The Three Musketeers
More than two dozen stabs at a cinematic translation of Alexandre Dumas' epic saga of swashbuckling romance and intense camaraderie exist on record, some dating back as early as turn-of-the-century. So it's important to bring something fresh and exciting to the table. Apparently, Paul W. S. 'Everything-I-touch-turns-to-ash' Anderson thought that what the story really needed was a wholesale steampunk makeover, complete with airships, flamethrowers, and machine guns.
While it might sound ghastly in principle, and really wasn't sold very well upon the picture's theatrical release, it's not actually the worst idea he's ever had. The production design is simply stunning, with the ho-hum of squabbling aristocracy and the quaintness of all-for-one exploded (literally) into a vibrant, post-modern context by gigantic, fire-spluttering war machines and some dazzlingly breathtaking sword fighting.
Of course, it is impossibly daft – not so much Dumas as dumbass – but it rattles along at a relentless pace, ably propelled by its own batty internal logic. The Three Musketeers are re-imagined here as globetrotting secret agents of the French Court, complete with the requisite zingers (pilfered from everywhere from The Princess Bride to the Spaghetti Westerns), and an endless parade of whirring, ticking-tocking gadgets that wouldn't look out of place in a Roger Moore-era Bond movie. When you give yourself over to ideas the likes of those you cease to question why there appear to be what sound like Americans strutting around 16th Century Paris?
What's unfortunately missing from this impressively realized, batshit crazy world are a few interesting characters to inhabit it. As D'Artagnan, Logan Lerman is such a non-entity he makes the Disney version's Chris O'Donnell look like Olivier. The musketeers; Athos (Macfayden) – broody, Porthos (Stevenson) – boisterous, and Aramis (Evans) – conflicted, just get lost in amongst the noise, the politicking, and the hugely-overcomplicated plot (don't ask us to explain it because we can't) to the point where they wind up marginalized in their own movie.
Such is the necessity to fit in the many players; Milla Jovovich is shown much favor from her husband in terms of screen time as the vampy Milady de Winter, Christoph Waltz as Cardinal Richelieu was clearly instructed to just do what he did in Inglourious Basterds, and there is Mads Mikkelsen, Juno Temple, and James Corden (the poor man's Ricky Gervais) to fit in, too. Apart from offering opportunity to name check famous faces the supporting cast is so thinly spread that they collectively register little in the way of impact. When Orlando Bloom is the best thing in your movie that doesn't at some point either fly and/or blow-up, you know you've got a few problems.