Tuesday, 11 October 2011
'The Three Musketeers 3D' review:
Few will be surprised to learn that 'The Three Musketeers 3D', directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (the force behind the 'Resident Evil' movies and 'Alien vs. Predator'), is terrible. So terrible in fact that Orlando Bloom is by far the best thing in it, stealing the show as the villainous Duke of Buckingham. There are far too many set pieces in this artless affair, which are as uninvolving as they are silly, whilst almost no time is spent developing any of the (many) characters in a vaguely steampunk re-imagining of the Alexandre Dumas novel.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, we spend very little time in the company of titular trio Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), with Anderson apparently not interested in them at all outside of the fights. Instead he forever cuts between the camp courtly antics of King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) struggling to woo his demure Queen (Juno Temple), interminable scenes of exposition between Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) and Milady (the director's wife, Milla Jovovich) and an excruciatingly wearisome romantic sub-plot that finds D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) attempt to earn the affections of the world's most non-descript and joyless woman (Gabriella Wilde) whilst fostering a deep, juvenile resentment for Comte de Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen) after an insult to his horse. Oh, and "funnyman" James Corden is in there too as comedy relief character Planchet, just to make things seventeen times less charming.
Introduced via freeze-frame in the style of early Guy Ritchie, the Musketeers come over as pathetic brawlers who murder lots of jobbing town guards for sport and without the slightest consequence, somehow earning the witless gratitude of their child king. Their personalities are boiled down to: the bitter one, the ladies man and the hungry one. The only thing they have going for them is that they aren't anywhere near grating as the film's cocky, American-accented version of D'Artagnan, who is reminiscent of Christian Slater as Will Scarlett in 1991's 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves'. The deliberateness of his colonial accent is made apparent by the fact that his father is also American, despite being played by the English Dexter Fletcher. I only mention this because it stands out in a movie where everyone else is resolutely old world, with the thinking probably being that US audiences won't care unless there is an American character to cheer for (an assumption I believe doesn't give American audiences enough credit or respect).
Some of Bloom's bitchy dialogue and Waltz's deliciously sarcastic delivery raises a smile, but not enough of one to make nearly two hours of anodyne action and sloppy storytelling an attractive prospect. To give Anderson some lukewarm credit, he showed with 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' that he is at least one of the few directors out there who is trying to give 3D a go (shooting on actual 3D cameras rather than relying on the dreaded post-conversion process and framing his shots with stereoscopy in mind) and he resumes that effort here, with 'Musketeers' a resolutely 3D affair from beginning to end. That said, for all his enthusiasm he doesn't bring much imagination to the process, having swords point "out of" the screen a lot and staging much of the action place down long corridors to give the audience an ostentatious and meaningless sense of depth.
'The Three Musketeers 3D' is up there with the very worst of cinema experiences, if only because it's flavourless, calculatedly inoffensive and instantly forgettable - likely the sort of thing I'll pick up a DVD box for in a few years time and wonder "have I seen this?". It's a total mess in terms of narrative, the good guys are blank non-entities and it has nothing whatsoever to offer in terms of spectacle. It also has one of the most optimistic and cumbersome sequel hooks since Roland Emmerich cut to a hatching egg at the end of his god-awful 'Godzilla' remake. It'll doubtlessly turn a tidy profit with its European funding, embarrassing CGI work and TV actor-lead cast implying it didn't cost that much to make, but I expect a lack of public enthusiasm will keep Buckingham's airship armada from ever reaching Calais.
'The Three Musketeers 3D' is rated '12A' by the BBFC and is released in the UK from Wednesday 12th.