Retro Review: Musketeer

(Originally entitled “D’Artagnan”)

“As you’ve never seen it before” is the tagline for the new retelling of the Alexandre Dumas’ classic “Three Musketeers”. The tagline promises an original perspective on an epic story. It really is to bad we can’t see most of it.

In this loosely based adaptation of the Dumas’ literary classic, a young dashing swordsman named D’Artagnan (Justin Chambers) has come to 17th Century Paris to follow in his father’s footsteps as one of the King’s Musketeers.

Before he can settle into the complex world of Paris, D’Artagnan falls in love with a chambermaid named Francesca (Mena Suvari), butts heads with some of his fellow Musketeers and uncovers a devilish plot hatched by the twisted Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea).

Before D’Artagnan’s quest is complete he must face-off against his father’s killer (Tim Roth) and save his King from an onslaught of political backstabbing.

“The Musketeer” is directed by Peter Hyams, who is most famous for films like “2010”, “The Relic” and “Timecop”. In almost all Hyams films, he likes heavy shadows and dark facades. This style of filmmaking has worked in his thrillers and horror films but is obviously his undoing in “Musketeer”.

Hyams has so heavily layered on the shadows and darkness that the spectacularly choreographed action is hard to make out. The opening sequence pits D’Artagnan vs. some drunk swordsmen in a pub.

We lose sight of D’Artagnan in the darkly lit set as he spins through the pub’s rafters. This trend continues through the whole film as you have hardly lit rooms, sunlight cascading into giant castle foyers, and trips through torch lit Parisian sewers.

This film is so badly lit that you wonder if you could bring out your own torch or flashlight. This darkness takes away from the film’s tagline of seeing something we have never seen before. Only if we could see what was going on.

Aside from the darkness, Musketeer also does ooze with other problems. The script was adapted and written by Gene Quintano, who seemed to have lucked out when the studio didn’t bring in another guy to brush up the Quintano script. And boy did it need some tweaking. C’mon this guy is famous for writing “Sudden Death”, “Loaded Weapon I”, Allan Quatermain and 2 Police Academies.

You can’t tell me they didn’t think it needed some brushing up. The humor in this film is really hard to take as half the one-liners make us want to rush for the exits instead of root for the good guys. This is a script that needed help.

My final problem surrounds the film’s casting. All the great actors, like Catherine Deneuve, Stephen Rea and Tim Roth, play second fiddle to Chambers and Suvari. Why couldn’t the filmmakers cast a real actor in the lead? I mean this style of casting is laughable. It hasn’t been this lopsided since “Christopher Columbus: The Discovery”. In that film all the great actors were in cameos and we followed around a no name in the lead. I believe that no name was George Corraface. (who?)

I did like Roth’s villain, who is basically replaying his part from “Rob Roy”. I also enjoyed the choreographed fight sequences especially the stagecoach, tower and ladder sequences. But mostly I was vastly disappointed with this version of the Musketeers.

I really enjoyed the 1993 version starring Charlie Sheen but will always have a soft spot in my heart for the three Musketeer films of the 1970’s starring Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Michael York as the lovable Musketeers.

(2.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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