I didn’t have high hopes for Paul W. S. Anderson’s new adaptation of The Three Musketeers. In all honesty, I was kind of hoping that it wouldn’t be any good, because the 1993 Brat Pack version is probably my favorite movie ever and the eight-year-old that lives inside me didn’t want to see it topped. Little could I have imagined, however, the spectacular, horrible ease with which my darkest hopes would be realized.
Really, what is there to say about a movie so inane, so soulless, so utterly lacking in intelligence? The Three Musketeers belongs to that rare breed that distinguishes itself only by its utter lack of redeeming qualities. It can’t even muster enough silliness or camp to be one of those so-bad-it’s-good laughers, movies like Shark Attack 3: Megalodon or the legendary Plan 9 From Outer Space. Any of its extremely marginal value as entertainment comes in the nonstop ‘Did they really think that would be a good idea? Did he really just say that?’ moments. It is, in a word, painful.
Here is a brief litany of its sins: the awful animation of the credit sequence. The overwrought freeze frames that introduce each character. The oversaturated colorizing that results in headache-inducing ultraviolet shades of red and blue. The total disregard for the concept of character development. Orlando Bloom’s hair. The bizarre effort to turn Dumas into steampunk, complete with flying galleons. Logan Lerman’s D’Artaganan, as wooden and uncharismatic a lead character as we’ve seen in years, unless you watched Abduction. Freddie Fox’s disgusting facial hair as a particularly fey Louis XIII. The boring, poorly-staged fight scenes. The dialogue – by God, the horribly cheesy, groan-inducing, witless dialogue that pushes normally-reliable actors like Christoph Waltz and Matthew Macfadyen into career-worst performances. (Speaking of Macfadyen, he’s now 0 for 2 on these historical actioners, having also stunk it up, though on much less screen time, in Ridley Scott’s overserious Robin Hood).
Moving away from the fun of writing invective, all of this would have been bearable if it had been offset by any sense of fun. There are plenty of movies that are thoroughly entertaining despite obvious cinematic faults. The Three Musketeers doesn’t come anywhere close to that. It’s as if director Anderson had a laundry list of things that people like to see in movies – rich color, big action scenes coupled with large explosions, attractive people making out – and in trying to work them all in forgot that it’s important for us to want the heroes to succeed. Here, he jumps from plot point to plot point with no apparent reason for why one thing leads to another, throwing in insulting jokes and visual gags for good measure. Why, then, should we care whether or not these Musketeers manage to carry out their mission? They’re more annoying than entertaining – sadly, Macfadyen’s Athos is the worst of the lot – and the movie goes out of its way to show that they’re cynical about their mission, which raises the question of why we should be watching it. Meanwhile, the antagonists can’t even manage to be amusingly villainous; Orlando Bloom, as the Duke of Buckingham, gives a valiantly hammy effort that falls predictably short, while Christoph Waltz, as Cardinal Richelieu, just seems bored.
Which is fitting, because that’s what this movie is: boring.