Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Review Smorgasbord Round-up Extravaganza - The Complete Collection Part 13: The Three Musketeers (2011)

One of my fondest film memories is "The Three Musketeers," the 1993 Live Action Disney version to be precise. Funny, rollicking, and very tongue in cheek, it in many ways set the tone and style of Pirates of the Caribbean which followed a decade later.

There were a great many things about the 1993 production that went over my head as a child. I didn't know who Oliver Platt was, for starters, an oversight I have now gloriously rectified through his roles in Love and Other Drugs and the West Wing.

I also didn't know who Tim Curry was, but I have rectified that as well thanks to Clue, Rocky Horror, and the Gabriel Knight games.

I didn't know who Charlie Sheen was either, though I kind of wish I could return to those happy days.
And I didn't know, though I suppose I should be too surprised that it was really rather different than the original novel by Alexandre Dumas, but that's kind of okay, because I've read the original novel and exciting it was not. I'm perfectly aware that some allowance must be made for translation and time but there's only so many allowances you can give someone before they need to start considering a part time job.

The Disney film however was excellent good fun and highly recommended to all.

So I was a little curious to see the most recent adaptation of The Musketeers, as the rather exciting trailers seemed to indicate that it was extremely unfaithful to the original story, featuring airships, pyrotechnics aplenty, and a general action hero spy tone that seemed very unlike the original tale.

And so I was rather surprised to discover that although it did indeed contain all these things, it oddly enough still manages to be rather closer to the original text than it's far more plausible older brother from 1993.

Allow me to elaborate.

The original tale largely focussed on D'Artagnan and his musketeery friends on a quest to return a set of diamonds to the queen and quash rumours of her infidelity to prevent a war with England.

The 1993 film decided this was all a bit silly and focused instead on political machinations, secret treaties, and protecting the king at all costs, who is a bit naive but ultimately grows to be a brave and noble ruler.
The 2011 film goes right back to the diamond heist, but with some important edits.

All three share the same villain in the form of Cardinal Richelieu, and all three ultimately deal with defeating his plans.

It's at this point however that both films start to deviate from the original in some very strange but ways. To best illustrate this, I think it's time for a quiz. Multiple choice of course.

For each of the story points below, guess which one is the 2011 film, which the 1993 film, and which is the original novel by Dumas.

1: The Three Musketeers Go on a quest to retrieve a stolen item. It is:
a) A treaty that secretly allies England with the Cardinal against the King.
b) Diamonds stolen by Lord Buckingham from the Queen, and must be returned to disprove rumours of infidelity, which were falsely created by the Cardinal.
c) Diamonds given to Lord Buckingham by the Queen, and must be returned to disprove rumours of infidelity, which are entirely true.

a) 1993 (exciting!)
b) 2011 (also exciting!)
c) Dumas (...what?)

2: What happens to the Countess De Winter?
a) Athos wants to kill her, but she kills herself by throwing herself off the side of their boat to prevent him living with the guilt.
b) Athos doesn't want to kill but rather capture her, but she kills herself by throwing herself off the side of their boat, but not before revealing the Cardinal's plans in a moment of remorse.
c) Athos wants to kill her, and does, after holding a fake trial to justify it.

a) 2011 (good)
b) 1993 (better)
c) Dumas (...what??)

3: What happens to the Cardinal?
a) His plans are foiled, he gets punched in the face and is presumed dead and drowned.
b) His plans are foiled, but he is so impressed by the musketeers that he offers them a job. They tell him to get stuffed.
c) His plans are foiled, but he is so impressed by the musketeers that he offers them a job. D'Artagnan accepts.

a) 1993 (Ha ha! Take that, Cardinal!)
b) 2011 (Ha ha! Take THAT, Cardinal!)
c) Dumas (Ha ha! Take THAT, ... wait, WHAT???)

As it turns out, by rewriting large slabs of the original tale, both managed to in fact improve it immensely, and it becomes a tale of honour, adventure, and rollicking good times in France. Instead of, you know, a musketeer going to steal a gift to an English nobleman back for a woman who's cheating on her husband, and then taking a job with the very person who set them up in the first place.

Yeah... D'Artagnan's a jerk.

But as for the 2011 film itself, it manages to be good fun. By hyping up the spy movie aspect of it, and turning the action up to 11, they have managed to create an enjoyable farce of an adventure, with many quotable lines and a fun time to be had by all.

It's not without its faults. It seems to be trying very hard to be other things. The Cardinal is trying very hard to be John Malkovic, Aramis is trying very hard to be Orlando Bloom (which is amusing given Orlando Bloom is in fact in the movie and is himself not trying all that hard to be Orlando Bloom), Athos is trying very hard to be Alan Rickman, and the entire film is trying rather hard to be the Princess Bride. (sometimes quoting it outright).

Milla Jovovic is also trying very hard to be Milla Jovovic, which is a shame given that's not who she's playing.

It also is a very silly film. This is in no ways a bad thing, except when it comes across as too silly. Most of it is excellently restrained but there are a few silly walks and faces, funny voices and lines where you can almost hear the director standing behind the camera yelling "BE SILLER!". If you're going to be silly, you should at least take it seriously.

But those faults aside it was great fun, and sadly there are very few films you can say that about these days. I still prefer the 1993 film, but this one is definitely worth a look, especially if you're looking for a film that is closer to the original plot (but still with many incidental deviations), but cuts out most of the unbelievably stupid bits.


4 out of 6 stars.


  1. Is "The Tree Musketeers" an ecologically minded or Irish version of the tale, Sam?

  2. There. Now your comment makes no sense.