The Sunday Salon: The Three Musketeers — 1993 vs. 2011

As you may know, I like checking the search terms that bring people to my blog; it’s fun and it lets me see what I can possibly add. So you can imagine when “the+three+musketeers+2011+vs+1993” popped up on my search terms widgets that I looked up to the heavens and declared, “Challenge accepted.” What can I say? You just gotta ask. In one corner, Disney’s 1993 adaptation of The Three Musketeersin the other corner, Summit’s 2011 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. Fight!


The 1993 adaptation takes some basics—D’Artagnan joining the Musketeers, the Cardinal as chief villain—and makes a pretty straight-forward, if alien, adventure story. Somehow Cardinal Richelieu is going to take over France? And sleep with Queen Anne? Who cares, it’s time for D’Artagnan to become a man! Let’s buckle some swash, guys!

The 2011 adaptation, however, is actually pretty faithful to the main plot of The Three Musketeers; while Queen Anne and the Duke of Buckingham aren’t having an affair (to make her a sympathetic character), the musketeers are on a fetch quest for Queen Anne’s diamonds to prove her fidelity to the King and keep the Cardinal from fulfilling his nefarious purposes. They even end the movie respecting each other somewhat! I mean, the steampunk airships aren’t exactly canon, but they’re an addition, not a change. But which is the more interesting story?

WINNER: 2011. The characters have more interesting personal stories (I, for one, died laughing when Athos told D’Artagnan to not be a mysterious, woman-hating drunkard like him), it’s more faithful to the book, and it’s not a traditional coming-of-age story.


I could pretend to talk about the good guys, but we all know it’s down to the baddies when it comes to deliciously cheesy movies. Besides, it’s too difficult for me to choose between Logan Lerman’s surly, tomboyish jerk of a D’Artagnan and Chris O’Donnell’s charmingly naive D’Artagnan. I love them both!

I had hoped that Christoph Waltz’s Cardinal Richelieu would blow Tim Curry’s out of the water, but, sadly, Waltz was mostly asleep for his crack at the man in red. Tim Curry’s Richelieu gnaws scenery right and left, leers at everyone, and somehow wants to become king, all while growling so much that, after too many viewings, I have concluded that the sound mixers have put cougar growls in whenever he dramatically sweeps around. Mads Mikkelsen’s powerful Rochefort can’t compete with Michael Wincott’s slim, feather-haired, and menacing Rochefort. And Rebecca De Mornay’s extremely dry Milady de Winter is just more fun than Milla Jovovich’s good-natured adventuress. So 1993 wins the category, right?

Well, you’re discounting the sheer power of Orlando Bloom being evil—which means Orlando Bloom being smarmy. Bloom smarms his way through every frame, grimacing beautifully and practically murmuring with disdain when he’s not speaking. Even his mustache is smarmy. Hide your scenery, folks, Bloom’s Buckingham is coming to town. Smarm on, you crazy diamond.

WINNER: Tie. Bloom’s smarm brings the disappointing bevy of baddies of the 2011 version level with Tim Curry’s insanity and Michael Wincott’s gorgeous menace.

Action Sequences

I think this category can be summed up thusly: there’s a fight scene in the 2011 version where the two competitors are a steampunk airship and Notre Dame de Paris herself.

…oh, also the fight choreography is better, faster paced, and more interesting. BUT THERE’S AN ARCHITECTURE BATTLE, GUYS, COME ON.

WINNER: 2011.


You might not know Michael Kamen’s name, but you know his music—he did the score for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (another delightfully terribly big-budget nineties action period film. …I have very specific tastes, okay?), as well as writing the song “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”. Kamen also wrote the score for Brazil, which you may be familiar from the film itself and the promotional spots for WALL-E. He had a brilliant partnership with Bryan Adams and R. J. Lange where they would write scores for films, as well as their Oscar Bait Songs, which meant that the two were related. So “All For Love”, the single from the 1993 The Three Musketeers, actually incorporates a fantastic melody that’s modified throughout the film according to mood. It’s a very fun achievement. It’s also one of the first songs I ever loved, since we had the soundtrack for some strange reason when I was a kid.

Meanwhile, Paul Haslinger’s score sounds like Han Zimmer’s scores for Pirates of the Caribbean and Sherlock Holmes had a baby. Definitely up my alley, but not as awesome and awesomely bad as “All For Love”.

WINNER: 1993.

Sheer Ridiculousness

…oh, did I not mention that Notre Dame wins the previously mentioned airship versus cathedral battle in the 2011 version?

WINNER: 2011.

So if you want a ridiculous and delightfully bad film adaptation of The Three Musketeers, you can’t do much better than the 2011 version. But I do encourage you to check out the 1993 version—it’s silly in a different way. And the music is actually good!

This week, I finished Altered Carbon, flew through Alanna: The First Adventure, and finished Straight last night. I don’t know what I’ll pick up next, but it’s time for me to start reading Wide Sargasso Sea soon for school… hmm…

 The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) Small Beer Press offers several of their books as free downloads, including Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners. If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!

Which incarnation of The Three Musketeers is your favorite and why?

4 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: The Three Musketeers — 1993 vs. 2011

  1. The 1973 Richard Lester adaptation of The Three Musketeers (and the second part, which came out in 1974) is still, without question, the best one. Christopher Lee as Rochefort will never stop being awesome; same goes for Charleton Heston as the Cardinal. And the sword fights are probably the best ones ever put on screen.

    Out of these two, I haven’t seen the 2011 version because the plot synopsis kind of broke my brain the first time I read it (i.e. WHO PUT STEAMPUNK IN MY DUMAS?) but the 1993 one was kind of awful except for Tim Curry. And all these versions are probably far better than 2001’s The Musketeer, which was just, um, weird.

    • I have been meaning to watch that; it may still be on Netflix Instant, which would be good…

      Actually, the plot is pretty similar to the book, although Anne and Buckingham aren’t actually involved. It’s, uh, the accoutrements that they’ve messed around with!

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