Three Musketeers is a film that transforms spree killers into heroes by sheer dint of movie willpower. All it would take is one person to note that these “Musketeers” are hair-trigger maniacs, willing to slaughter at the slightest provocation, and wham! We’d be watching the 17th century version of Natural Born Killers.
Consider: In the first fifteen minutes of Three Musketeers, we are introduced to D’Artagnan, whose first act before he’s half a mile from home is to challenge a man to a duel to the death because the man insulted his beaten-down horse. He is handily defeated by his better, and only avoids being killed thanks to voice of plot.
Then, upon arriving in the big town, he chases after the guy who beat him, hoping for a rematch, and is sufficiently rude and thoughtless along the way that he gets into three more duels, one with each of the Musketeers. They face off when forty guards arrive to tell them that duels are illegal, at which point D’Artagnan kills five guards and the other Musketeers go, “Well, I like killing people!” and join in to slaughter at least twenty more.
And I do mean slaughter. These people are thrusting blades into guards’ hearts, slicing them across the neck, flinging them off ledges. There’s no blood, but people are getting fucking chopped up. In the medicine-free days of the 17th century when people died to infections because of stubbed toes, it is difficult not to see how thrusting a blood-encrusted sword through someone’s chest is not going to lead to a long, slow death by suppurating fever.
Then they all return to their lair, where the Musketeers berate their manservant for not bringing them wine (even though he informs them they are broke). As punishment for his inability to conjure wine out of thin air, they punish their manservant by making him sleep out on the freezing balcony, where they know – for they are told – that birds will poop in his mouth.
These aren’t musketeers. They’re fucking mass murderers. They probably have very stylish waistcoats made out of human skin in their closet.
Don’t get me wrong. Three Musketeers is one of those movies that moves along at such a rapid clip that, like a stagecoach going to fast, it begins to shudder and shed space bits of plot and logic and characterization. Something’s always happening. It’s entertaining, for which about 40% can be attributed to things the producers intended to be entertaining. The rest is sheer, “What the fuck? They thought this was good? Oh my god, this is ludicrous.”
This is a movie so accelerated that it’s like Cleolinda’s Movies in Fifteen Minutes came to life and wrote their own movie. As an extra bonus, if you like Star Wars and The Princess Bride you’ll love The Three Musketeers, because about 10% of the dialogue is cribbed from it, including a wholesale ripoff of “Anyone who says different is selling you something.”
Three Musketeers seems custom-tailored for friends to get drunk and sit around their living rooms, snarking at what was intended to be amusing and is, for reasons that they didn’t really meant to be. Plus, you get Orlando Bloom hamming it up in a way that’s Golden Razzie award-worthy.
The real trick, however, is watching how this movie makes the protagonists into heroes by repeatedly insisting they are. The best part is the last: in the most sequel-bait final scene ever, we discover that the Musketeers have rampantly slaughtered hundreds of people in an attempt to prevent war with England… and in the coda, we discover that England’s attacking anyway.
They’re brutal. They’re murderers. They’re incompetent. Yet the movie never lets you forget they’re heroes…. Probably because if it didn’t insist loudly and conspicuously, you might realize you’re watching Silence of the Lambs with no jails and a lot of swords.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.