately it's sort of okay but with such source material, merely being okay isn't anywhere near enough, and as such it's a disappointment because it really should and could have been better.


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