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At The Movies: The Three Musketeers, or Markgraf Loses It

2011 October 24

I am the worst person in the world to take to a cinema. Cinemas turn me, through no fault of my own, into a Grade A Douchebag. I just find the whole experience too engrossing. My ticket crumples in my eager hand as I enter the theatre, and magic happens. The low light, the seats and the excited quiet cause a strange mutation in my brain and suddenly, the whole world is just me and that cinema, and nothing else matters.

I laugh. I cry. I shriek like an excited child. I hurl insults, groan and grip the hand of the person sitting next to me, and I just can’t help it. The film, in that darkened, magical room full of equally hypnotised people and their rustling sweets, is my entire life for the hours that it runs.

Now, if a film is uniformly delightful, I’ll get used to the level of delight it’s producing in me and be relatively quiet. If it’s uniformly miserable, I’ll just cry quietly to myself for the duration. If it’s completely terrible, I’ll start out shouting and then my fury will dull into silence, while I glare at the screen with the cold, dead eyes of a shark. But if a film varies, and has parts that I love and parts that I hate, I’ll react anew to the different levels of content as they emerge.

Paul WS Anderson’s The Three Musketeers was, therefore, a big problem for everyone else in the cinema.

**** WARNING: spoilers from here on out!****

It’s a film with its pros and cons, as most films are, but the problem with this film for me was that the pros and cons were both very forthright in how pro-y or con-y they were, and they constantly vied for supremacy. The result was a sort of see-saw effect, whereby the quality of the film yo-yoed wildly from start to finish, and my face was sort of like this:

A drawing on textured card. On the left, a see-saw out of balance. One end has

A drawing on textured card. On the left, a see-saw out of balance. One end has

So at the end, I looked a bit like this:

A drawing on textured card. It depicts the artist, a young man with short, spiky hair, awash with fury and dismay, but also, paradoxically, elation and delight. He is drooling slightly.

Oh my god you guys, what was this film. It was obvious that they knew what they wanted to do with it, but really weren’t sure how. As you can tell from the title, it’s ostensibly based on Alexandre Dumas’ lovely book, but much in the same way that every time I take a trip to Tesco, the journey is based on Virgil’s Aeneid. I read The Three Musketeers when I was young – so young, in fact, that the memory is a mere rose-coloured blip on the horizon of my literary consumption – so have possibly unrealistic recollections of how ludicrous it was. But I’m pretty sure the bloody thing didn’t have zeppelins designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

The whole thing’s meant to be set in the year 17-whatsit, and the costume department and set designers have had a fucking ball with it. The clothes are divine, and the interiors are spot-on. It’s really lush to look at, the attention to detail – even in the weaponry – is sublime, which makes it all the more bloody baffling that they saw fit to sledgehammer shit like rotary platform mini-cannons and clockpunk crossbows on top. The final straw for me was the sudden, rage-cage-inducing appearance of modern stringed instruments at the end.

The way I see it is this: if you love 18th century France so much, don’t spend oodles of obvious love and affection recreating that amazing period of European history in all its gaudy, beautiful, corrupt and hilarious glory and then promptly drizzle congealed green-screened steampunk on top! And if you want it to be a full-on, anachronistic love-in with airship-mounted flamethrowers, stop pretending it’s in any way historically accurate! Go the whole hog! Have a mechanical Tyrannosaur! Stick Cardinal Richelieu in leather!

…Ooh.

And the dialogue. Oh, god. The dialogue. It was clearly written by a team who thought they were far more witty than they really were (Alex Litvak and Andrew Davis, I’m looking at you) and while the cast, bless them, did their best, no one – not even Christoph Waltz, doing a staggeringly attractive turn as Richelieu – could redeem the continual stream of steaming cat vomit.

This brings me on, neatly, to the casting, one of the film’s only saving graces. As I say, Waltz is charismatic and delicious as usual, but it isn’t just him carrying the show. The Musketeers themselves (Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson) are fun to watch1 with good interpersonal chemistry (OT3 FOREVER) and King Louis XIII, (played by Freddie Fox, characterised as basically me in a sparkly hat) is a gigantic hilarious fop. To balance out the prevalence of heroes, I was personally foaming with delight to see that we had not one, but three and a half whole villains to choose from! Milla Jovovitch, who is my future wife by the way, does a truly spectacular turn as demi-villain Milady de Winter (but more on that in a bit), an eyepatched Mads Mikkelsen (who you may remember as the blood-weeping, testicle-flogging villain in 2006’s Casino Royale) as the Cardinal’s captain of the guard, swanning about in red brocade being all leg and blades, and Orlando Bloom.

