It seems to be a requirement for Hollywood to make a film based on “The Three Musketeers” at least once every twenty years, preferably saturated with whatever is currently in vogue. So, back in 1993 we had Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, and Oliver Platt as the titular friends, and the whole thing was very bright and shiny and silly. Now we have Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans, and Ray Stevenson, and there’s lots of slow-mo martial artsy awesomeness, some snark about governmental budget cuts, and steampunk airships.
Yes. There are steampunk airships in the new “The Three Musketeers.” I don’t know why. There’s nothing in the story that calls for them, but steampunk is in, and presumably the filmmakers felt they had to bring something new to the centuries-old story. Maybe they were hoping for a way to capitalize on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” vibe you get from having ships firing cannons at each other, even if they’re suspended under giant hot-air balloons. Whatever the reasoning, it’s sufficiently ridiculous and awesome to make it forgivable.
The story is a familiar one (young hothead goes to the big city to become a musketeer, finds them disbanded, falls in with the three famous ex-musketeers, winds up trying to prevent a huge war by stealing back a necklace belonging to the French queen) and all the high points are hit in the script, including D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) managing to incur duels with each of his heroes in the same day. There’s a bit of quick wit, lots of thoroughly enjoyable swordfighting, and in general a sense of affable silliness.
“The Three Musketeers” does a lot of things right. It hits the perfect tone, having fun and not taking itself too seriously. The cinematography is solid, with plenty of gorgeous costumes and lush Bavarian countryside to enjoy. There’s a touch of camp here and there (with Christoph Walz as the villainous Cardinal Richelieu and Orlando Bloom as the just-as-slimy Duke of Buckinham, it’s hard to avoid), and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.
The flaws are the usual. The script is a bit predictable at times, even if you don’t know the story already. Buckingham’s hair is so ridiculously styled that it’s hard to find him menacing. The fight choreography and random bits of slow-motion aren’t always timed well together.
But you don’t go into a movie about the musketeers expecting great art. All it takes to succeed with these characters, as far as I am concerned, is decent production values, actors with a bit of pizzazz, and lots of exciting action. “The Three Musketeers” succeeds on all fronts. If you’re looking for some light entertainment and your expectations aren’t too high, you’ll almost certainly have a good time. If, on the other hand, you can’t stand movies that know they’re silly and embrace the lunacy, stay away.