Monday, October 24, 2011

The Three Musketeers (2011)

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (A-III) Michael Phillips (1 Star) Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Michel Phillips' review -

The Three Musketeers (2011) (directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, screenplay by Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies based on classic adventure novel  "Les Trois Mousquetaires" by Alexandre Dumas) is a film that will irritate purists.  Locally, as with other heavily CGI driven films, Chicago Sun Times critic Roger Ebert did not even review it and Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips basically hated it (as Phillips generally dislikes most CGI driven fare).

But speaking on behalf of the 14-15 year olds for whom Dumas' original adventure novel was intended and on behalf of my mother who read this book in a refugee camp as a 14-15 year old after World War II and even saw (or perhaps heard) an Eroll Flynn version of  The Three Musketeers and loved it then, I do believe that whatever the movie lacks in following the strict letter of Dumas' original tale, it makes up for it in spirit.

And in contrast to, IMHO, far more legitimate complaints about the frenetic recent "updated" Sherlock Holmes (2009)  (starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, a second film Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows expected to be released later this fall) from which this visually rich, indeed, hyper-visual update of the Three Musketeers certainly borrows, I continue to maintain T3Ms was intended from the beginning to be a frenetic adventure story with comically exaggerated characters, evil/scheming villains, damsels in distress and lots and lots of swordplay.

The makers of this film took the story, actually kept themselves largely faithful to its original characters, added some Da Vinci (and perhaps a little Da Vinci Code) style intrigue -- both the Musketeers on behalf of France and Lord Buckingham on behalf of England scheme to get a hold of Da Vinci's plans "balloon driven airships."  Those airships then REALLY REALLY "POP" in 3D ;-) -- as well as some cinematic tricks from The Matrix and other recent thrillers, and came up with a concoction that I do believe captures the original's youthful intent.

And lest a teenager today would still not be impressed, let me say that the young Musketeer wannabe D'Artagnan [IMDb] (played here by Logan Lerman) is both kinda cute/funny as he rides into Paris with his dad's sword and on his family's faithful if rather worn horse in search of becoming a Musketeer.  And the Queen's "Lady in Waiting" Constance [IMDb] (played by the stunning Gabriela Wilde) that he meets is truly (I'm not kidding) "to die for."

Indeed, most of the casting is inspired:  Dumas' scheming (and historical) Cardinal Richelieu [IMDb] is played by Christoph Waltz (of Inglourious Basterds fame).  The also historically notorious English Lord Buckingham [IMDb] is played by Orlando Bloom.  And the dangerous woman/spy Milady de Winter [IMDb] is played by Milla Jovovovic.

The casting of the Three Musketeers themselves is ok: Athos [IMDb] is played by Matthew MacFayden; Aramis [IMDb] by Luke Evans; and Porthos [IMDb] by Ray Stevenson.  Then the childish historical King Louis XIII of France [IMDb] is played by Freddie Fox and his wife Queen Ann [IMDb] is played by Juno Temple.  Finally there is the amiable (if in this movie, woefully disrespected) servant of the Musketeers named Planchet  [IMDb] (played by James Corden).

All in all, I really enjoyed this film.  It is available in 3D.  As I usually do, I sought it out and saw it in 2D and it also works.  I know that a lot of older school critics don't like the CGI effects.  But I honestly do like movies like this.

Yes, films produced with heavy CGI start to require a different kind of acting.  But I do believe that these stories are enhanced by the effects.  The "Paris of the 1600s" in this movie is more "Paris like" than even Paris probably was at the time.  (The 1990s cultural critical term for this was "hyper-reality" I believe and when it works in a story, I applaud it).  Indeed, that's what one pays for when one goes to the movies: To see projections of the essence of the places that one hasn't gone to and may never be able to go to.  If one wishes to see exclusively actor driven performances ... go to the theatres.  But this film and recent films like it -- Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Thor (2011), Suckerpunch (2011), yes even the more legitimately maligned new Sherlock Holmes (2009-2011) films -- are seeking to fully take advantage of the cinematic effects increasingly available to us through innovations like those seen in The Matrix (1999), Avatar (2009) and Inception (2010).  And film is a visual medium so I fully applaud its use.

So I applaud the makers of this film.  You brought this story to life and made The Three Musketeers exciting to 14-15 year olds again.  And honestly, how great is that!

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