During the reign of King Louis XIII of France (Freddie Fox), a monarch considered to be weak and inexperienced, his loyal right hand men were the Musketeers, and a year ago had been on a mission to Venice in Italy to secure the secret documents of Leonardo da Vinci which detailed his design for an innovative form of warship. However, while the three men - Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans) and Porthos (Ray Stevenson) - managed to negotiate the traps and guards, the fourth member of their party, Milady (Milla Jovovich), had other plans...
One of the big flops of 2011, director Paul W.S. Anderson's reimagining of Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers (pretentiously credited under its original French title at the end of this) received an unexpected boost come those popular "best of" lists in early January. Yes, none other than Quentin Tarantino had included this on his top eleven of the year, at number eleven granted but it still made the cut, which made a whole bunch of film buffs begin to wonder if they had either made a mistake in not going to see it, or if Quentin had taken leave of his senses and thrown this in as a lapse of his esteemed taste.
Those who did catch it at home would see that most likely what appealed to Tarantino was the fact that it attempted to do for a literary classic what he had done for World War II with Inglourious Basterds - it even co-starred his discovery from that movie, Christoph Waltz in the role of Cardinal Richelieu (on his runner-up list Quentin had included The Green Hornet, another Waltz film which was rather better). But enough about what he saw in this, what could the average viewer expect from what looked on the surface to be a somewhat crass and idiotic bastardisation of a highly respected text? If you bore in mind that it had been given all sorts of adaptations down the years, then you'd probably be able to get along with what Anderson conjured up.
After all, one of the most beloved of childhood television memories for many would be the animated Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, which recast the story with cartoon dogs, cats and mice, and few were up in arms about that, so why not a version where the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) describes the King's outfit as "Very retro" and stages a battle with airships for its grand finale? The whole steampunk idea was not a new one, and while this was more pre-steampunk in its concepts the same rules applied of rendering the past futuristic in the confines of what was imaginative back at the point this was set. Besides, Anderson didn't entirely have his writers (who included the very respected Andrew Davies) have his characters combating each other in space with ray guns, cheeky as the cast played it.
There was actually, until the plot took to the skies in the final third, a fair amount of hewing to the source, so for example cocky young D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) still met each of the Musketeers and challenged them all to a duel in the space of mere minutes. There were no signs this was intended to be approached as anything more than a daffy historical adventure, and if this had been fashioned as anime then you could envisage it garnering a far more generous reception. That said, there was very little weight to all we saw, not simply the airships but dramatically as well - you could bet there would be no death of a major character this time around, and while it looked flashy enough to update a venerable tale for ver kids there remained a sense of this having been done before and better in previous incarnations. There were undoubtedly worse films made from this material, but this could not be counted among the best either as when it came down to it there was still something very 21st Century blockbuster conventional about all its would-be innovations. Plus the jokes needed work. Music by Paul Haslinger.