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'The Three Musketeers' review - airships, explosions, and Matrix slow-mo

I vaguely remember reading The Three Musketeers when I was young and, honestly, I remember The Three Amigos a lot better. Try as I might though, I can't recall flying pirate ships with giant blimps attached to them. I didn't know the musketeers dabbled in science fiction. Paul W.S. Anderson's version of the classic trio is fairly harmless and shouldn't offend anyone, but it doesn't pay much tribute to its brand. Like the Resident Evil flicks, this movie starts out accurate, but ends up veering into the ridiculous fairly quickly. Unfortunately, it's lacking in fun as well. Mix the world of Pirates of the Caribbean with the insanity of the Resident Evil movies and the slow-mo of The Matrix and you've got 90 percent of The Three Musketeers. Add two teenage love stories and you've seen it all. 

Musketeers tries too hard to be edgy and zany. It's one of those movies that routinely dismisses all logic and sense to get to the next Matrix-style action scene. For example, the young half musketeer named D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) meets almost the entire cast of the movie in a five minute period as he first enters town. He bumps into each of them by accident, acts like an asshole kid, and challenges each of them to a brawl individually at the same location. He even meets the villain of the movie during this period. How grand! They all assemble in a courtyard so that the musketeers can reunite and fight an army of guards who show up for absolutely no reason at all. Then they kill those 40 guards for no reason at all. The sad part is, this, and a lot of the overall plot points, are somewhat accurate to the original book.

What's not so accurate is Milla Jovovich as Milady de Winter. While the original Milady was an agent, she didn't come straight off of Cirque du Soleil. Jovovich spends most of her time jumping through insane traps to get hidden jewels and switching sides. She works for everybody. But for all her physical skills, she doesn't seem able to jump out of a carriage with huge windows (no glass) as it's slowly lifted up by an airship. Did she want to be caught or did the script just need her in that airship? And WTF..an airship? Seriously? Stupid things like this happen in every scene. People repel off buildings and do fancy stunts because it looks cool, but there's almost never a good reason for it.

Though thousands of innocent soldiers die, nobody bleeds and almost every leading character lets an enemy live at one point or another for no better reason than to have them come back later in the movie. Villains of the world: if you're going to poison your enemies, you should make sure to shoot them too. If you don't, the laws of film require them to come back to foil your plans. To these characters, it's all a game. The real purpose of The Three Musketeers is to set up its inevitable sequel, which it does in the last scene, which increases the number of airships (which are too heavy to actually fly under our laws of physics) about ten fold. If you didn't know by now, Paul W.S. Anderson loves sequels. He's currently working on the sixth Resident Evil movie. 

Like the book, though this movie is supposed to be about the three musketeers, they are not the main characters. The three aren't on screen as much as the rest of the cast, have few lines, and are hardly essential to the plot. The giant airships, the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom), D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman), Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen), Richelieu (Christoph Waltz), King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox), and Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) are more central to the plot and far more interesting. The actual musketeers are only guest characters, present so that Paul W.S. Anderson and his team could name their new blimp pirate airship movie The Three Musketeers.

There are a few high points. Bloom is a standout with a unique performance as the Duke, and most of the cast does a decent job. The way Anderson uses maps to go from location to location is also fun and the movie has several gray characters that are neither good nor bad, which is mostly thanks to the source material. Unfortunately, it all ends up as a nonsensical, quest where two sides are trying to steal a diamond necklace over and over again so that young King Louis XIII doesn't think his wife is cheating on him. I remember this plot being more interesting in the book. 

Overall, I didn't hate The Three Musketeers, but it wasn't much fun. I've enjoyed some of Paul W.S. Anderson's previous films, like Mortal Kombat and some of the Resident Evil movies, but I think he's reached his limits. Perhaps he should have made a movie based on Skies of Arcadia, a video game that actually has airships and an interesting story. We have lesser expectations for video game movies, but maybe the problem is bigger. Unoriginal action movies that rip off The Matrix just aren't selling tickets lately, no matter how many musketeers they contain. 

Rating:  (Bad)

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