Three Musketeers has a stellar cast—with some of my favorite actors, including Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice, MI-5, Any Human Heart), Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo in Rome), Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, the Resident Evil franchise), and Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings). I’d been looking forward to its release for months, goosed by a killer trailer.

It has an auspicious start in Venice with Athos (Macfadyen), a lethal figure in black arising from the canals and quickly dispatching with his foes before hooking up with his fellow Musketeers, Aramis (Luke Evans) and Porthos (Stevenson), as well as the lovely and deadly assassin Milady (Jovovich).

For no shortage of terrific visuals, cool sword fights and a cast that is impeccable, Director Paul W.S. Anderson’s (also of the Resident Evil franchise and other sci-fi outings) foray into the 17th century is diminished by a dull script in a film that too often feels derivative. The Sean Connery film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, comes to mind (not just because of the Venice setting), along with Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Three Musketeers also seems too much of a copycat in look and feel of the Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey, Jr.-Jude Law Sherlock Holmes, not only in filming style, but right down to part of the soundtrack.

Unfortunately, unlike Sherlock Holmes it has none of the engaging and clever repartee, and the abuse of the Musketeers sidekick Planchet (English actor James Corden who likely isn’t too known to American audience) is completely humorless—and maybe Jack Black should have been cast. In an interview, Bloom said the film has “wit and humor,” but where?

Maybe I need a second viewing. Admittedly, I didn’t see the film in 3-D, so maybe that makes all the difference. Perhaps my expectations were too high also, expecting some sort of Ridley Scott-like outing to a past period with a deeper meaning that resonates to audiences today as to what’s happening in our world now. The only inkling of something like that is in the trailer with Athos saying, “We live in a kingdom controlled by fear.”

While the script is disappointing, Three Musketeers has such a good cast that it’s worth watching to see Christopher Waltz (Inglourious Bastards) as the evil cardinal and a villainous Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, 2006), along with a preening Bloom and the highly respectable lineup for the Musketeers.

The film is set up for a sequel. And with a new screenwriter(s), a second romp with the Musketeers could be a lot more fun.

Screenwriters: There’s endless material to plumb in classic literature, and the first film in the new Sherlock Holmes franchise is an example of how well it can be done. It had excellent Downey-Law chemistry and a complex storyline to keep the audience guessing. Everything worked, including the script.

Three Musketeers had lots of well-configured action, great costuming and scenes, but a very poor story. So the lesson is if you’re going to rework a classic that’s already got great bones and a long-running reputation then the screenplay must be outstanding; otherwise, you’ve tossed years of goodwill that’s accrued to the story. Three Musketeers shows how important story is to the whole filmmaking process.

3 of 5 Purple Pencils


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