Bad marketing is the biggest sin connected to this goofy, oversized remake of Alexander Dumas’s classic adventure tale. This is not grown-up fare in the way Richard Lester’s 1973 version combined little historical flourishes with anarchic comedy and hard-edged violence. It’s goofy. And even though it features such nonsense as a 17th-century underwater diving suit, multi-tipped automatic crossbows, and a flying ship based on plans purloined from da Vinci’s secret technology vault in Venice (say what?), this does not qualify as one of the weirder revisions of this French pulp masterpiece. To date, there has been a 3 Shaolin Musketeers from Taiwan, a Korean animated Space Three Musketeers, and my favorite, 1971’s Sex Adventures of the Three Musketeers from Germany. By contrast, this European-produced version seems reverential to its source.
But it’s utter nonsense as blockbuster material, even if some of its stars — like Milla Jovovich as Milady, Christoph Waltz as Richelieu, and Mads Mikkelsen, who played Le Chiffre in Casino Royale — combine to suggest sophisticatedly villainy. Director Paul W.S. Anderson’s Musketeers takes the Dumas template rather literally, opening with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis in disgrace, dueling young D’Artagnan, running afoul of the cardinal’s guards, teaming up, and then heading off on an English adventure to prevent the cardinal from disgracing Her Majesty. So, this version adds an airship. Who’s complaining when it leads to a sword fight on the roof of Notre Dame? Not the kids at the screening I caught.
Luckily, the film doesn’t require much acting, and it doesn’t get it from any of the principals, with extra lameness radiating from D’Artagnan, played by boy star Logan Lerman, who often seems like a lump with a bad haircut. But it doesn’t matter if there are fights, chase scenes, and ships battling in the airspace over Versailles (which, by the way, hadn’t been built when the “historical” action of this film takes place). This bad film will teach your children to cooperate (all for one and all that), it has some cool costumes, and it’s free of sex adventures and kung fu, which has to count for something.