18 October 2011
The Three Musketeers Review
If you're an avid fan of this blog - all five of you... - then you'll know that I'm rather keen on surprises, particularly when it comes to movies. Good surprises are my favourite, but obviously there're bad ones out there too, and one must be prepared for both eventualities, especially when you go in to a movie with rather heavy expectations. It's perhaps as much a shock to me as it might be to you that actually, against all the odds, I ended up having a huge amount of fun with The Three Musketeers.
I'm going to dedicate an entire paragraph of this review to the film critic in me that wears a top hat and monocle, and snarfs derisively at the so-called 'tosh' that frequently excuses itself as mainstream cinema these days. Artistically speaking, this movie has practically zero merit - every single shot is derivative of some other, frequently better movie, with director Paul WS Anderson riffing on everything from 300 to Master and Commander, and stopping at every station in between, including a reference to Anderson's own Resident Evil franchise. The dialogue frequently and unceremoniously thuds. There's the bizarre decision to give every 'French' person a British accent, except D'Artagnan, who is saddled with Logan Lerman's smarmy, smug American mannerisms. The story has almost inexcusably been compromised beyond recognition, driven by producer-fueled delusions that it might not sell Stateside. That Alexandre Dumas didn't rise from his grave in search of brain-munching vengeance is perhaps a small mercy...
But about 30 minutes into the movie, this particular aspect of my personality was given pause, and the rest of me spent three minutes ignoring the film, attempting to figure out quite what had silenced him so thoroughly. Then it hit me - the ridiculous choice of accents, the knowing winks to pop culture, the outlandish twists on an established story, the vaguely plastic sheen to the set and costume design, the outrageous moustache twirling of Orlando Bloom and Christophe Waltz as the villains.
This is a bloody pantomime!
Then it started to happen - I started to have fun, and by the time James Corden was on stage...sorry, screen, offering the rest of the cast some cheese, I was having an absolute ball.Yes, it dances a merry jig on Dumas' grave. Yes, for whatever reason, Anderson saw fit to add fucking airships into the fray. But somehow, it emerges as a schlocky, silly piece of genuinely fun cinema, that entertains whilst it's there, and will instantly be forgotten.
There are problems with it, mostly stemming from the moments when it takes itself a little too seriously - it features a grave performance from Matthew MacFadyen as Athos that frequently seems out of place given that there are fucking airships that shoot fire from dragon-shaped cannons. It's more the writers' fault than MacFadyen's, and when he is allowed to join in on the fun, he shines wonderfully.
Then there's Logan Lerman. A fine young actor though he might be - but he's utterly, utterly miscast in the lead(-ish) role. Had he been replaced by a young British actor in keeping with the rest of the cast (or at the very least, been forced to adopt the accent) the smarm might've come across as slyly ironic. Alas, we'll never know.
Still, there's so much on show that is genuinely enjoyable. From the mentioned fire-shooting airships (which subsequently do battle and, in one of the movie's most joyous pieces of silliness, end up crashing into Notre Dame), to beautifully choreographed and shot sword-fights, you can't say that Anderson doesn't have an eye for outrageous (say it with a French accent!) set pieces.
The cast - for the most part, at least - seem to have cottoned on to the nature of the film as well, and have tongues firmly planted in cheek as they bounce across the screen. As mentioned, Orlando Bloom belies his usual wooden performances to bring a villain so deliciously, ridiculously evil and pompous you just can't help but chuckle every time he's on screen. Luke Evans is great as Aramis, and Ray Stephenson is essentially doing a pantomime version of Titus Pullo from Rome as his interpretation of Porthos, which is exactly as fun as it sounds.
So...you'll have noticed my overuse of a certain three-letter word in this review: fun. The movie is by no means good. But it is fun, and a lot of it. Get a few beers in you, see it with other movie-loving mates, and you'll have a ball. Just leave the top hat and monocle at the door, yeah?