Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Three Musketeers (2011) 2D / 3D Blu-ray Review

The Three Musketeers is a modern retelling of Alexander Dumas’ timeless swashbuckling classic that arrived on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD March 13th from Summit Entertainment.  This exciting adventure for the whole family stars Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & the Olympians), Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean films), Milla Jovovich (Resident Evilfilms) and Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz (Best Supporting Actor, Inglourious Basterds). The Three Musketeers comes to life onscreen as Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), along with aspiring warrior, D’Artagnan (Lerman), embark on a dangerous and legendary mission across Europe to save both their King and country – “all for one and one for all.”

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The film opens with an opening that resembles a 17th century Mission: Impossible.  The Three Musketeers Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), Aramis (Luke Evans) along with Athos' lover, Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) are on a mission to steal an airship blueprint from Leonardo DaVinci's vault for France.  Dodging traps straight out of an Indiana Jones movie, they are successful in recovering the plans but before they can deliver them the Musketeers are betrayed by Milady who has sold them out to the Duke of Bukingham (Orlando Bloom).  Dispirited and shamed, all three Musketeers are angry but none more so than Athos who takes the betrayal personally.  Upon arriving back in France, the Musketeers are forced to disband by Cardinal Richelieu (Christophe Waltz) for the failure as he's been waiting for any reason to eliminate them as a threat. Broke and unemployed, the Musketeers accept their fate and spend their days drinking and feeling sorry for themselves.

A year passes, and we see a young man named D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) training with swords with his father who once was a Musketeer.  D'Artagnan is a cocky and overconfident young man who needs to learn some humility. When he stops at the village of Gascony on the way to Paris he runs into Captain Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen) who makes disparaging comments about the visitor.  In a sequence that's completely ripped off from A Fistful of Dollars (and not as a homage either), D'Artagnan demands that Rochefort apologize to his horse which leads to a duel where D'Artagnan is only saved by the fortunate appearance of Milady who orders Rochefort to let him live.  Having learned nothing from his encounter with Rochefort, fairly soon D'Artagnan has unknowingly challenged each of the Musketeers that he wants to join to a duel an hour apart.

When all three Musketeers show up for the duel and D'Artagnan realizes who they are, their fight is interrupted by Richelieu's guards which forces the four to fight together. Despite the being outnumbered 40 to 4, they defeat the soldiers but are later summoned before the young King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) and his wife, Queen Anne (Juno Temple).  Richelieu demands that they be punished harshly but his demands are ignored by the King and Queen who take a fancy to the Musketeers.  Not used to being ignored, Richelieu orders Milady (who is now working for him) to plant some forged love letters from the Duke of Buckingham in the Queen's room and to remove her diamond necklace and deliver it to the Tower of London, all to make it look like they were having an affair.  Richelieu is convinced that once the supposed affair becomes public, Queen Anne will be executed and France will go to war with England, which will only strengthen his own position.

It's up to the Musketeers and D'Artagnan to stop Richelieu's plans and prevent a war between England and France and they travel to England to recover the stolen diamond necklace.  Milady warns Buckingham that they are coming and informs him of their usual tactics but both are surprised by D'Artagnan acting as a decoy while the others steal Buckingham's airship that he built based off of the plans Miladay betrayed them over in the first place.  What the Musketeers don't realize, is that Milady also gave a copy of the plans to Richelieu who has built his own improved airship and given it to Captain Rochefort to command.  The future of France and England will be fought in the skies as the airships battle for superiority to determine whether or not the Musketeers can return the necklace in time.

You've basically seen this version of The Three Musketeers in not only earlier incarnations, but also because it shamelessly steals from other movies too.  From lines that are almost directly lifted from other movies (like the aforementioned A Fistful of Dollars), to situations or looks that were inspired by other movies, (which is putting it generously), you'd might wonder why you should watch this.  While the script may represent cold leftovers from other movies, the sword-fighting action is first rate and the cast makes this a far better movie than it deserves to be.  The action scenes are done extremely well and they feel real and well staged.  There's no wire work to be seen or stunt doubles doing the dirty work which adds quite a bit to the movie.  Then there's the cast which does a lot with what little they were given.  Another highlight of the movie is the production design and the real life locations in Germany that resemble the architecture and scope of Paris at this time.  The locations are beautiful and I wondered why more films don't take advantage of their beauty.

