Sunday, 15 July 2012
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
(Paul W.S. Anderson, 2011) By following the broader outlines of Alexandre Dumas' classic tale in his adaptation, Anderson just might have succeeded in making The Three Musketeers his most roundly entertaining film. Dumas' novel is so familiar that the strength of its archetypes and beautifully simple plot construction are beyond doubt. The way principle hero D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman, who plays him as a bland, sexless, even Bieberesque teen idol type) meets each of the three in turn, all of the heroes defined along the way, then teams up with them against Richlieu's Guard, is a miraculous piece of storytelling, and it survives more or less unchanged through every adaptation. Here Anderson casts three beefy Brits as the legendary Musketeers. Athos (Matthew Macfayden), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans) are introduced as a sort of elite commando squad, on a mission in Venice to steal some old plans by DaVinci for a flying war machine. Here Anderson establishes the films distinctive aesthetic; composing his shots in 3D, he emphasises the awesome scale and elaborate ostentatiousness of the royal buildings which house much of the story. He has always had a good way with a clean, clear action sequence, and here he keeps the swordplay visceral and simple, often using slow motion to punctuate a particularly well-choreographed passage. There is also a definite steampunk element to the design of gadgets and weapons, from the airships which are the most significant departure from Dumas to Athos' clockwork ninja gadgetry in the opening scene. The characters are generally simple, there for their impact in the action scenes and the varying shades they bring. The Musketeers are differentiated through their fighting styles - Athos is efficient, brutal, and Macfayden plays him with a mournful air, while Stevenson's brawny Porthos is all jolly brute force and Evans makes Aramis a precise, stylish fighter and the quietest, most cerebral of the three. They are joined in the action scenes by Anderson's muse, Milla Jovovich, as Milady, here an ass-kicking acrobatic spy with a penchant for betrayal. Anderson and his screenwriters (among them Andrew Davies, who has much experience of adapting classic novels) follow much of Dumas' plot and add in their own elements and twists. The immature but goodhearted King (Freddie Fox, comic to just the right degree) is there, Richlieu (Christoph Waltz, on cruise control) is the evil mastermind, and D'Artagnan has the usual love interest in the form of the Queen's Lady-in-waiting, Constance (Gabriella Wilde, whose pretty woodenness matches Lerman's blandness). The villains are the strongest element; Orlando Bloom has a high old time as the foppish, moustache- twirling Buckingham, and Mads Mikkelsen gives eyepatch-wearing Rochefort a scarily dead-eyed intensity. It is all nicely paced, ripping at speed through the story and forcing much of the plot through action scenes, there are several good gags (James Corden plays the comic relief), it always looks wonderful, and if it never matches Richard Lester's classic 1970s Musketeers movies, it is a solid, occasionally inspired attempt at a modern spin on this classic family adventure film.