Page to Screen: The Three Musketeers (2011)

The Three Musketeers
based on The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Ever since April, when the first trailer came out, I have been beyond excited for this film. I’m part of a film depreciation society (read: Mystery Science Theater 3000, the home game) and my particular taste in bad movies runs to big budget extravangazas, which this most certainly is. I’m also a huge fan of The d’Artagnan Romances in general—I’m trying to polish off The Vicomte to Bragelonne, the infamously long third novel in the series, at the moment. In short, I have rarely encountered a film so thoroughly aimed at me personally, right down to the inclusion of Orlando Bloom. (Leggy will always have a place in my heart. My glittery, Elvish-speaking, preteen heart.)

The Three Musketeers follows the fortunes of D’Artagnan, a young man from Gascony who goes to Paris to become a musketeer. Once there, he falls in with “The Three Musketeers”, a now disgraced trio, and falls afoul of Rochefort, Cardinal Richelieu’s righthand man. When Cardinal Richelieu launches a plot to discredit the Queen and throw France into war with England (with the help of Athos’ ex-lover, Milady de Winter), the Queen approaches D’Artagnan and his friends for help. Cue the airship battles.

I was taken aback, even startled, by how faithful this movie is to the book. Okay, there’s obviously a lot changed—all the adultery has been squared away, Buckingham is villainous, Milady’s background has been changed, and, of course, there weren’t any giant airships in the book. But for the most part, the main story of saving the Queen’s diamonds to prove that she is faithful to the King is preserved. I was shocked and delighted to see Planchet (whom we all called Craig for the entirety of the movie since they pronounce his name in the most inscrutable manner possible) turn up in a fun role. For the most part, these changes aren’t actually changes, but additions. Additions to make it gloriously over the top.

The Three Musketeers is first and foremost an action film—it’s a Paul W. S. Anderson movie, let’s be completely honest with ourselves. But I was pleasantly surprised to find interesting and authentic character notes throughout, despite the little room for character development. I was especially excited to see Ray Stevenson’s Porthos, who did not disappoint; he has swagger, elegance, a touch of vanity, and, of course, brute strength. Porthos is so often made a joke because he’s a gourmand in the text, and I was over the moon he wasn’t here. The rest of the musketeers are played well; Luke Evans’ Aramis is particularly deft, and I’m looking forward to seeing him as Bard in The Hobbit. I absolutely loved that the movie doesn’t let D’Artagnan, who has a terrible temper, get away with being a jerk, although he can make it charming. The villains don’t fare quite as well; while Jovovich’s Milady is lovely and cunning and Orlando Bloom’s Buckingham is so smarmy you could cut it with a knife, Christoph Waltz is more or less asleep as Cardinal Richelieu. (Sadly, Mads Mikkelsen’s Rochefort can never match Michael Wincott’s in my heart.) And I’d be remiss not to mention Freddie Fox and Juno Temple as King Louis and Queen Anne, a pair of complete dorks in love. The moment where Louis, trying to chat up his own wife, suddenly spurts out, “I’m wearing blue!”, is one of my favorites, and not just because it recalls an Eddie Izzard routine.

As for the action, it’s inventive, engaging, and actually has some weight—I was surprised to see that the film wasn’t afraid to hurt D’Artagnan, who gets shot within the first ten minutes of the film and finishes the film pretty torn up. (The divinely ridiculous denouement was only made better by us silently whispering to each other, “He’s covered in stab wounds!”.) Even the airship battle (oh, yeah, there’s an airship battle; there’s a long airship battle) is lots of fun to watch, if only because you wouldn’t believe where it ends up even if I told you. For something filmed in 3D and clearly utilizing a lot of CGI, the only really flimsy CGI shot comes at the end, during the sequel hook. (Of course there’s a sequel hook.) We saw it in 2D, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well even the most obvious 3D effects translated; it ended up giving the movie an interesting sense of depth. It’s a very beautiful film—the clothes are amazing (there’s a running gag about Louis copying whatever Buckingham wears) and the sets are almost distressingly lush. I was also quite taken with the score, which sounds like Hans Zimmer’s scores for Pirates of the Caribbean and Sherlock Holmes had a baby. (In fact, one of my friends said this film reminds her of Sherlock Holmes in its approach to rebooting a public domain series.) Alas, the official single isn’t as awesome as I’d hoped, but you can’t have everything, even with my new favorite bad movie.

Bottom line: How else can I say it? A divinely ridiculous and ridiculously gorgeous action movie with some genuine character notes. For the bad movie lover in you.

You can read my review of the novel here.

I saw this film in theaters.

7 thoughts on “Page to Screen: The Three Musketeers (2011)

  1. I wanted to see this before, but now I think I’ll really enjoy it. Sad to hear that the villains aren’t as great as I hoped, the Musketeers themselves sound quite good and a great deal of fun.

  2. I confess that I really liked it. (I must own it when it hits DVD!) I also enjoyed how the essence of the characters translated from the book to this adaption, such as you mentioned with Porthos.

  3. Pingback: The Sunday Salon: The Three Musketeers — 1993 vs. 2011 « The Literary Omnivore

  4. Pingback: Page to Screen: Battlefield Earth (2000) « The Literary Omnivore

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