THE THREE MUSKETEERS (12A): On General Release Wednesday October 12th
Swordfights! Chivalry! Adventure! That’s what you want from a Three Musketeers film. But while they are present in Paul W S Anderson’s latest mangling of Alexandre Dumas’s literary classic, they’re so buried in mountainous swathes of utter crap, that they’re completely unfit for consumption. It’s as if someone dropped a Varda truffle into a festival toilet.
The Three Musketeers – Athos (Matthew MacFayden), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans) undertake a top secret mission in the employ of the foppish King of France (Freddie Fox) to steal top secret plans for an airship drawn by Leonardo Da Vinci from a vault in Venice. Aiding them is the scheming Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich), who excels at not only seduction and subterfuge but also at high-kicking people in the face like she was in The Matrix.
Unfortunately for them she’s in cahoots with Cardinal Richlieu (Christoph Waltz) so she betrays them and promptly scarpers with the loot. Hard times befall the trio, so by the time D’Artagnan (Logan Lerrman) arrives on the scene wanting to be a Musketeer himself, the position looks far from glamorous. After a few false steps they team up to take on not only the Cardinal and his monocular Captain Rochefort (Mads Mikkelson) but also the dastardly Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom).
The Three Musketeers did have some promise. Now that the Pirates franchise has sunk to a boring watery grave, there’s a gap in the market for some swashbuckling popcorn fun. Sadly this isn’t it. The script is needlessly complicated – there are too many characters so that getting attached to any particular one proves to be impossible.
Even the Musketeers themselves get lost in the mulch having the collective charisma of a bathmat. Matthew MacFayden tries gamely with his best Alan Rickman impression as Athos but proves to be uninspiring and Ray Stevenson blusters his way around the set but provides little charm as Porthos. Only Luke Evans’ Aramis gives anything approaching life to his scenes (although confusingly, he looks quite a lot like Orlando Bloom, leading to some worrying double-takes).
The film offers not one but four villains but they’re all about as interesting as tapioca pudding. Christoph Waltz plays a smooth baddy competently but it’s the same role he’s been languishing in for his last 700 films so there’s hardly any intrigue there. Orlando Bloom could be out-acted by a two by four in a wig and here his hair appears to be getting the better of him – he looks like a 17th Century polystyrene Rick Astley. Meanwhile Mads Mikkelson’s one-eyed Captain Rochefort exudes about as much menace as a sock puppet (although the one advantage of having one eye is that he’ll never be able to watch the film in migraine-inducing 3D).
Paul W S Anderson is a directing nightmare with only one half-decent film to his name (Event Horizon – 1997). He’s got a gift for making what should be exciting action set pieces seem like dull video game cut scenes (appropriate considering he specialises in making appalling video game-to-movie conversions). The Three Musketeers plays out like yet another excuse to show off how bad-ass his real-life wife Milla Jovovich is – the result is one badly judged scene after the next as she pirouettes, jumps and pouts at the camera.
There’s also a distracting mix of accents – Logan Lerman’s overtly Californian burbling clashes badly with that of the rest of the cast who have all adopted various themes of transatlantic drawl.
But just when you think it can’t get any worse, when you think the film’s hit rock bottom, along comes James Corden wielding a pickaxe and a shovel. He plays their oafish flunky Planchet – the butt of their pathetically humourless jokes and spouter of half-brained wooden asides who amazingly inspires feelings of exasperation, boredom and punchability in under three minutes. He’s so bad, his name should become a new word for terrible, as in “God, that film was awful, really Corden”.
The Three Musketeers is a calamitous disaster of a film. Overlong, overblown, hammy, boring and full of little pauses where it waits to congratulate itself for what it thinks is an hilarious moment when in fact it’s caused an entire audience to utter the world’s weariest sigh. To be fair, it’s not as bad as some of Anderson’s other offerings – Mortal Kombat, and Alien vs. Predator spring to mind – but that’s a bar set so low, it might as well be resting on the floor.