PWS Anderson throws everything at the wall, but ultimately none of it sticks.
If you like your literary adaptations loud, empty-headed and tenuously linked at best to their source material, you’ll be well served by Paul WS Anderson’s determinedly moronic take on the Dumas classic, which mistakes quantity of action and characters for quality storytelling and ends up less Three Musketeers, more Eleven Characters in Search of a Coherent Plot.
Anderson starts as he means to go on with a poorly choreographed action set piece in which we’re introduced to our Musketeers – a gloomy Matthew Macfadyen, a suave Luke Evans and a brawny Ray Stevenson – and double-crossing paramour Milady (Milla Jovovich). Over in Paris the trio meets Logan Lerman’s D’Artagnan, and soon they’re involved in a dense plot that variously involves a stolen necklace, a war machine, a megalomaniac Cardinal and some really huge, really anachronistic airships.
Script writers Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies haven’t settled on what their film’s actually about, and the Musketeers themselves are lost in the noise. There’s the Duke of Buckingham, Orlando Bloom’s flamboyantly bouffanted ponce who’s apparently based on David Bowie, but looks more like Bloom’s finally paying off a 10-year ambition to try out the Jack Sparrow part for himself.
Then there’s Christoph Waltz’s scheming cardinal, Freddie Fox’s fey king, Juno Temple’s queen, and James Corden as the decade’s most irritating comic relief sidekick. Finally there’s Jovovich, who vamps and flounces to little effect in the femme fatale role though hubby Anderson never seems to tire of filming her, nor of contriving reasons for her to strip down to her corset.
To say the script’s anachronistic is an understatement, but you could forgive this if the dialogue weren’t so borderline illiterate even by modern standards. With veteran period scribe Davies on board, the smug one-liners and turgid emotional exchanges become all the more baffling.
The Musketeers themselves come out most unscathed – Macfadyen, Evans and Stevenson have genuine chemistry as a group, though less so when the terminally bland Lerman’s added into the mix. Ultimately The Three Musketeers is a mishmash of ideas, genres and periods that might, with a stronger directorial hand and a more focused script, have had a shot at being fun. As it is, it’s a chore.
The presence of B movie king Anderson doesn’t inspire hope, but the cast is decent and it’s not as if past adaps have left sizeable shoes to fill.
It’s exhausting trying to keep up with the variously bland and OTT characters, much less what it is they’re all trying to achieve.
Too many characters, too many plotlines, too little wit. Anderson throws everything at the wall, but ultimately none of it sticks.