Christoph Waltz and Milla Jovovich in The Three Musketeers 3D. (Alliance Films)
The Three Musketeers 3D is a romp. If you've been waiting to see a floating battleship skewered on the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral, that day has come. The director responsible is Paul W.S. Anderson, not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson an inventive and independent-minded auteur.
Nope, if anything can be said of Anderson's output, it's that what he lacks in quality he makes up with in volume. Anderson has become a go-to guy for action films with a Roger Corman-esque flair. What sets The Three Musketeers apart from the rest of Anderson's hack-n-slash stories, is the sense of fun.
Audacious and irreverent describes The Three Musketeers nicely. So does predictable, bombastic and unoriginal...but more of that in a moment.
The film begins with some smart opening credits borrowing a bit from Game of Thrones. Toy soldiers stalk across the map of Europe. France is weak with a Louis the XIII, a Little Boy Blue of a king as the token figurehead. War with England looms, while in Paris Cardinal Richelieu schemes.
After a dizzying scheme gone wrong thanks to the duplicitous Milady de Winter, the once proud Musketeers have become layabouts who drink and brawl their days away. That is until the arrival of D'Artagnan, a member of the Gaston clan who reveres the Musketeers. D'Artagnan challenges the three to a duel, which becomes a skirmish with the Cardinal's private guards that reawakens the Musketeer's sense of duty. Soon they're ready to save the Queen's honour and keep the Cardinal from seizing power.
As inspiring as he's supposed to be, D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) is the weakest link in the bunch. What should be charming and puckish comes off arrogant and cocky. His advances to the blonde bombshell Contance Bonacieux are relentless until she conveniently caves.
Better are the parts on the periphery of the story, including Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham. With his El Vez-worthy pompadour, Orlando plays the scoundrel with mustache-twirling zeal. Christoph Waltz brings his usual intensity to the role of the Cardinal. Trading in her guns for a girdle, Milla Jovovich steps away from the Resident Evil series (also directed by Anderson) to appear as Milady de Winter, something of a precursor to Lara Croft who stuffs her corsets with all manner of gadgets.
If you've noticed I haven't mentioned the Musketeers themselves, that's because they're just not as interesting. Porthos is vain but strong. Athos is the brains. Aramis is a gothic Batman, complete with the dark cape and a penchant for leaping off buildings.
As is often the case in recent films, the 3D in The Three Musketeers is for the most part, pointless. Same goes for the story, a series of double crosses and heists worthy of Ocean's Eleven. In the end it comes down to floating battleships, quick swordplay and a couple of well timed quips. Yes, you'll have to suffer through some dreary bullet-time slo-mo and you can find more French spoken in a Pepe le Pew cartoon. But as a zany riff on a old classic The Three Musketeers makes for a passable distraction.
RATING: Two and a Half Cavaliers out of Five.
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Pictured above: Logan Lerman (white shirt), Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson (back to camera) and Matthew MacFadyen star in The Three Musketeers. (Alliance Films)