Paul W.S. Anderson's The Three Musketeers - aka: Air-Pirates of the Caribbean, aka: Assassin's Creed the Movie - is the latest adaptation of the classic tale by Alexandre Dumas. It has been nearly a decade since the last version of any note, being Disney's adaptation starring Kiefer Sutherland, Tim Curry and a pre-win Charlie Sheen, and it has been long overdue. This new version is a practically perfect good-bad movie.
Much like Tarzan or Dracula, Dumas' trinity of French swashbucklers is irresistible to filmmakers, time and again becoming a skeleton upon which to hang the adventuresome aspirations of each generation. Several versions date to the silent era, but the definitive is the 1921 vehicle for Douglas Fairbanks' stuntwork. That version's sequel, The Iron Mask, was a touching 1929 eulogy for the silent cinema. Several more versions were made through Hollywood's Golden Age. Disney's 1993 version was hot on the heels of 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Anderson's is a rough accumulation of action movie tropes from across the 2000-noughts.
The ubiquitous Mila Jonovich - Anderson's wife and frequent star - is present as Milady de Winter, who has gone from double-agent to outright ninja. Orlando Bloom sports an amazing pompadour and steals the show as the delightfully slimy Lord Buckingham. Our Musketeers take their queues from Ezio Auditore da Firenze, which is very handy for the opening sequence in Venice where they raid Leonardo da Vinci's vault to steal the plans for an airship. Oh yes, there are airships as well, and a fantastic climax above Notre Dame de Paris that is frankly more exciting than anything Jack Sparrow or Anakin Skywalker have been up to lately. Whatever could have been done in CGI was and it is in 3D, of course.
Curiously enough, this rehash of Anderson's other films, like the Resident Evil series and Mortal Kombat, actually stays remarkably close to the story originally penned by Dumas. Just why settle for fencing and swinging from chandeliers when de Winter can rappel down the sides of palaces in her lingerie or 50-foot streams of fire can be shot from flying galleons? Even something as simple as Hong Kong wire work is old news. The spectacle is the thing. A local review complained that only Christoph Waltz delivered a believable performance as the Cardinal, in a case of flagrantly missing the point.
The Three Musketeers is not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. It most probably deserves the criticisms heaped upon it. But like a Wild Wild West, Underworld or the other action movies from which it evolves, it is meant to be taken with a grain of salt. It is not humanly possible for anyone working on it to have taken it seriously, and there is no reason to look any deeper into it than some big, dumb, brash, very pretty 3D fun.