Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review - The Three Musketeers (2011 Movie)

I had moderate-to-high expectations for this film. Unfortunately (for me), my expectations were based on a misconception of the tone and nature the director/producer/etc decided to take.

When I first heard the announcement that they were making a new Three Musketeers movie, I was excited. I love the story and have enjoyed a number of fun film and stage renditions. As I heard about the casting decisions and saw early pictures of the sets and costumes, I grew more excited.

Upon seeing additional images and finally seeing the trailer, I grew a little nervous about the direction of the movie, but my excitement level stayed high. I saw the crazy weapons, the flying air ship and the matrix-like slide of Milady through a hallway of projectiles and was a bit worried that they might change this into "Steampunk Musketeers"…but then I decided that if they had intended to make that change, the teaser information out there probably would have focused more on that scale of difference. The second trailer showed quite a bit more of the changes and should have been the giveaway for me...but sadly I never saw the second trailer until I sought it out "after" seeing the movie. Don't get me wrong, "Steampunk Musketeers" could be very fun...but that's not what I went into this film expecting (and no, that's not what this movie is, so don't even let your hopes rise that far).

I didn't get out to see this when it was initially released and somehow I missed any/all press or buzz about the movie. So when I sat down in the theater, I was still largely blind as to what to expect.

Right from the beginning, things took a turn for the "different" and it became apparent that this movie was taking some literary license. I accepted that, after all, I did enjoy the Disney version from the 90s and that has some significant differences.

As the movie progressed, however, I grew more and more disappointed.

Let me first state the positives:
  • The casting was great - as I mentioned, upon early news of the film and casting, I was very excited for the actors & actresses chosen. And when given the opportunity, they really made their various roles shine
  • The music was engaging - I really liked the score and may even seek out the soundtrack
  • The sets were stunning - I thought they did a great job creating Paris.
    • On a semi-related note, during the opening credits and various other parts of the film, they used a sort of "miniature" map with little army/navy pieces marching across the map to each other…I thought this was stylistically very cool
  • The costumes were generally pretty good - I take issue with some of the costuming (particularly the crazy back and forth between Buckingham and the Prince…as well as the outrageous dresses of Milady) but generally I thought they were pretty good

Now, I will try to rant without getting to verbose or out of control.

I went into this movie expected (first) an updated version of the classic story of The Three Musketeers. Upon seeing the airship in the trailer, I was a little nervous that this would change, but since I never saw much in the trailer suggesting widespread changes, I wasn't too nervous.

The airships, while a significant change, could have been pulled off as an intriguing inclusion to the story…had they made the story remain compelling.

Where everything fell apart for me was that all of the depth and intrigue just wasn't there. The characters were more like caricatures or archetypes with nothing beneath their thin facades. Even the most intriguing plot elements were glossed over into nothing but a quick/brief bit of dialog or something alluded to by a cursory action.

Instead of the deep, rousing story of political intrigue pitted against honor and courage, I found myself watching a stereotypical hollywood action movie complete with cheesy tongue-in-cheek dialog and over-the-top explosions and fight scenes. The drama and passion of the Dumas tale flew out the window.

Furthermore, the movie kept pulling out one ridiculous scene after another until I wasn't sure if it was trying to be serious or farcical. I kept catching glimmers of the great story but the glimmers quickly faded to be replaced by flash and sizzle.

Instead of a great, classic adventure movie with intriguing characters, great swordplay, and suspenseful twists and turns I found myself watching an over-the-top action film filled with explosions and other loud booms that was trying really hard to be silly while at the same time taking itself way too seriously. The whole experience was very schizophrenic.

Now I will acknowledge, once again, that I went into this expecting the classic story just presented with some new camera effects/costumes/sets/etc. So I guess some of the fault falls on my own expectations.

But when a director calls a movie "The Three Musketeers" and goes to the trouble of advertising it as such, that seems to set my expectations. If the intention was to make an outrageous over the top action film set in ~1700s France…that's great, but don't call it "The Three Musketeers." That just carries too much baggage.

I'm not usually a "purist" and I'm fine with some variation…but this version went a little too far while setting my expectations for only a subtle change. My brother and dad who went with me to see the film certainly had different expectations and came out really enjoying the movie. Which makes me think I'm a little to harsh in my judgment.

What about the rest of you? If you've seen this film, what do you think? Because I came out of the movie very annoyed and generally disappointed. It just felt like a huge waste of potential.

1.5 out of 5 stars

Today's Quote from Quoting Quotes:



Brian Miller said...

ouch. yes on the avoid list....

logankstewart said...

Great review, Okie. I saw a trailer and thought the film looked... different. My wife loved the book (and some other Dumas, too), but we've not watched the film yet. We'll have to Redbox/Netflix it and then see what she thinks. For me, though, I'll not keep any expectations.