Monday, October 24, 2011

All for One, One for the Junk Pile

Like most people, I have a day job. It’s not my first love, but it IS how I pay the bills. There are days where I love my day job, with my daily interaction with co-workers, employees and managers keeping me fresh and on my toes. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes my day job can beat me down so badly that I’m desperate for any respite, any calm in the storm. This past Friday was one such day, on which I left work frazzled, tired and just a little out of my mind. On days like this, I feel that a good dumb movie can help to raise beleaguered spirits and help one feel better by forgetting all the stresses of the day. On this particular Friday, I went to see The Three Musketeers, in 3D.

“But, Mr. Anderson,” you’re saying with polite reverence, “You said GOOD dumb movies. The Three Musketeers looks like utter crap! And you hate 3D, you complain about it all the time!”

You’re not half wrong there. From my first viewing of the film’s trailer, I was quite certain that there would be little to no redeeming value left in the finished product. The title, the third major film based on the novel by French author Alexandre Dumas in the past two decades, looked to incorporate style over substance, with little explanation as to not only why a new adaptation was ever needed, but why on Earth It would need to be shown in 3D. As many of my readers already know, I abhor most 3D films with VERY few exceptions, as often the overhyped technology is too much money spent to far little effect. But, lately I admit that for several reasons I have developed a soft spot for this obvious car wreck. The first was director Paul W. S. Anderson (no relation), whose 2010 franchise sequel Resident Evil: Afterlife was one of the few 3D movies I absolutely loved. The reason for my appreciation was that Anderson actually filmed using the same technology that pioneer James Cameron did in Avatar, the title that reinvigorated the 3D discussion. Using Cameron’s RealD 3D technology, Anderson created the perfect comeback to a franchise that had struggled creatively in its previous outings. As such, this is a man who obviously knows how 3D technology is supposed to work in this day and age of modern wonders. Another reason was the casting. Unknown Musketeers aside, the care in choosing several secondary roles was key. Between the obvious casting decisions (Christoph Waltz as the evil Cardinal Richelieu) and those strangely against type (Orlando Bloom as a heavy), Three Musketeers hosted a surprising bevy of talent on its roster. And don’t forget Anderson’s wife Milla Jovovich as turncoat Millady de Winter. Sure, Jovovich isn’t the best actress out there, but she’s a gamer who does all that is asked of her and appeals to the audiences of her films thanks to her professionalism and obvious sex appeal. For these reasons I was willing to offer the film a mulligan, hoping for something that would outshine its obvious flaws.

Well, one of you is going to have to go
When Musketeer hopeful D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) travels to Paris to join the King’s elite soldiers, the events that follow are very similar to that of the novel, as he makes early enemies of former Musketeers Athos (Matthew MacFayden), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), only to team up with the trio against the soldiers of Cardinal Richelieu (Waltz), the man secretly ruling France while misleading the young King Louis XIII into believing he is in full control. Athos, Porthos and Aramis were removed from the Musketeers after being betrayed by Athos’ lover Milady (Jovovich), a double agent for the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). Soon the four become privy to the plots of Richelieu, who has devised a plan to send France and England towards war, with the ultimate end of him in total command of the country. It is up to the four warriors to take up the challenge and fight soldiers on both sides to save France and their King.

Shouldn't have brought a cutlass to a flintlock pistol fight
Of course, that spectacle I mentioned earlier never really comes to pass. The Three Musketeers is about as far from a great movie as you can get without being downright horrible, but Anderson does manage to make it a close call as he tries to create an adaptation of the classic tale with as much spectacle and fury as he can muster while failing on just about every conceivable level. It doesn’t help that Anderson feels out of his element when taking on this classic novel, incorporating steampunk elements (such as airships) where none were really should have been needed. For the most part the implementation of 3D was wasted, surprising and disappointing considering Anderson’s previous experience with the technology. Anyone who has seen the shower scene in Resident Evil: Afterlife knows how amazing 3D could actually look (get your minds out of the gutter), and I was expecting more of that ingenuity here. Unfortunately, that doesn’t show itself except for a brief instance towards the end featuring dueling airships. Worse, it’s nowhere near as entertaining, as there is very little that could excite small children, let alone the young adults that are the film’s target audience.

Kissing the hand was scandalous ENOUGH
At least the film has solid acting, which was much more than I could have expected. The Musketeers themselves are all standouts, as MacFayden, Stevenson and Evans proudly play their roles to great effectiveness. Between the dour Athos, the proud and Strong Porthos, and the pious Aramis, the tiny shred of personality that the film possesses shines brightly. It’s a shame then that the three get relatively little face time, especially Porthos and Aramis, who get a few moments to impress but not nearly enough. Instead we see others pushed to the forefront, and those are unfortunately nowhere near as artistically stimulating. Despite his talents and seemingly a natural choice for the role, Waltz’s Richelieu is a disappointment, too campy and unthreatening even to adequately chew scenery. Despite being the film’s central antagonist, he gives far too much ground to his underlings, especially Mads Mikkelsen as the petty and cruel Captain Rochefort. Logan Lerman has no business headlining ANY film, let alone a potential blockbuster. His bland recitation of dialogue is one of the film’s main flaws, and with too much attention on him this is far too noticeable a one. Jovovich was in fact a mixed bag, with Milady’s impressive… um… “talents” often overshadowed by not even an attempt at actual acting. However, one that surprisingly stood out to me was Orlando Bloom, playing the snide and clever Duke of Buckingham. Bloom, who usually plays upstanding and generally friendly characters, is so out of place here that it gives the film a new lift whenever he is on screen. Sadly, whereas The Three Musketeers has only one Orlando Bloom, it could have used three or four more. He’s on screen far too little as a secondary villain to be a serious nuisance, though he comes off as more diabolical than Richelieu when given the chance.

I'm sorry, did you say something? I was staring at your chest
Despite some clever jabs that catch you off guard and tickle your funny bone, there isn’t a whole lot to recommend in seeing The Three Musketeers in the theater. The film’s saving grace was supposed to be Anderson’s 3D implementation, but with that being less than stellar, the title had to actually rely on the script and its performers to get by. The result is an un-clever stupid movie that might be decent for mindless fun, if your definition of “fun” is far more subjective than mine. A few good moments do not a movie make, and so I can’t bring myself to actually recommend this title to anyone. If you decide to ignore me and DO go to see The Three Musketeers, at least do yourself the favor of skipping the 3D showings. They, like another Musketeers adaptation, are thoroughly unneeded.

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