A really, really, really dumb movie that for some unfathomable reason has some entertaining moments.
If the year of movies in America were like driving across the USA, than October would be crossing West Texas. 1000 miles of pretty much nothing, with a ton of little one horse towns filled with bored locals. If we were to push this analogy further, then the Three Musketeers would be the town of Pecos, TX. A mid sized community (pop 9501) that is probably a nice place to live but dead, dead boring.
Not to say that the Three Musketeers is is boring. It was directed by Paul Anderson, the director of the Resident Evil series, and like those movies he managed to insert some entertaining, over the top action scenes. However, where those types of scenes mesh well in the fantasy world of zombies and Mila Jovovich, in a movie without any kind of super science or super natural antagonist it starts to look really silly. He manages to inject Mila Jovovich (his wife) as well, where she pretty much plays Alice in a corset. (Zombie target image courtesy of the zombie movie t shirts)
He seems to have “borrowed” from a lot of movies, actually. Besides Alice, he must have kidnapped the action choreographer from Pirates of the Carribean, as well as the steam punk super technology that we still can’t do today from Wild, Wild West (remember the giant steam punk spider? If something failed miserably in a past crappy movie, obviously the answer is to keep pushing into the face of the audience until they learn to accept it). He also seems to have felt there weren’t enough tributes to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Mission Impossible in the world, as both of those moves make an appearance here like an unsavory object of indeterminate nature floating on the surface of a scummy pond.
The thing that surprised me was how close to the original story by Alexandre Dumas (who, in a move that kind of infuriates me for reasons I can’t quite pin down, gets third billing in the credits). It was pretty much the true story. However, once that story as the skeleton they decided to flesh it out with as much stupidity as humanly possible. It’s like using the body of an Olympic athlete as the basis for your Frankenstein monster, but then using the corpses of 50 dead, decayed clowns for the rest of him. Then you cover the whole thing with shrink-wrapped stupidity.
I’m not kidding about the stupid, by the way. The movie dipped deep into the suck zone in the opening scene. A guard walks to the edge of a Venice canal and is shot from underwater by some kind of crossbow. I might have believed a trained soldier being capable of using a straw or tube of some kind to swim up stealthily and might have had a crossbow that was build to fire underwater, but that is not what happened. No, what we have here is a leather SCUBA suit (no joke) and some kind of multiple mechanical dart thrower. The problem is the movie really didn’t need all the really dumb advanced primitive technology. Everything in it could have been accomplished better without giving your prop guy a dream assignment. Examples of this advanced steam punk technology includes but is not limited to a flying dirigible with no sign of motive power other than a few sails that is capable of maneuvering through the air at will like the Enterprise, monofiliment wire capable of cutting a silk ribbon to shreds from it’s own weight (you really feel the Resident Evil in that scene), some kind of rotating machine gun cannon (it’s almost like the designer of the sky ship knew ahead of time that at some point it would have to fight a battle with only four crewmen), centuries old booby traps that still manage to shoot hundreds of spiked balls, some kind of wood that can bounce cannon balls, and an advanced zip line.
It really aggravates after about the fifth time you see something this dumb, and does absolutely nothing to advance the story. I see this as Paul Anderson and the prop designers having a big circle jerk. I think it telling that, in all the previews I have seen for this movie, never once do we see a hand cranked flamethrower or flying ship, in spite of the fact that they all seem to be pretty prevalent in the movies. Somewhere along the line I suspect a marketing guy was given the assignment to sell the movie to the public, took a look at the available footage, and said “No way can we use this crap to do more than alienated the audience.” Maybe that guy should have been shown the script sooner.
The story. If you have read the book, you know the story. D’Artagnan arrives in Paris to become a Musketeer and ends up challenging each of the three, who are all disgraced for failing in the Venice SCUBA mission (they were betrayed by Milady, Mila Jovovich) to a duel. He also gets into it with Rochefort, the captain of the bad guy’s guard. They attack the four of them together and they bond as they cut through the enemy swordsmen like a chainsaw through butter. Turn out the bad guy, Cardinal Richelieu (played by the great Christopher Watlz, although for this movie he just seemed to be replaying Colonel Landa), wants to wrest control of France from the young king and his queen. He frames the Queen in an affair with the Duke of Buckingham (played by Orlando Bloom with the worst hair cut ever. Think a brunette Flock of Seagulls) and has Mila plant a diamond necklace on the Duke. The Three Musketeers (plus D’Artagnan) must recover the necklace or the queen will be executed and war with England will ensue. They steal the duke’s flying airship to do so. Stuff blows up. Sword fights ensue. A dumb romantic sub plot with one of the worst actresses I’ve seen in a long time (Gabrielle Wilde, who has no other movie credits although she did have a part in Dr. Who) pains my eyes.
