Conspiracy revealed: we need a new version of The Three Musketeers approximately every eight years or the ghost of the book's author Alexandre Dumas will unleash unspeakable plagues on Hollywood studios. According to my inexact calculations, there are about 30 other cinematic versions of this story, and the latest member of the club manages to add bullet time, Milla Jovovich's bustline, and a flashback to the Hindenberg disaster, but not much else.
Our favorite three chums Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans) are trudging through their non-heroic, has-been lives until D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) shows up wanting to fight them all for stupid reasons. Soon he learns that there are bigger fish to fry in the form of the throne-hungry Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) and his hunchman Cagliostro (Til Schweiger), who desperately want to start a war with England. The Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) is also not safe from the Musketeers' wrath, because he is a dishonest jerk with weird hair. Helping justify a couple of the Musketeers' mean cracks about how horrible women are is Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich), whose only purpose in life is to cause trouble and slash some throats while dressed as a slutty Marie Antoinette.
The action sequences in the film, influenced by the last decade's love of Matrix-style fighting that slows just when someone needs to bend backwards or punch someone really hard, are relatively interesting. With some impressive wire stunts and innovative and completely imaginary weapons, the movie managed to hold my attention while the characters were busy duking it out. The climax of the film involving two war ships is also reminiscent of the good old days of The Pirates of the Caribbean. Who doesn't love to see pretty people steering a ship and dodging cannonballs?
The problem is that the movie mostly consists of talking, not action. The storyline hinges on the Cardinal plotting the King's overthrow by concocting the kind of scheme that an amoral tween would come up with when she's trying to make out with someone's boyfriend. Milady is the only character that moves the story along by sitting in on a plan and then double-crossing whoever she was just talking to. All the men in the movie just ogle her boobs and swing some swords, knowing that whatever she's doing now will need to be undone in about 15 minutes. There is absolutely no sense of adventure. "Musketeer" is synonymous with heroism and excitement, not emasculation and staleness. Although the movie has some funny moments, it seems as though the only connection the characters have is a physical one when they're throwing each other around.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson ( Death Race, Resident Evil) knows how to turn on the flash and turn off anything emotionally compelling--but in this movie, without scary monsters or dangerous cars filling the frame almost every second, all you're left with are humans running around in gloves and corsets. As expected, he can't distract us from that.