The Alexander Dumas book The Three Musketeers is one of the most exciting books of its era and still offers a thrilling adventure with the coming-of-age tale of D’Artagnon leaving home to join up with the fabled Musketeers, acting in the service of King Louis XIII against the evil Cardinal Richelieu. Sword fights, treachery, beautiful women, honor, it’s a truly epic tale.
Which is why it’s been adapter to cinema again and again, with predictably mixed results. In fact, this Paul W.S. Anderson production is the 28th time the Dumas story has made it to the screen, and there are rumors of another adaptation to be released early in 2013.
With a story this familiar, it’s necessary for the writers to come up with a new twist, a take that weaves in the three Musketeers — Athos, Porthos and Aramis — and the familiar characters of Richelieu, Milady de Winter, the Duke of Buckingham and Rochefort with something new, something that’ll capture our modern sensibilities. For this version, it’s an airship that the Duke of Buckingham (a completely wasted Orlando Bloom, in a surprisingly minor role on screen) uses to visit King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox). The King must have an airship of his own, but evil Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) instead secretly builds one for his own nefarious purposes, having stolen the plans from the Duke by way of the feminine wiles of the equally evil Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich).
Then there’s the acting. While the cast was strong and each has turned in solid performances in films like Lord of the Rings, Inglorious Bastards, Death at a Funeral, Robin Hood, and The Book of Eli, none of them brought much more than minimal effort to The Three Musketeers, and it really hurts the film, ranging from Fox’s painfully foppish performance as King Louis XIII to Jovovich’s disengaged attempt at one of the great femme fatales of the big screen, Milady de Winter.
This is a completely forgettable version of a tremendously entertaining story and I strongly encourage you to check Netflix or the local video store for one of the many superior productions that preceded it. Yes, there are some nice visual effects, but not enough to justify a $10 ticket. You’ve been warned.