When going into a Paul W.S. Anderson film, the one thing that I look to take out of it is fun. Sure, they might not be the best things around, but they’re often campy and action-packed enough to keep me entertained if I want to kill an hour and a half. Nowadays, it also means seeing Milla Jovovich in the best light possible, and having some well-shot, slow motion action scenes. I’m fine with all of this, and it’s the reason I rarely have a problem watching his movies; they’re usually fun, if nothing else.
The Three Musketeers, conversely, is not fun. It is campy and cheesy, but the action scenes are so dull and it so completely wants to be Pirates of the Caribbean for a lot of its running time — we conclude with a battle taking place on ships, for example, and most of the action scenes are worse versions of the sword fighting seen in the Depp-led series — that I figured it’s much better to recommend that you go watch any of those, because they’ll be a better use of your time. They’re more entertaining, and they’re funnier. Yes, all four of them are this way, regardless of how little you might have liked On Stranger Tides or At World’s End; at least they were trying.
So, the basic idea to The Three Musketeers is to use the titular team of people to propel the plot but have little influence on it. Instead, we get to focus on some kid played by Logan Lerman, who wants to join the Musketeers and then winds up on a quest to steal stuff and then rescue the princess. The actual Musketeers play a secondary role, which marks another film that argues the case that they’re not worth exploring as characters.
The other story — well, there are many small ones, but the only other one worth noting — involves Milla Jovovich’s character, Milady, going from place to place, being the deceptive person who can’t be trusted by anyone, and who trusts nobody. She’s the double, triple, quadruple, etc., agent, and essentially serves two purposes: (1) Let us look at her because she is married to the director and he’s showing her off (again), and (2) possibly cause a war between England and France, because that’s a good thing to do, I guess.
The plot is very loosely told, with most of it existing just to get us to the final few action scenes. The Three Musketeers really feels like a movie where you can miss most of it and still understand exactly what’s going on. It’s full of nothing but filler, really, with characters and relationships that are established but disregarded at the slightest whim if it can lead to an action scene. Which is does, always, because this is a Paul W.S. Anderson flick.
The problem, however, is that none of the action is original or exciting. I was almost as bored during the set-pieces as I was during the rest of the picture, and considering how flat and lifeless that portion is, this is a major problem. Anderson usually gives us a couple of memorable moments, but The Three Musketeers doesn’t have a single one. It’s not even that action-packed, really, with long stretches of nothingness occurring between the scenes that are supposed to amp us up. The whole thing put me to sleep.
For what it’s worth, the cast of The Three Musketeers is quite impressive, with the likes of Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Orlando Bloom, Ray Stevensen, Luke Evans, Matthew Macfadyen and Juno Temple — along with the aforementioned Jovovich and Lerman — finding themselves a part of the production. None of them turn in performances that most people would call “good.” They’re campy and over-the-top, in particular is Bloom’s villain, which fits the tone, but I found it hard to take them as believable.
Then again, this is a movie that takes place in the 1600s, yet still manages to have airships, so I guess “believable” might be too high on the expectation meter. Yes, a moderately sized portion of the film revolves around flying steampunk ships. The initial heist involves stealing the plans, one character wants one while another character flaunts his — and it is all pointless except to be a gag, and also give us a reason to have what essentially amounts to a pirate ship battle, but doesn’t take place in the sea.
The Three Musketeers is also 110 minutes long, despite mostly containing filler. Surely some of this unimportant drivel could have been trimmed. I found myself trudging through just to get to anything that would matter in the end, and I came up empty. There’s no spark, no creativity — nothing to keep you watching except for a relatively strong cast that is hamming it up so hard you half expect pigs to start falling from the sky. At least that would have been inventive and worth seeing.
The Three Musketeers is a complete waste of time and energy, and is the worst film that Paul W.S. Anderson has ever directed. It’s campy and silly, sure, but it’s no fun and it’s missing a hook, something to compel us and give us something to hold onto. It has a good cast whose members are told to be as goofy as possible, and is another Musketeers film that largely ignores the heroes of lore, instead deciding to make them side characters in their own story. Read me a bedtime story.