Friday, 23 October 2015
The Three Musketeers (2011)
I feel sorry for Cardinal Richelieu. He was one of the first true patriots: a man who put his nation's interests first at a time when most people's principal loyalty was to their faith or to their personal liege. He centralised national power (making him very unpopular with the nobles) and worked to prevent Habsburg dominion over Europe. However you may feel about patriotism/nationalism, he was an important and in many ways revolutionary figure.
In film however, he has been tarred with a very black brush indeed: he's invariably the villain in adaptations of Alexandre Dumas's novel, and is usually conspiring to falsely dishonor the Queen and seize the King's power for himself. (In the book itself, things are much less black and white)
I mention all this, because Richelieu gets the usual treatment in Paul Anderson's 2011 film, which is particularly notable given how many "not the usual Musketeers" elements it has. Not all of these elements work, it must be said. For instance, while Orlando Bloom is great fun as the preening Duke of Buckingham, I think it muddies the film to turn him into another enemy of the musketeers, rather than their reluctant ally. Having three factions - with prototypical femme fatale Milady de Winter trying to play off all three - slows down the film's otherwise galloping pace and throws it off its stride.
One element that does work, at least for me, is that this film comes across as Jules Verne's The Three Musketeers. It's got airships and 17th century scuba gear and death traps and all kinds of other shenanigans. I approve. If you're going to ignore the historical record as thoroughly as most Musketeers films do, why not go all out?
The over the top action sequences and broad humour probably won't appeal to all audiences, and I do think the film misfires on some of them (particularly the latter). But if you're looking for a fast-paced, visually opulent action piece full of wise-cracking heroes, this is a fun way to spend an hour and a half.