SINCE the 70s, there’s been something slightly irresistible about a musketeer film.
Maybe it’s all that gratuitous swashbuckling accented by jaunty feather plumage but it’s hard to deny there’s not something guiltily pleasurable about a concept steeped in historical high drama.
Ever since Richard Lester’s first stab in 1973 (Reed, Chamberlain, Finlay, York) remakes have paled in a manner of extreme naffness.
Disney’s flat offering, featuring Sutherland, Sheen, Platt, O’Donnell) reared its head in the 90s and then came Randall Wallace’s snooze-fest, The Man In The Iron Mask – an effort Malkovich, Irons, Depardieu, Byrne may well hide as far down their CVs as possible.
But such low expectations only benefit this latest incarnation of The Three Musketeers, directed by B movie aficionado, Paul WS Anderson.
D’Artagnan (Lerman) heads to Paris to become a Musketeer and becomes embroiled in a ‘plot’ involving the Queen’s jewels, the King’s manhood, Cardinal Richelieu’s plans for European domination, Milady’s double-crossing and Buckingham’s “war machine.”
It is completely daft – particularly the erroneous addition of huge airships toting guns and flame throwers; not something that immediately springs to mind from a Musketeer movie.
Also, apparently it’s not enough that Athos (Macfadyen, moody), Aramis (Evans, cool) and Porthos (Stevenson, big) be musketeers.
Oh no! They must also be an 18th-century combo of James Bond and Batman, dashing through Indiana Jones-style deathtraps.
Meanwhile, why go to Alexandre Dumas for your ideas when you can just pilfer ideas from other movies? One particular exchange is lifted from A Fistful Of Dollars, and Princess Bride scribe William Goldman should check his royalties because there’s some questionable thievery to be had there.
Elsewhere, Lerman’s D’Artagnan is a smug, charmless little creep, and yet somehow the whole affair comes off as completely acceptable.
For despite the ludicrous war machines and Orlando Bloom’s even more ludicrous hair-do there are some ravishing scenes of traditionally choreographed fencing, including a superb cathedral-roof duel between Lerman’s D’Artagnan and Mads Mikkelsen’s nefarious Rochefort.
Also, li’l D aside, the Musketeers are well cast, and enjoy an easy chemistry – enough for us to actually not dread the likelihood of a sequel.
Actually, I’ll go one further and say, sure, bring on the sequel: airships and all.