4 October 2011 | LloydBayer
All bang and no flash!
There is a saying that goes by the words "Don't fix it if it ain't broke". While there has been umpteen re-makes of the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas, this latest adaptation is not one that Dumas would be proud of. Rather, this film is a desecration of fine prose and the resting place of Dumas himself. The logic defying script expects the viewer to suspend reality with ships that fire cannons while sailing through the air, Ninja styled breach and entry, a "Mission Impossible" styled heist and exotic weaponry, all within the confines of what was supposed to be the renaissance period of 17th century France.
I have found this movie mostly disappointing, starting with the totally unnecessary satire in the script. It is one thing to inject a little comedy, but where is the need to make a parody of one the most widely translated works of literature? Played by Logan Lerman, D'Artagnan sets out to become a musketeer and arrives in Paris to find the famed trio Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans) and Porthos (Ray Stevenson) disbanded and de-commissioned by Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz). After a bravado skirmish with the Cardinal's guards, the young but inexperienced King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) reinstates Athos, Aramis and Porthos to their former rank and even has D'Artagnan join them for good measure. The awesome foursome then discovers the Cardinal's deadly plot to overthrow the King. By employing Athos's former lover the beautiful but deadly assassin M'lady De Winter (Milla Jovovich), the Cardinal fabricates infidelity between the Queen (Juno Temple) and England's Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). By doing so, the devious cardinal plots to unleash war on the European Continent, and in the process plans to dispose the King and Queen of France, while acquiring the throne of France for himself. It is now up to the (four) musketeers to prevent France and England from plunging into war by stopping M'lady De Winter from executing the Cardinals evil plan.
With a budget of US$ 100 million, Alexandre Dumas' complex plot is simplified for this movie but hugely amplified with visual effects and 3 D. The effects are literally blown out of proportion while 3 D does not appear to have served its purpose. In comparison, the 1993 title still holds its ground with a lowly budget of US$17 million. The very obvious difference is in the screenplay. In adapting for film, both versions have strayed from the book, but there is still a lot of focus on the story in the 1993 version. With this 2011 remake, director and co-producer Paul .W. S. Anderson has unwisely sacrificed an engaging and all time favorite work of fiction for a very expensive piece of cannon fodder. There is a legend behind the story of the three musketeers and it stands for valor and honor, the protection of king and country and the defense of justice by fighting corruption. Sadly, none of this is even remotely brought to light in Anderson's version. Having previously worked with Milla Jovovich on the zombie infested "Resident Evil" franchise, Anderson sticks to his guns with flamboyant action and goes to the extent of throwing in blades, explosives, zeppelins and yes, fancy fencing . To an extent, creativity in adapting for the screen is always appreciated. However, by overdoing it Anderson has paid a very heavy price as he has not only overlooked core elements of the story, he has also not given due detail to any of the characters. Who were the three musketeers? What made them famous? Why have they pledged alliance to a young and weak King? Regrettably, Andrew Davies and Alex Litvak's screenplay does not justify a franchise re-boot by avoiding early origins of the musketeers and the trio's prominence in the French Monarchy.
For a period piece set in the 17th century, costumes, props and sets seem to be convincing. But what do I know; I haven't been alive for the last 400 years. Although Anderson scores in this area, he fails again with the totally uninspired acting. Lerman plays a hot-headed D'Artagnan, but not with the same passion as portrayed by actors before him. As the titled musketeers, I just could not feel that patriotic vibe from Macfadyen, Evans and Stevenson. As Buckingham, Bloom oozes with cool and makes a grand entrance but his screen time is limited, so don't expect too much swashbuckling as his roles in "Pirates of the Caribbean". Jovovich is the same as ever, only here she does not have zombies to kill. My biggest disappointment is the underused Christoph Waltz. We have seen before how fearsome a villain he can be as the conniving and scheming Col. Landa in Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds". Yet somehow Waltz fails to maintain that same intensity. It becomes all the more disappointing because the Cardinal is supposedly a central yet treacherous character, but in this film he doesn't appear to be so. Perhaps it all boils down to the script again although I was expecting more from Waltz in comparison to the rest of the actors, as he could have actually been the film's saving grace.
At the end of it all, this latest adaptation will not be worth remembering and will go down as a half-baked attempt at remaking a movie that has been made too many times. In my book, the 1993 version still rules!