Movie Review: Befouling “The Three Musketeers”

 

Perhaps, like me and hundreds of millions of others, you skipped Paul W.S. Anderson’s befouling of “The Three Musketeers” in 3D on its opening weekend.

This is just a short note, well, a review, to point out our collective folly. This is a once-in-a-lifetime fiasco, an epic fail like none we have seen this year, a bad idea by a very bad director and a career-crippling credit for all concerned. You don’t want to miss it.

It’s not that the acting is bad. Some of it, sure. The kid playing D’Artagnan, Logan Lerman, looks, acts and sounds like Shia Labeouf  in a Puss in Boots costume. And they found this otherworldly beauty to play his love interest, and Gabriella Wilde was put on this Earth to remind us that sometimes the scales balance, that stunning looks sometimes accompany a vacant stare.

And there are clever touches — a prologue, narrated by the film’s Athos, the wonderful Matthew MacFadyen — sets the scene with toy soldiers and maps of 17th century Europe.

But seriously, any movie whose first scene involves a 17th century scuba diving Ninja and climaxes with a 17th century airship battle must be by the director whose initials have long been rumored to stand for “What S–te,” British slang that rhymes with “bite.”

 

We meet the Musketeers — the dashing Athos, the burly Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and soulful Aramis (Luke Evans) before they’ve fallen from favor. A mission betrayed by the treacherous Milady, played by Milla Jovovich as if she’s auditioning for “Resident Evil 8″ and yet thrilled to wear something other than vampire-killing togs.

The young King Louis (Freddie Fox) is a fop. Plots are being hatched by Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) to undo the monarchy by setting up the Queen (Juno Temple) as unfaithful. A major departure from the Dumas novel — in the book, she WAS in love with the Duke of Buckingham. Here’s, he’s a villain, that cad Orlando Bloom, as in “Whatever happened to Orlando Bloom?”

The movie is all about departures from the novel, and the traditional way of telling this tale on film. Nothing wrong with that, or with staging the brawls as if they were meant to mimic the one-against-many fights in assorted Chinese martial arts movies. Anderson steals gimmicks from everything from “Hero” to “Master and Commander,” with “The Dark Knight,” “Tomb Raider,” Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Matrix” thrown in for good measure. In 3D, swords and sparks and airships and big flouncy hats fly off the screen. What fun!

“Steal from one, you are a plagiarist, steal from many, you are a genius.” That maxim applies in most cases, but none involving Paul W.S. Anderson.

The only apt comparison here is the movie that drove Sean Connery into retirement, that catastrophe, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” Alas, Paul W.S. Anderson isn’t an actor, and if one fiasco were his undoing, than his “Alien vs. Predator” career would have been smothered in the crib.

But before that happens, you need to break out those 3D glasses and see this. “Musketeers” is a road accident fully deserving of a bit of gawking.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of adventure action violence

Cast: Matthew Macfadyen, Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz, Orlando Bloom

Credits: Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, written by Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies, a Summit Entertainment release. Running time: 1:50

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