Brave Athos and Porthos and Aramis three
Fell victim to fraud that they could not foresee.
These fine musketeers were the heroes of France
But now are in need of a grand second chance.
When reckless D’Artagnan arrives with his sword
And makes first impressions that garner reward,
The Cardinal Richelieu plots and conspires
To trigger a war with a helper he hires.
It’s up to D’Artagnan and those musketeers
To launch the great quest of their noble careers.
For king, queen, and country, and also romance,
They’ll sail for adventure to rescue all France.

The latest Hollywood big-screen adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s classic swashbuckling tale of intrigue feels undoubtedly like a copycat film, the kind that tries to come off as daring and original when all it does is borrow heavily from other better films. From the very beginning, when the titular musketeers are introduced in action, they are each drawn in a sketchbook style identical to that of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. In addition, they are not merely expert swordsmen but rather the 17th century version of the Avengers, with anachronistic gadgets and endless tricks up their sleeves, that is until someone else with bigger sleeves tricks them, namely Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich, whom director and husband Paul W. S. Anderson brought along from the Resident Evil franchise to play the same kind of kick-butt superwoman).

Once we’re introduced to young D’Artagnan (Percy Jackson‘s Logan Lerman), the film more or less follows the course of the novel, as he challenges and eventually teams with the famed musketeers (Luke Evans as Aramis, Ray Stevenson as Porthos, and Matthew Macfadyen as Athos) in order to save the honor of France’s queen, battling the Duke of Buckingham (a campy Orlando Bloom), Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz), and Richelieu’s Captain Rochefort (Mads Mikkelson in another one-eyed role). Aside from the romantic struggle of Athos (and Macfadyen’s voice which my VC loves), the characters were mere placeholders. The filmmakers clearly tried for some development, such as with foppish Louis XIII’s re-courtship of his queen, but none of it carried any meaningful depth.

Throughout the film, I was reminded of National Treasure, The Dark Knight, Entrapment, The Golden Compass, and so on and so forth. The most glaring embellishment to Dumas’s tale is the airships, enormous balloon vessels supposedly designed by the visionary Leonardo da Vinci yet so anachronistic as to turn the story almost into science fiction. The battle between two such ships in the finale seems ripped straight from Pirates of the Caribbean, with a subsequent over-the-top swordfight on top of Notre Dame. It’s entertaining, but it felt as if the filmmakers were just throwing ideas at the story, saying, “Surely, this will be cool!” The film is not without merit: its production design, costumes, visual effects, ornate sets, and decent acting make for an enjoyable ride, but with so many influences so obviously borrowed, it fails to leave any lasting impression, making the heavily implied sequel highly unlikely. It’s popcorn entertainment of the disposable kind.

Best line: (Athos, as D’Artagnan is torn between duty and love) “I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. Made a lot of hard choices. For honor, for King, for country. Do you know what I’ve learned, boy? Hard choices and sacrifices do not keep you warm at night, and life is too damn short and too damn long to go through without someone at your side. Don’t end up like me. Choose the woman. Fight for love, D’Artagnan. France will take care of itself.”

Rank: Honorable Mention

© 2015 S. G. Liput

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