So on a secret mission to avert war with England, the Musketeers blow up the Tower of London – leading to exactly what the Cardinal wanted. #worstheroesever.
This new take on the much-filmed Dumas classic opens with a wholly-invented scene that suggests a purist-offending, gunpowderpunk approach to the material – the three original musketeers (Matthew Macfadyen as Athos, Ray Stevenson as Porthos and Luke Evans as Aramis) and Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) sneak into DaVinci’s secret vault in Venice, which is guarded by Cagliostro (Til Schweiger), using proto-superhero get-ups (diving gear, a Batman cape) and super-powers (Porthos’s strength) to steal the designs for an aerial warship. Milady betrays the Musketeers, especially her lover Athos, to sign up with British spymaster/schemer the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) for more money. Then, we start with a retelling of the familiar story that is pretty obviously modelled on the first of Richard Lester’s Musketeer films, only with clunkily modern dialogue (Athos has ‘issues’ with Milady) rather than the spirited, earthy talk George Macdonald Fraser came up with for Lester’s lustier cast. Young d’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) is in Gascony, learning blade skills from his father (Dexter Fletcher). A) it’s depressing for some of us that Dexter Fletcher is now playing ‘father/mentor’ roles and B) he does a very peculiar French-Wurzel-Yankee accent to fit with Lerman’s plain flat American. D’Artagnan gets into tsuris with one-eyed bladebastard de Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen) en route to Paris, then does that bit where he blunders into and challenges each of the Musketeers in turn but they give up their duelling to fight off the Cardinal’s guards.
In a slimmed-down rewrite of Dumas’s intrigue, Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) wants Milady to steal the queen’s diamonds and plant them in the Tower of London so it will seem she’s having an affair with a foreign enemy. Influenced by Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, this queen (Juno Temple, who improves everything she is in) is a pouting child innocent frustrated because her marriage to the king (Freddy Fox) isn’t consummated because he’s a fey twit who needs to get advice on love from a passing musketeer (Fox is so girly in the part I was almost sure he was Jovovich in drag). At this point, director Paul W.S. Anderson and his 3D renderers go into silliness overdrive, with lunatic stuff involving Jovovich heisting jewels while dressed only in a corset and boots, and a pair of aerial warships. The plot keeps turning in on itself dumbly, which means that in the end the stalwart heroes start the war they were supposed to be preventing and no one gives them a hard time about it in the hope that this will run to a Four Musketeers built about an aerial invasion of France. Amid the crashing airships, Pirates-style betrayals and swordfights on top of precipitous roofs, there are a few flickers of good old swashbuckling, but amused, amusing, light-touch performances (Waltz, Fox, Temple, Mikkelsen) are outweighed by truly terrible work (Bloom is bad, James Corden gets shat on by pigeons in a comedy highlight) and a fairly dud bunch of Musketeers. Jovovich, as in Anderson’s Resident Evil films, comes across as a computer game avatar – this Milady slaughters extras indiscriminately (but so do the heroes) and switches sides at will, but has no real motivation (we miss the fleur de lis brand and the backstory) and somehow feels tipped into a story which could do without her.
In fairness, the Lester films are a tough act to beat – and that Gene Kelly/Lana Turner movie was pretty good too – so this should probably be judged alongside the Stephen Herek film or Peter Hyams’ The Musketeer as a passes-the-time pot-boiler with a few too many clunky, foolishly-misconceived elements.