Taking a cue presumably from Pirates of the Caribbean, the airships look like floating galleons complete with cannons.  As cheesy as it all is, it's still cool to see pirate ships blasting away at each other especially if they also have flamethrowers and what appears to be a 17th century Gatling gun.  Taken all in all, this is a very polished looking movie with a fantastic cast and it's a shame that the script largely let them all down.  There's a few good lines in the movie but overall it's predictable and shameless in it's theft from other movies.  The film ends with a scene that deliberately tries to set up a sequel, but I'm not sure if that will happen.  I wouldn't mind a sequel since there's never enough swashbuckling movies to see, but I really hope they come with a more original story to tell without needing to take lines from other movies.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

2D Video (5 out of 5 stars)
3D Video (4 out of 5 stars)

The Three Musketeers' 1080p (2.35:1) 2D transfer looks incredibly good with a sharp picture and vibrant colors that jump off the screen.  The detail to be found in this transfer is very impressive especially since you can see the various textures of all of the multi-hued costumes.  Black levels are very strong and solid and flesh tones are natural and consistent throughout the movie.  The 3D edition also look pretty good but it falls victim to what happens to many 3D releases as it's not as bright a picture as its 2D counterpart.  The 3D elements look good however, with a lot of 3D action coming out of the screen like swords, debris, and more.  The 3D transfer offers a lot of nice depth without any serious ghosting (or cross-talk) either.  I'd say that the two versions offer nice transfers, but if I had to pick which one would be better overall, I'd have to go with the 2D edition.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)

The Three Musketeers' DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless mix is just as spectacular as it's picture quality.  This is a powerful mix that does everything right and each channel delivers in spades.  The front channels offer clear and distinct dialogue that is still intelligible even during the  huge battles like the airship fight.  The rear channels provide fantastic atmospheric sound effects both small and big accurately around the room.  From cannonfire, thunder, and wind, to the whoosh of flamethrowers, the sound effects sound fantastic and the directionality is spot on.  From start to finish, this is an amazing mix and it really packs a punch!

Special Features (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

While the 3D version of the disc doesn't offer any extras, the 2D version of The Three Musketeers contains everything that from the 2D only release. All of the extras are also in high definition!
  • Audio Commentary - Director and Producer Paul W.S. Anderson and Producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzertalk about bringing The Three Musketeers back into a modern world and the challenges in doing so.  They also cover the production of the movie from the cast, special effects, locations, and much more.  It's an interesting commentary but I think I like the Access extra even more. 
  • Access: Three Musketeers - A full length picture-in-picture commentary covers the entire film with behind the scenes footage, interviews, trivia, and more.  A static box appears in the top left hand side of the screen that allows you to skip to the next bit of info if you're in a hurry.  This extra has everything you need to know about the movie so don't bother watching the extras below because they are all just excerpts from this.
  • Paul W.S. Anderson's Musketeers - A short talk about bringing the Musketeers to today's audiences.
  • Orlando Bloom Takes on the Duke - A brief snippet of Bloom talking about the role.  All of this is incorporated into the Access extra.
  • 17th Century Air Travel -Anderson talks about his efforts to film scenes practically with the least amount of green screen necessary.  To accomplish that, the airships were mostly built to give the actors a greater sense of realism.
  • Uncovering France in Germany - A look at how Germany served as an ideal replacement for the Paris of that time.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes - Almost fifteen minutes of deleted and exteneded scenes including: "Where's the Key?", "Catching You", "Entering Da Vinci's Vault", "Chess Game", "Queen Anne Disputes the Cardinal", "Buckingham's Arrival", "Buckingham and Cardinal in the War Room", "Queen Anne and Constance", "Planchet and the Horse", "Tower of London", "The Musketeers of the Airship",and "D'Artagnan and Rochefort Fight".

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars)

This version of the Three Musketeers' could have been better but it could have also been a lot worse.  While I'm not happy about a lot of the script, there's no denying how well the sword-fighting choreography was staged and executed.  The actors all do a great job in their roles in spite of the script.  The Musketeers as a group all look well trained and believable and this is a fun movie to watch if you like swashbuckling movies but be prepared to roll your eyes at some of the unfortunate choices.  This Blu-ray has demo worthy picture and sound quality if that helps your decision any. 

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