Monday, May 28, 2012

Movie Review: The Three Musketeers (2011)

(I think I'm supposed to tell you there are spoilers ahead.  Well, there are, in case you're concerned about that.) 

Here is the short version of this review:  OMG AIRSHIPS WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

Here is the long version: : 

I had high hopes for this movie.  To say I love the author and the story is an understatement.  If I am a devotee of anything or anyone, it is Alexandre Dumas and his stories.  (almost all his books are free for Kindle read them NOW!)

The casting looked (and for the most part, was) really good… except I didn’t love Ray Stevenson as Porthos.  Maybe it was the hair, or the fact that he was never allowed to wear black like Athos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan.  Also, he was played (or written—I’m not sure which one was more to blame) more stupid and thuggish than Porthos is in the book.  And him always wearing BROWN instead of black like the “normal” musketeers came to symbolize this for me, as I sat on my friend’s couch, getting more and more allergic and becoming more and more confused as to why there were airships on the screen.  But anyway, Porthos:  it was as if they said, “Well, Porthos is dumb and brutish, unlike the rest of them.  So of course he can’t wear black like the others.  Instead, he will wear brown as a mark of his inferior mental capabilities and unimportance.” 
Porthos, why aren't you wearing black like the real men?  (For those of you who haven't read the book, the real Porthos
does not wear brown.  In the book, he's got flair.)

The only other bits of casting I was unsure about were Milla Jovovich as Milady (she’s married to the director so…yeah… She needed to be more blonde and MUCH LESS NINJA-LIKE.), along with Constance, who looked wayyyyy too 21st century.  (D’Artagnan had the modern look going on as well, but by the time I formed an opinion about him I was too busy gaping at airships to care.)  I thought Orlando Bloom’s performance was pretty good (I think he did what he could given that he was the villain in a version of 3 Musketeers that had AIRSHIPS in it.  I mean, what would you do?  Mayyybeee not sign up for the role.  But I forgive him.)  By the way, my friend told me he had an ugly kid.  *takes break to google Orlando Bloom’s baby*  Nah, it’s cute.  Or maybe that’s just because it’s with Orlando Bloom.  It’s hard for me to distinguish. 

AIRSHIPS.  I’m getting there.

Gah, they messed up the backstory with Milady.  Instead of putting her in Athos' dark, mysterious past, they started the movie with the two of them in a relationship, and then--all within the first 5 minutes of the movie--had her inexplicably run off with the Duke of Buckingham, who (for no apparent reason) fed the three musketeers a non-deadly poison that gave them blurry vision.  I suppose this was purely for dramatic effect, like most things in the movie.  All this happened while the characters were breaking into secret vaults to uncover "DaVinci's plans" for what really mattered:  the airships. 

Pardon me, I've lost focus.  Basically, the way they handled Milady and Athos made it like your average girl-dumps-guy lovestory.  WHICH CHANGES ATHOS’ CHARACTER AND DOES ABSOLUTELY NO JUSTICE TO THE ATHOS THAT DUMAS CREATED.  WHICH IS NOT OKAY!

And...they decided to start the movie in Venice???? Oh, so they could have a Sherlock Holmes-esque action sequence to open with, AND so the characters could find the plans for building the all-important airships.

I think it’s possible they A) just wanted to film in Venice or B) needed a way to justify putting Athos in a period-style diver suit and decided Venice could do that for them. 
This is so upsetting to me. 

Ummmm, the music sounded A LOT like the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.  I assume it was written by the same composer (which is really bad if it is—he needs to learn to write different music for different movies…), but I don’t feel like looking it up to check right now.

And, speaking of Pirates of the Caribbean, when there were TWO airships instead of one (ONE WAS NOT ENOUGH) and we had cannonfire between the two, it even started to LOOK like Pirates of the Caribbean.  (Alright, one cool thing:  Aramis had this, like, wheel of guns and there were flames everywhere and he had this awesome, totally-Aramis look on his face…and it was cool.  BUT STILL, it looked like Pirates of the Caribbean, except IN THE SKY.  Which is not a bad thing on its own, I guess…but do you see the title of the movie?!  This was supposed to be The Three Musketeers.  Not "Pirates in the Sky, Part 1.") 

Okay, it's time to talk about the airships: 

First, there were “DaVinci’s plans” for an airship.  And I thought, Okay, they're adding some subplot of their own.  Whatevs.  Then there was one bona fide, in-the-flesh airship.  Which made me think, Oh man...getting pretty weird.  But maybe it will just be one of Buckingham's quirks.  Then there were two.  And I FREAKED OUT.  And then…there were three?   Were there three?  Sure seemed like it.  Maybe that antihistimine was taking effect.  (Did I mention I was having serious allergies while watching this movie?  I was.)  AND THEN….shudder…. I dare not say. 


(Hint: Look in the top left corner.)

Also notice: Porthos has a pistol, not a rapier, because this movie's version of

Porthos is not skilled enough to wield a rapier. He just shoots and smashes things.

