Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Musketeer

Western Wednesdays have been a staple of the summer for about four or five weeks now, but Terrible Tuesdays have been more of a loose suggestion: last week, we watched Dead & Breakfast on Terrible Tuesday, and that was entertaining to the utmost degree. This week we turned to 2001's The Musketeer on this so-Terrible-of-Tuesdays to entertain us, expecting extravagant action scenes and some quality swashbuckling. What we got was something that was quite simply...terrible.

In retrospect, I should have known that this version could never compare to the fantastic 1993 adaptation starring Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt, Chris O'Donnell, and Tim Curry. If you haven't seen that film yet, then stop reading this now and go buy it. It's excellent. That one was a Disney flick, and we all know that live action Disney movies aren't necessarily the greatest films to ever hit the big screen. (Yes, Tom and Huck. I'm talking to you.) But the 1993 version succeeded where the newer one failed: character development, comedy, fun, and (surprisingly) even action.

Character Development
The introduction and development of characters in the '93 version was so far above what the 2001 movie achieved that it's not even in the same stratosphere. We had a complete look into the backstories of Athos (a count betrayed by his wife and torn apart by his own bitterness and betrayal), Porthos (a loyal pirate whose legend lived up to his actual persona), Aramis (a snide priest who takes religion seriously, but is willing to kill if it means protecting the king), and d'Artagnan (a fresh-faced adult trying to prove his worth to the world and follow in his slain father's footsteps). We even had a better portrayal of Cardinal Richelieu (the conniving villain who embodied evil in disguise) and his greed motivating him to take power. The young King and Queen's relationship was a key plot point, and in the new one they are both old and hardly ever spoken about. The treaty with the Duke of Buckingham drives the plot of about half of the older film, while it is barely mentioned in this version. Rochefort, the "man in black" ex-Musketeer, murderer of d'Artagnan's father, and current captain of the Cardinal's guards, is played wonderfully by a Val Kilmer look alike in the older one - and even HIS character is more fleshed out than the crappy 2001 version. They didn't even call him Rochefort in the new one. Whoever was in charge of casting did such a horrible job that it was difficult to tell sometimes who the main musketeers were: the only means of identification was the classic "blue versus red" color scheme worn by the musketeers and the Cardinal's guards, respectively.

There's no question that the 2001 film was not intended to be a comedy. Director Peter Hyams (the Van Damme classic Sudden Death) was supposed to give the movie "eastern-influences" and present a new take on the classic story. There were some times when it attempted to be funny but, aside from a notable scene where a baker was locked away and then asked for cooking help by a disguised musketeer, the one-liners were weak and the comedy just wasn't there. In the '93 version, the comedy was plentiful, thanks mostly to the work of Oliver Platt's Porthos. I won't dwell on this too much, but suffice it to say that it's a kid's movie but the jokes are still funny now. Fun kind of goes hand-in-hand with this category. The 2001 film seems like it's straining just to reach the next action scene (of which there really aren't that many). I personally thought the best part of this version was Mena Suvari's character. Her relationship with d'Artagnan provided most of the bearable moments of the movie as the film plowed forward through a screenwriter's nightmare of a script. This relationship rekindles thoughts of a Robin Hood/Maid Marian vibe and the classic damsel in distress story, especially toward the end of the thankfully-not-too-long film. D'Artagnan's character, according to one of my fellow film viewers, seemed to "do whatever he wanted without anyone stopping him." Even Superman has a flaw, folks: our hero needed a little more opposition for his fight to be considered fun. He was barely even trying.

Man, this is where I was most disappointed. I really thought that the action in the 2001 version would be something worth remembering. Sadly, this is not the case. It tried to be new and original, oh it tried. But it just didn't do it for me. You may call me biased toward the first one: and you're right. But that doesn't make me wrong when it comes to the action scenes not being that great in the 2001 movie. It's a known fact that I'm a fan of ridiculous action scenes, and some of the action scenes in here were pretty out there, but they either didn't go far enough or they went too far - I haven't decided yet. That ladder scene, for one, where the ladders didn't seem to follow any laws of physics, sticks out as disappointing and pretty generic when it comes to sword fighting scenes. (Mask of Zorro definitely had better all-around sword fighting, plus it had the added bonus of Catherine Zeta-Jones.) Right before that, d'Artagnan decided to scale a tower with a grappling hook (which I'm fairly certain hadn't been invented yet) and fight about six guys dangling from ropes halfway up, spinning wildly and kicking indiscriminately at his questionably-minded attackers. The one cool fight they had was in the very beginning of the film at the bar, and even this one was a stretch: d'Artagnan fights off four or five men while he's rolling atop wine barrels in a bar and not only wins, but doesn't break a sweat. (Shrugs shoulders and shakes head.) The action scenes in the '93 movie were so much cooler: cannonballs being launched as the Three Musketeers race through the woods, the ship battle at Calais, and my personal favorite: the epic showdown between the Musketeers and the Cardinal's guards after the assassination attempt on the King's life in the courtyard. It didn't use any wires, but it got the job done.

The tagline for the 2001 flick says "As You've Never Seen It Before." I wish I could say the same about my actual encounter with this DVD. Seriously - go see the old one. It's infinitely better, about 1,000 times more quotable, and it's got that catchy theme song by Bryan Adams, Sting, and Rod Stewart. Until next time...


Boze said...

You left out the action scene with the three duels in one day that was interrupted by the cardinals guards... i dig that one... anyway... your article is right on

Tate Casey said...

I cant believe you had Dead & Breakfast lined up for Terrible Tuesday when that movie was so well done. Especially for a zombie flick, which are usually as entertaining as Flanders beef patties.

Also, is the Musketeer even Western? Indebitly this sounds like the work of event planning snafu.

Urban Meyer said...

Fear not, Tate Casey. I was fully aware of the quality of Dead & Breakfast, but "Terrible Tuesdays" can have dual meanings: films that are just plain awful, and films that are "so bad, they're good." Dead & Breakfast falls into the latter category, right alongside Jason Statham's complete filmography. (Flanders blow, by the way.)

Also. I made no indication that The Musketeer was a western, or even hinted at anything resembling that notion. So I have no idea what you're talking about. No snafu here, sir. Get back to practice, and tell Boateng that Joe misses him.

Jeremy Foley said...

Ha! I take all your comments with many grains of salt and know this, buddy, right now you got more class than that "other" coach of mine.