The stars. They stayed close to the original story. One star. Christopher Waltz. One star. They didn’t resort to that one second quick cut fight sequence I hate so much, which means they hired a fight choreographer. One star. I can’t say any of the acting was particularly good, but I will say pretty much all the actors seemed to have realized what kind of tripe they were producing and played it very tongue in cheek. Not enough to reduce the pain of the movie, but it did soften it a bit. One star. For reasons I hate to admit some of the scenes were indeed entertaining. One star. Total: five stars.
The black holes. Stupid Wild Wild West-esque steam punk technology that did nothing for the movie. Two black holes. Every single character with the partial exception of Richelieu was painfully one dimensional. One black hole. No attempt whatsoever to make the language sound anything like something from 400 years ago. Hackneyed, campy dialog. Sorry, 17th century people do not use the phrase “state of the art.” One black hole. For that matter, about 1/3rd of the characters had English accents, the rest all had American, and not a single person in this movie about France had a French accent. I wouldn’t mind French accents, British accents, or American accents but pick one and stick with it. One black hole. At no point did any of the bad guys seem to realize that, instead of sending wave after wave of swordsmen to kill the four guys who just cut the last six waves to pieces, they could just sit back and shoot them. One black hole. This movie squatted squarely over their PG-13 rating and never moved an inch or pushed the envelope at all, to the detriment of most of the action. One black hole. Mila Jovovich has the assignment of stealthily sneaking into the queens chambers to plant evidence and steal a necklace as part of a nefarious plot, and decides the best way to lend credence to the plan is to slaughter a dozen guards, which no one remarks upon or seems to notice. One black hole. One extra black hole for the leather SCUBA suit, which particularly offended me. Orlando Bloom’s haircut. One black hole. An ending so filled with plot holes you could have used it to strain your pasta. One black holes. Worthless, worthless, worthless 3D effects. I want my extra $3 back. One black hole. The Three Musketeers mission was to prevent a war with England, yet during the course of executing it managed to start a war with England. One black hole. Total: thirteen black holes.
So a total of eight black holes, a crappy score for a crappy movie. However, if you are a fan of movies like Pirates of the Carribean, can suspend your disbelief so high it needs an oxygen supply, suffered recent severe brain damage, or plan to get really drunk and/or stoned before seeing this, then I think you could enjoy it. It does have some entertainment value, in the same way picking your scabs is weirdly entertaining. I didn’t feel as ripped off as I usually do after an eight black hole movie. If you do fall into one of those categories than by all means see it in a theater, as the action I think would suffer on a smaller screen.
You know, something else about this movie occurred to me while I was talking to a friend of mine about going to see it, and that is in my recollection I cannot remember any Three Musketeers being remotely good. I have thought about it for a while, and I think I have an answer. It all has to do with the pants. The clothing from pre French Revolution France is so ridiculous looking that you cannot take anyone in it at all seriously. I think most writers realize that. Unfortunately that kind of corrals them into making a silly, campy, dumb movie. I read the Three Musketeers as a kid and thought it was pretty cool. However, the one thing I did not picture while reading it was men wearing frilly pantaloons and high heeled shoes. Once I saw the clothing these guys had to wear back than it more or less tainted the reading experience for me. I can’t take a character wearing a paisley top hat as a serious action character.
Anyway, thanks again for reading. We had some kind of technical problem this weekend, but I think the site is back up and running (either that or I just totally wasted 90 minutes of my life, in addition to the 110 minutes I wasted watching this thing). Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. More crap out this weekend. I don’t think I can see Paranormal Activity 3 and review it fairly as I have not seen the first two, but I will try to see Johnny English soon. Looks horrible. Talk to you later.