… Orlando Bloom. Now. I hate Orlando Bloom. I’ve found him phenomenally unremarkable in everything he’s been in to date, and in every case his universal expression is the perplexed discomfort of a dog that’s been instructed to sit on snowy ground. Here, he’s the villainous Buckingham – a tarted-up-to-the-nines fop with a pearl earring and a 24-carat smirk, and he’s fucking perfect.

I’m terrified that – after his Oscar-guzzling performance as Hans Landa in Quarantino’s most recent romp, Inglourious Basterds – Christoph Waltz will be forever cast by English-language cinema as villains, and Musketeers certainly doesn’t abate my fear. But please, please, gods of cinema, if there is any justice in the world, please let Orlando Bloom be typecast for life as a scenery-chewing villain off the back of this film alone. He’s having so much fun! He’s more camp than a goth Mardi Gras! The facial hair suits him and everything! I never want to see him doing the beleaguered hero act ever again.

So the casting’s great. Except, sadly, D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), who’s irritating, boring, and frankly too young to carry the role off with any gravitas. But all of his shortcomings pale in comparison to the humanoid plankton2 cast as his love-interest, Constance (Gabrielle Wilde). She has one facial expression:

A drawing of a pretty, if vacant, girl. She stares straight ahead with blank eyes and parted lips.  There is nothing interesting about her face whatsoever.  She is wearing an elaborate gown, of which only the neckline and collar is visible.

This is her expression for all things. Delivering sarcastic put-downs, being dangled from the prow of an airship, stumbling along a boardwalk a million miles from the ground and being held at knifepoint. All that face, and a monotone to match. It’s awful. It’s not even as if she gets nothing to do. She gets herself captured on D’Artagnan’s behalf by dressing as him and acting as bait3 and that could be amazing! But she does it with the charisma and presence of a bowl of cold soup.

Photo: the cast of the film stood on a balcony. The women are all standing next to each other. Photo from Wikipedia, shared under Fair Use guidelines and copyright Summit Entertainment.Readers will be surprised to learn that this film does actually get a technical Bechdel pass. There are actually quite a lot of women in the film, serving – on paper – very important roles. The Queen (Juno Temple) has an entire contingent of ladies-in-waiting, of which Constance is one, and the Bechdel pass comes when she asks for her jewels, only to find that they’ve been stolen. It’s only one line, though! She spends the entire film surrounded by women, having a fun time in the garden and calling Richelieu on his bullshit to his face, but she never gets more than a meagre handful of lines. Why? It feels as if the lines she does get – there are literally only about four – and the placement of them are lip service to having to write her a part. So, in an entire French fucking court of women that practically fills the screen, they only get six lines between them. WHY? Is there a LAW against women advancing the plot? The Queen has a vital fucking ROLE in the plot, as she’s one of the chief pawns that Richelieu fucks about with!

But yet, she’s completely out-parted by… Milla.

Oh, Milla. I love you so much. You’re the lizard-eyed, carved-bicepped, bullet-dodging action queen of my dreams. This role is a fucking gift for her. Milady is a double-agent, assassin and spy! She’s a fucking Swiss army knife of bad-assery. She’s got a lockpick haircomb, icy-cool emotional control to spare, and abseiling stays. She can dual-wield a pistol and a rapier, has no problems selling people out or killing them, and appears to be literally invincible. poster promoting Milady with 'Milla Jovovich is... Milady' headline in grey all caps, showing Milla Jovovich (a white young woman with pale skin and auburn ringlets) brandishing a sword in an elaborate brocade dressI can’t say enough brilliant things about her. It’s all going so well! And then her clothes fall off and she becomes a lingerie model on a clock, complete with lascivious camera pan. Because, obviously, men won’t understand or enjoy a woman being badass unless she’s got as few clothes on as possible (even in a culture where the collars were big and the dresses bigger). I cried. Sex assassin, ho!

