Directed by Peter Hyams
Starring Justin Chambers, Tim Roth, Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari
It looks like I’m in the minority again. I liked The Musketeer a lot. This “re-imagining” of Dumas’ classic The Three Musketeers was a fun-filled, action-packed thrill ride, where the few quiet moments served as much needed breaths to prepare for the next event. Is this what Musketeer fans want, though? Honestly, I don’t know. I have never read The Three Musketeers (all right, put the tar and feathers away!). However, I have seen almost every screen version that has been made, and I always like the story. This time was no different — we follow D’Artagnan (Justin Chambers) on his quest to become one of the King’s Musketeers. This time he also has an additional motive to honor and glory — revenge for the killing of his parents when he was a boy.
Peter Hyams is quickly becoming that director who you don’t notice until another good movie comes out, and you rack your brain trying to remember the last film he did. For me, it was End Of Days, the film that finally portrayed Arnold Schwarzenegger as a mortal, fallible man. In The Musketeer, he has created a period piece that is at once glorious and filthy. We get to see the opulence of royalty, so often seen in swashbucklers, but we also get to see the dirt and grime of the peasants — the inns and taverns, the farms and markets. Unfortunately, Hyams’ lighting choices tend to leave the actors in shadows for a lot of the film.
Chambers works as D’Artagnan, as long as he remains aloof (and as long as his bad wig is covered by his hat). Soliloquies are not his strong suit, yet, but he can deliver serious or comedic lines with believability. He manages the stunt work quite well, and shows the character’s inventiveness to good effect. Most importantly, he conveys both the sense of awe toward the Musketeers inherent in the character, and the air of confidence as possibly the greatest swordsman of all.
Tim Roth always excels as a villain, and this time was no different. His Febre borrowed a lot from his previous work in Rob Roy, but had more of an edge this time. His delivery is always on target, and he seems to revel in an over-the-top performance.
While Mena Suvari and Catherine Deneuve turn in good performances as love interest and Queen, respectively, I found myself caring more about D’Artagnan’s horse than most other characters in the film.
The Three Musketeers are the true casualties of this film, however, as Aramis and Porthos are but supporting characters, and Athos is only in a few small scenes. Most of what would be their camaraderie is reserved for D’Artagnan’s mentor Planchet. This was, in my opinion, a weakness of the film, as most people will be expecting The Three Musketeers.
The real stars of the film, according to all of the marketing, are the fight sequences. Truly, these are outstanding fights, with a very nice blend of Asian and European fighting techniques. We get fight choreographer Xin Xin Xiong utilizing influences from classic swashbucklers, adventure serials, Jackie Chan films, and Star Wars, among other films. And, thankfully, there’s no Matrix-style, slo-mo, bullet-time sequences used here.
The DVD itself was good, but not great. The transfer was a crisp 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with a clear, vibrant picture for the few bright scenes. The digital sound mix was excellent, with both battle sounds and ballroom sounds enveloping me, moving around the room in a natural flow. However, the disc was short on extras. All you get is the theatrical trailer, two short featurettes (one on the stunts and one on casting Chambers) that are more promo pieces than informative, production notes, and a cast filmography.
This is not the perfect Three Musketeers movie. I don’t know if there ever will be a perfect version. Currently, my favorite version of the story is Valiant Comics Archer & Armstrong/Eternal Warrior #8 comic book. However, I did enjoy The Musketeer a lot, and will be purchasing a copy for my library, if only to replay the coach-fight scene again at will. If you enjoy new takes on old stories, you should probably give this one a chance. Some work very well (see Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow), others not so much (see Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes). I think The Musketeer works.