March 21, 2012

Blu-ray Review: The Three Musketeers (2011)

Over the years there have been countless adaptations of the Alexandre Dumas novel The Three Musketeers. Many of these have been unnecessary exercises in pop entertainment using a variety of angles to try and freshen it up. The one that always sticks in my mind is 2001's The Musketeer starring Justin Chambers and directed by Petee Hyams. It is notable for the use of martial arts inspired fights, choreographed by Xin Xin Xiong. Now we have yet another take on the tale with Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) playing the central role. This version arrived in theaters with the bonus of 3D, with it's Blu-ray release, does it hold up with the absence of the 3D gimmick? That probably depends on how you feel about it in the first place.

Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, this adaptation is a loose one that circumvents actual story telling by throwing as much flash at the screen as the budget will allow. To say this is a silly adaptation would be an understatement. This movie is absolutely ridiculous. The dialogue is silly, the action defies physics, and it takes things completely over the top. It is a mash up of Resident Evil's action, Hayao Miyazaki steam punk inspired airships (see Howl's Moving Castle), and Marie Antoinette-esque candy colored outfits and sets.

The story is familiar, simplified, and dumbed down for the popcorn eating crowd. We follow young D'artagnon as he travels to Paris and meets up with the down on their luck Musketeers, Athos (Matthew Macfayden), Aramis (Luke Evans), and Porthos (Ray Stevensen). After their requisite adversarial initial encounter and their subsequent joining of forces they find themselves embroiled in a plot by the dastardly Cardinal Richelieu (Cristoph Waltz) and double agent Milady (Milla Jovovich) to wrest control of the country from the foppish King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) and his wife, Queen Anne (Juno Temple).

The Three Musketeers, as presented here, is not one to be taken seriously. The story is not meant to be subtle, nor is it meant to be dwelled upon. The plot is merely there to act like a clothesline on which to hang to big action sequences. Fortunately, this is where Anderson excels. He may be a popular whipping boy among online communities, but I am not one of them. He is far from the best filmmaker out there, but he certainly knows his strengths. He knows how to use the big screen to his advantage, giving a great sense of space and location, staging action and set pieces that genuinely exciting. It doe not hurt that he seems to be a natural at using 3D technology (his two 3D features, this and Resident Evil: Afterlife, look quite good in the format).

Still, for as aggressively silly as it is, if you just feel like watching something for the fun of it, this should do the trick. To call this movie good would be a mistake, but there certainly is some fun to be had. I liked watching Milla Jovovich just have a some fun, she certainly smiled a lot more here than she does in the average Resident Evil outing. I daresay, she just about steals each of the scenes she is in with a sly smile and a wink, putting those Resident Evil fighting skills to good use. The action is all nicely staged and is just a lot of fun to watch.

It is slight entertainment to be sure, but does not aim any higher than to entertain. It worked for me. It is just a little silly bit of fun. Watch it with few expectations and enjoy, not every film needs to push boundaries, sometimes it is all right just to have a bit of fun.

Audio/Video. The movie is presented in a ratio of 2.35:1 and looks spectacular. This is one crisp, clean, bright, and flat out gorgeous looking transfers I have seen. Seriously, from start to finish I could not really complain about anything. There is a high level of detail throughout, even in the darker sequences, the colors are vibrant and leap from the screen. This is certainly a transfer to show off your television.

The audio is present in the form of a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track which matches the video excellence beat for beat. Dialogue is focused in the center, yet is filled with the right amount of ambiance, notice scenes in some of the cavernous halls and how the dialogue sounds natural with just a touch of echo. The soundstage is well used and nicely balanced, notice the use of surrounds and effects during the fight where the Musketeers team with D'artagnon against the soldiers. The score also has a nice epic presence.

  • Commentary. This track features Anderson along with producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer. It is a good track as they discuss many aspects of the film from shooting digitally to blending in CGI elements, from casting, to updating the story. This is well worth a listen.
  • Access: Three Musketeers. This is a pretty nice feature that gives us behind the scenes clips and interviews, some playing along picture in picture style and others interrupting the film. There are also text pop ups and a countdown to the next featurette.
  • Paul W.S. Anderson's Musketeers. An interview clip talking about updating the story.
  • Orlando Bloom Takes on the Duke. A brief look at Bloom's take on Buckingham.
  • 17th Century Air Travel. This talks of a desire to shoot much of the film practically and the building of the airships.
  • Uncovering France in Germany. The benefits of shooting in Germany.
  • Deleted ad Extended Scenes. A bunch of clips that dd not quite make the cut.
Bottomline. Yes, you may not be as taken with the silliness as I, that is all right. This really is a fun movie. It is ridiculous in its execution, goofy in its storytelling, and wholly unbelievable. Still, it is certainly fun to go for a silly ride.


Article first published as Blu-ray Review: The Three Musketeers (2011) on Blogcritics.


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