This is my problem with the airships:  Of ALL the stories that need airships to make them exciting, The Three Musketeers is NOT ONE OF THEM.  Add airships to Great Expectations or Moby Dick.  (Hey…that could be good.)  They could use a little absurdity and excitement.  But The Three Musketeers?!  Dumas wrote the most tightly-plotted, fast-paced, funny, action-packed stories to emerge from the 19th century.  It is an INSULT to him that these people thought they needed to add airships to make it watchable.  (They must have been on drugs.  Like, the whole time, from screenplay to final edits of the movie…  That’s the only explanation I can come up with.) 
I was especially bothered because the airships were more than a stunt—they became a whole story-line of their own.  And the ending (a cliffhanger which I don’t think they will cash in on for a sequel because they just CAN’T be allowed to do this again) only confirmed the feeling that the airships were the most important thing.  Kind of like how in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, you're going along thinking the book is all about rights for the working class and then BAM all of a sudden it's about promoting Communism.  Yeah, it was like that--except airships instead of Communism.

Trois Mousquetaires, Les (French Edition)
You know, it's fascinating... They didn't
 put any airships on the new book covers.
Now that I've had more than 24 hours to brood over this, I notice that what I'm feeling about the airships is actually betrayal.  Of course, I feel betrayed partly because they mangled one of my favorite classic stories, but there's more to it.  The biggest reason I'm feeling betrayed is this:  I DID NOT SEE AIRSHIPS IN THE PREVIEWS FOR THIS THING.  Now, I just looked up the trailers on YouTube, and it turns out one of them does feature the airships prominently.  In the other trailer, however--the only version I saw, and that on multiple occasions--there are only one or two indirect, extremely rushed shots of airships.  It's as if they ran out of marijuana by the time they got around to planning the trailers and said, "Oh wow, this is dumb.  We better downplay the airships if we want anyone to watch this..." 

So I guess what I'm saying is that it was all SO MUCH WORSE because I was expecting a good, somewhat faithful, airship-free rendition of The Three Musketeers, and the airships took me by surprise.  Hence the outrage. :) 

Before I close, I would like to volunteer that the best parts of the movie were UNDOUBTEDLY the parts taken straight from the book.  (And you can DO that with Dumas because he's just that good!!!)  It's just upsetting because with this kind of budget and this cast, they could have done a really spectacular rendering of The Three Musketeers.  And they didn't. 

I’m really tempted to end this post with a picture of the very end of the movie….but I think…I think I’ll leave you in suspense.  Let’s just say, they seem to have decided that the whole point of the movie started with an “air” and ended with an “ips.”  Go figure.

Happy Memorial Day, and watch out for those airships! 



  1. Oh my goodness, this is HILARIOUS! I don't think I've ever seen so much rage directed at a single movie. I haven't seen the movie, but that book is truly excellent, so it doesn't really surprise me that a movie based off of it would not be able to compare. Reason 467 to stop watching movies based on classic books.

    Also, sorry about the allergies.

    1. Haha thanks Peter! It was really the airships that did it. (made the movie bad, not caused my allergies)

  2. I remember seeing the trailer for this before it came out and I was really excited to see it. Once I saw the reviews coming in I figured it would be a waste of time to watch. From your review I am thinking I made the right choice! It is so frustrating when a favorite book is turned into a movie and they ruin it!

  3. You know I've never actually read the play (book?). I think I read an adaption for kids back in the day (abridged, I think). I'd love to pick it up - is it really great? Also, I have to be honest and say when I first saw the trailer I laughed at how silly it looked and after reading your reviews (WTF Airships????? This is not Golden Compass, peeps! also, don't get me started on *that film*), I am glad I never saw it. Thanks for the review, Susan.

    1. Rachel, you should DEFINITELY get your hands on a copy of The Three Musketeers. And The Count of Monet Cristo, for that matter. They are both fantastic reads!

  4. WTH, airships!? I haven't seen the movie, and I'm not going to either. Why do they have to 'improve' what doesn't need improving? I agree with you, if they had stuck with the book, this could have been an amazing movie with this kind of budget and cast.

    1. Yessssss, it could have been! Thanks for stopping by. :)

  5. I literally laughed out loud reading this. You have now solidified that you're very amusing. :)

  6. This is awesome. As a theatre director who wrote and staged her own (very true to the book!) version of Man in the Iron Mask last year, I took the cast to see this film - in costume! I think we just laughed continuously during the final half hour of the film.

    I love the Musketeers and Dumas, but in a strange way, I also like this version, probably because it is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. I will note, however, that some people in the cast felt that the book (Man in the Iron Mask, that is) wasn't as good as the films they'd seen, because of course in the most recent film version Philippe wins and everything is wonderful. :/ I say, these books have survived for over a century on their own merit, why mess with a perfect story?

    1. Oh, so much agreement. Especially that last sentence. And how fun to see it in costume!

  7. And here I thought the biggest problem with the movie was the lack of actual conversation between characters, resulting in little chance for them to develop depth and earn our empathy.
    Maybe they had a hard time communicating with each other, distracted as they were by all the AIRSHIPS!!! XD

    1. Well, the airships definitely impaired MY ability to communicate during the movie (think incoherent arm-flapping and crazy eyes), so that seems like a possibility!

      I actually didn't notice that issue, but that was probably because a) the increasing airship-involvement was causing my brain to implode and b) I was already emotionally invested in the characters from reading the book.