Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Luke Evans) are the Three Musketeers, among the greatest warriors in France. Joined by young D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman), the group tussles with the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom), the treacherous Milady (Milla Jovovich), and the powerful Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz). Can these men protect their beloved France from an array of threats external and internal? That's the story of The Three Musketeers.
A quick check of the internet suggests that there exists, at the bare minimum, twenty five different film adaptations of Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers- which immediately prompts one to ask whether or not the world needs another. (Never mind that you might ask this of any remake.) On the special features of this version's Blu-ray, director Paul W.S. Anderson remarks many times of his love for Richard Lester's 1973 version of the story, and how he has long wanted to do his spin on it. Several of the actors also mention that this is a classic story, each generation deserves their own version, this is a fresh take, et cetera, et cetera.
The fresh take part certainly seems true. Inspired by video games, The Matrix, and Pirates Of The Caribbean, Anderson's The Three Musketeers delivers lots of bullet time, cheeky humor, and cleverly choreographed fights; the PS3 and XBox 360 games for this flick are probably lots of fun to play. And as modern green screen technology didn't exist at the times of those earlier adaptations, there was no opportunity for the spectacular airship battles that fill the latter parts of this movie. On the action and spectacle front, fresh makes for an apt descriptor.
Clashing swords and gravity-defying moves only take the audience so far, of course. Unfortunately, The Three Musketeers is deficient in other areas that count. While the cast is strong on paper, the star power is misappropriated. Waltz, Jovovich, and the scenery chewing Bloom are fun to watch, but the actual Musketeers are rather unremarkable; the performers aren't bad per se, but they don't command the screen. It doesn't help that the script is littered with trite dialogue and even some direct lifts from superior films like The Princess Bride. In fact, this is the critical flaw in the diverting but disappointing The Three Musketeers: by so readily aping other films, it has no compelling identity of its own.
The Three Musketeers is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio; you'll see bars at the top and bottom of the image. Generally speaking, this is a fine looking film, shot on the Arri Alexa. Several jokes in the movie revolve around color, and the reproduction here is nice. The lighting is a bit garish at times, and in this way the transfer is almost too good. Still, this is a fine looking film for the most part. It's worth noting that this movie was conceived and shot for a 3D presentation; the review copy was not 3D, but it's easy to see how this could make for an enjoyable experience with your 3D home theater.
The audio for this Blu-ray is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and the numerous explosions and firearm battles are loud and booming. In general, however, this is not the greatest mix. The dialogue and music/effects are often radically out of proportion (turn the volume up to hear speech, then quickly turn it down when something big happens). Much of the dialogue has been looped, and this probably owes much to the extravagant locations used for portions of shooting; it must be extremely difficult to adequately record location sound for a performer speaking in an old castle filled with echoes. Your system's ability to handle volume extremes may be tested by this soundtrack, and not in a very pleasant way.
The special features for the Blu-ray release of The Three Musketeers are as follows:
"Access: Three Musketeers": an interactive feature that you can opt to use while watching the movie that delivers pop-up information and splits the screen to show behind the scenes footage as the movie runs. Also, a "fight meter" keeps score throughout the film, letting you know which Musketeer is doing the most damage to his enemies.
Audio commentary with the filmmakers, focusing heavily on making-of details.
A collection of deleted and extended scenes, some of which incorporate unfinished special effect shots.
A collection of featurettes regarding the making of the movie, with a particular emphasis on the German locations used for much of shooting.