“All for one and one for all!” goes the famous motto of Alexandre Dumas’ musketeers, so it’s odd to see an adaptation of The Three Musketeers—yes, another—so divided against itself. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Death Race, the Resident Evil series), this version of the Musketeers story can’t decide if it wants to be an old-fashioned tale of swashbuckling adventure and palace intrigue or a cheeky, effects-heavy rethink of some iconic characters a la the Guy Ritchie-directed Sherlock Holmes. So it tries to be both at once, with annoying, if hardly disastrous results.
Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, and Matthew Macfayden make for a sturdy central trio, keeping the characters’ personalities intact even though they’ve been re-imagined as gadget-toting 17th-century super-spies. But the briskly paced film never gives them much time to establish their famed rapport. Christoph Waltz, an inspired choice for Richelieu, meets a similar fate. He’s clearly relishing the chance to play the famous villain, but Anderson doesn’t give the audience much of an opportunity to relish his work. Instead, the film spends much more time with its D’Artagnan, played by Percy Jackson star Logan Lerman as a cocky, hard-to-like asshole. (If Lerman’s goal here was to establish himself as the first person to call when Shia LaBeouf turns down a part, then mission accomplished.) Anderson regular Milla Jovovich rounds out the cast as the treacherous Milady, whose skills with slow-motion, Matrix-inspired derring-do rival the musketeers’.
Eventually the human factor stops mattering entirely as the film becomes dominated by CGI airships, Da Vinci-derived weaponry, and other additions Dumas would no doubt regret not thinking up himself, none of them particularly thrilling or imaginatively rendered. In that sense they’re of a piece with the rest of the film. Beyond being unable to decide what kind of Musketeers movie it wants to be, Anderson’s adaptation seems determined to underachieve as both heavy spectacle and light adventure. It’s two mediocrities for the price of one.