Review by Michael Jacobson
Justin Chambers, Mena Suvari, Tim Roth, Stephen Rea, Catherine Deneuve
Director: Peter Hyams
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: February 26, 2002
can I phrase this…WITHOUT killing anyone, make the king a fool in
if I absolutely MUST kill someone?”
you must, you must…”
all but given up hope of ever seeing a faithful, and therefore good, screen
adaptation of my favorite book from childhood, The Three Musketeers.
It captured my young imagination like nothing else with its bold
tales of swashbuckling heroics, romance, honor and sacrifice.
It’s always been the perfect material for a movie, which is why it’s
been made into more films that can be counted from the silent era on…yet none
of them have ever had enough faith in the source material to really make it
nothing else, at least Peter Hyams’ The Musketeer proclaims it straight
up in the trailer. “Completely
re-imagined,” the ad states…is it a boast, or an apology?
Did screenwriter Gene Quintano actually feel he could improve upon the
original? Maybe not…but even if
we’re left without the hearty braggadocio of Alexandre Dumas’ prose, at
least we get lines like, “I will slice off your balls and feed them to the
point of this film is not to honor the literature of Dumas, naturally, but to
re-invent the swordfight sequence. Correction…not
to re-invent, because most of the world has already seen this style in Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and die-hard fans of classic Hong Kong swordplay
pictures have seen much more…but to instill the Eastern traditions of action
into an essentially Western drama.
anachronisms can be fun (see: A
Knight’s Tale), and this picture makes up for its weak re-telling of a
classic tale with plenty of rousing action sequences. The fight choreographer, as proclaimed over and over again in
the disc’s special features, is Xin Xin Xiong.
Funny, the DVD never bothers to mention who he is, or why the
average moviegoer will care, but no matter…Asian fans will recognize the name
and the stylings. Those who have
seen Once Upon a Time in China will even recognize the climax atop tall
swinging ladders, which crosses the line from homage to indulgent rip-off.
time I watch a new movie incarnation of The Three Musketeers, I play a
little game with myself…I count how many minutes it takes for me to see
something on the screen that actually took place in the book (apart from the
obvious plot-jumper of D’Artagnan going off to join the Musketeers).
In this picture, I never stopped counting.
Nothing matched. The closest
it came was D’Artagnan serving as a bodyguard seeing to the safe arrival of
the queen’s message to Buckingham, but here, he protects the queen herself,
and not her servants. I’m
guessing this was done to give the alluring Catherine Deneuve more screen time.
If so, no complaints from me.
Chambers takes on the pivotal role of D’Artagnan, and my sole qualm is the
same one I have for just about every movie D’Artagnan…he’s too American.
I don’t blame him; I blame the filmmakers, who always seem to think
that this French hero has to be as American as possible for the audience to buy
into him. Apart from that, he plays
the role much better than a lot of others I’ve seen over the years.
He has the right look, the right demeanor, and most importantly, he can
doff a humorous line with just the right delivery, never sounding like a modern
era action hero smartass.
cast is an impressive collection, including Tim Roth as the menacing villain
Febre. “Have you no mercy in your
heart?” he is asked at one point. “No
mercy,” he replies. “No
heart.” Stephen Rea takes a
miraculously different approach to Cardinal Richelieu, forgoing flamboyant
evilness for a quieter, more calculating schemer who falls a distant second to
Febre in terms of both vileness and strength.
As mentioned, Ms. Deneuve is as radiant as ever, but she is actually
upstaged by Mena Suvari here, who is the absolute embodiment of a classic period
course, this leads to another typical Musketeer problem…accent salad.
Only the army of bad guys speak French.
I suppose what they have to say just isn’t that damned important.
the real star, for better or for worse, is the action.
There are many varying adjectives I could use to describe them, ranging
from “exhilarating” to “absurd”. Our
hero even wedges himself between ceiling beams and dodges around while
horizontal to the ground as he fights three bad guys with swords.
It looked quite good, but seemed an illogical way to fight…you kind of
need one of your hands if you’re going to wield a sword.
One even remarks to D’Artagnan, “Your fighting style is most unusual;
where did you acquire it?” “Here
and there,” he answers. “Perhaps
there,” the fellow muses, “but certainly not here.”. ‘Nuff said, I suppose.
had a share of fun watching the film…I even smiled once or twice.
But one thing I’ll never understand is why filmmakers continue to use
the characters from and the title of The Three Musketeers when they could
change the names and more or less claim a new tale.
It seems the title still sells tickets…it’s just too bad that nobody
in Hollywood realizes that the story behind the title is the real attraction.
could have been a 4 star offering, but like most discs that include both Dolby
Digital and DTS soundtracks, the picture suffers from the reduced space.
Mostly shot in natural light, this picture has a terrific look and feel
to it, with a wide array of brightly lit colors and low light candle and fire
effects to create extreme tones and images.
But in a few wide shots, compression is very evident.
Chroma noise splatters against the backgrounds like raindrops, marring
what would otherwise be very striking visuals.
It isn’t overly distracting, but noticeable and frustrating.
I personally prefer separate releases for Dolby Digital and DTS
soundtrack offerings for just that reason.
DTS takes up a lot of room on a DVD, and like the song says,
something’s gotta give.
being said, there are absolutely no complaints about the 5.1 audio offering,
which is explosively dynamic and engrossing.
When the swords clash, your living room will be filled with the sounds of
the action. In this picture, there
are more than just blades at work…rolling barrels, pounding cannons,
thunderous hooves…these all make up the audio composition, and give all
channels a rigorous workout. The
clarity is crystal, the signals are all strong and well balanced, and the low
end frequencies are positively rattling…a reference quality offering from
start to finish.
surprisingly weak effort from Universal. There
is a 3 minute piece on the film’s stunts, followed by a 2 minute piece on
casting Justin Chambers. Despite 5
minutes total running time, there manages to be some repeat information from one
to the next. This is followed by
printed production notes, which once again, repeats some of what we’ve
just watched two times! There is
also a trailer, talent files, and some DVD ROM extras.