Speaking of assassins, the opening action scene is in Venice. “VENICE, ITALY!!” we’re told (to differentiate, presumably, from Venice, Barnsley). A guard stands watch on a dark canal edge. Something bubbles in the water at his feet. Suddenly, a dart is fired straight from the water into his gullet. Athos emerges, wet and masked, armed with some kind of automatic crossbow.

Meanwhile, Aramis, hooded and billowy, synchs up a viewpoint before Leap-of-Faithing down onto a gondola.

Porthos manages to get a kill-streak of 15, fighting off soldiers in a basement, earning himself a new trophy!

They have basically made Assassin’s Creed II: THE MOVIE, and split Ezio into three people.

The rage-cage descended over my eyes. HOW DARE THEY, I announced, being restrained by the two people who foolishly accompanied me to the cinema. GET OFF MY ASSCREED, I declared. People had started to stare. PRESS X TO AVOID MY ACID VOMIT OF WRATH, I continued. I was out of control. It was of great relief to everyone when the scene changed and I could be pacified with Mads Mikkelsen’s gorgeous cheekbones and mile-long legs.

All in all, a mixed bag. Like reaching your hand into pick ‘n’ mix and being unsure as to whether you’ll get a fizzy cola bottle or an enraged musk rat.

YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM BECAUSE:

  • It is so blisteringly camp and sparkly that I came out wearing glitter that I didn’t go in with
  • The sets and costumes are lush beyond compare
  • The casting’s brilliant, with few exceptions
  • It’s one for the Eurofilm nerds, with excellent performances from Mikkelsen, Waltz and a motley crew of Brits – and an unexpected, hilarious cameo from Til Schweiger, who starred alongside Waltz in Inglourious Basterds
  • VILLAIN PORN!!! VILLAIN!!! PORN!!! YES!!!

YOU SHOULD NOT SEE THIS FILM BECAUSE:

  • It just doesn’t know what it’s doing, with anything, ever, especially the women
  • “What? You mean… just having them on-screen isn’t good enough? :(“
  • The dialogue’s an experience quite a lot like snorting crushed glass
  • I’d rather deep-throat a live conga eel than watch the scenes with D’Artagnan in again
  • Who the hell thought model battle-maps would make good scene transition material?
  • Why is D’Artagnan glaringly American, when everyone else at least tries to be pseudo-British?
  • MODERN FUCKING INSTRUMENTS HRRGHNH WHY GOD
  1. Aramis is a priest. I will fight anyone going for Aramis. And I will win. []
  2. No offence to plankton. []
  3. with the laziest drag I have ever seen – SHE WEARS HIS HAT! That’s not drag, that’s what I do in the hat section of John Lewis for fun. []
8 Responses leave one →
  1. Russell permalink
    October 24, 2011

    Is there some sort of rule that says there MUST be a new Three Musketeers film at least once every ten years?

    Anyway, this sounds mildly diverting. I may rent it, but your review does not inspire me to spend money on seeing it. Wallpaper women are always upsetting.

  2. Jenni permalink
    October 24, 2011

    New rule. ALL film reviewers, in the world, ever, should include comics like Markgraf’s comics.
    *tries to pull the face in fig c.*
    *fails*

    Milady fascinates me. She was a pretty revolutionary type of character when the book was written, I mean, a woman spy, staying ahead of the heroes for most of then plot and, a thief, a killer, sympatheitic in that she was wronged by Athos, etc., but in so many adaptations, no-one’s sort of done anything new with her since… she has just become a ‘sexy assassin.’

    • Markgraf permalink
      October 24, 2011

      She reminds me strongly of Bond in this, actually, with her harem of men-in-thrall and her gadgets. Which is no bad thing, really.

  3. October 28, 2011

    I might give it a go after several gin and tonics.

  4. October 29, 2011

    great review! I’m tempted to watch it for the campiness of it all.

  5. October 29, 2011

    I just want you to know… that I couldn’t care less about this movie, but I read the whole review because you are that awesome. Oh, the comics! And the hilarious words!!!

  6. MeiLin permalink
    September 19, 2012

    I was clapping my paws, nodding and hysterically giggling about 20 times while reading this review. You, Sir, are a genius :D

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