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Film / The Three Musketeers (2011)

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The Three Musketeers is a 2011 swashbuckler film directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, loosely based on the novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. It stars Logan Lerman as D'Artagnan, Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans, and Ray Stevenson as the three Musketeers, and Christoph Waltz, Orlando Bloom, Mads Mikkelsen and Milla Jovovich as the villains.

Among the many films of the novel, it stands out by taking the story into an Alternate History setting with elements of Clock Punk. Most notably, it has airships. Otherwise, however, it is a surprisingly faithful take on the novel as far as its adaptations go.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Milady de Winter is now a crackshot and an excellent swordfighter.
  • Actionized Adaptation: Not that the original novel is devoid of action, but this movie includes martial arts stunts, airship-to-airship gunfire and the usage of some other innovative weapons. Plus the signature scene of the heroes first fighting together goes from the four of them vs. five Cardinal's Guards to four vs. forty.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • In the novel and most adaptations, D'Artagnan is an excellent swordsman, but he tends to do poorly in close-quarter combat. In this movie, however, he is wickedly good at that too. He even shows off some amusingly out-of-place Judo moves, including a tobi juji gatame and an ippon seoi nage.
    • Porthos is portrayed here as a physical powerhouse who can tear out chains off walls. Moreover, he is so skilled at Improv Fu that he doesn't even need a sword to take on swordfighters.
    • Surprisingly, Cardinal Richelieu himself is turned into a fighter in this movie, and a sparring scene against four guards at once implies he has little to envy the musketeers themselves in dueling skills. It even hints he might be better at it than his enforcer Rochefort, the film's greatest fighter, given that Richeliu laughs at him for shadow-sparring alone instead of bringing in multiple opponents like the Cardinal does. However, in a subversion, he ends up having no real fighting scenes, instead trusting on Rochefort to do the dirty work.
    • While Milady de Winter did have some fight scenes in the book, she is made here a full fledged Action Girl with Classy Cat-Burglar overtones.
  • Adaptational Jerkass:
    • The Duke of Buckingham is a honorable man in the original book, while this version is much more devious and doesn't play by any rules.
    • The same treatment is given to Captain Rochefort, who in the novel is a Worthy Opponent that ends up striking a Defeat Means Friendship with D'Artagnan. In this movie, he is much more ruthless and amoral, as well as a borderline troll Combat Pragmatist.
    • Richelieu is also made more evil, given that his novel version was an Anti-Villain.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Athos here is almost a Deconstruction of his mindset from the book. He is so jaded by his experience with Milady de Winter that he opines saving the girl is more important than saving France.
  • Adapted Out: As in the 1993 film, Monsieur de Treville doesn't appear in the movie. This story gives somewhat of a justification, though, as the point of the film is precisely that the musketeers have been officially disbanded and the titular three are acting entirely by themselves, thus making unnecesary the character of their superior in the force.
  • Always Save the Girl: Double Subverted. D'Artagnan is initially willing to sacrifice Constance, saying their mission to save France is more important. Athos encourages him to try to save her so he doesn't become a lonely and bitter man like him after he lost Milady.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Rochefort, who has actually skills to back up his cockiness even when not fighting dirty. In this adaptation, however, he's a beaten at this by Richelieu of all people, who is shown to be a great duelist himself and even taunts Rochefort about his training methods.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Richelieu's galleon-sized airship lands bluntly on top of Notre Dame's bell tower and stays forked there for the next scenes, with the entire cathedral remaining shockingly intact in the process. In real life, even if a lot of the airship's weight was being lightened by the balloon's lifting gas, the impact and momentum alone would have been likely enough to wreck the building. (And even after this miracle of physics, we can only hope Richelieu's guards managed to refloat the airship before all the gas left the balloon, as the sheer unlifted weight of the damn thing could end up smashing the cathedral anyways.)
  • Adaptational Ugliness: Planchet looks just plain in the book, but he is greatly overweight here.
  • Automatic Crossbows: Athos uses an interesting variation that features multiple crossbow arms in a radial design.
  • Avoiding the Great War: This film contains perhaps the earliest example of this trope as far as the time period goes. The villains were trying to start a war among the empires of Europe. While the dialogue focuses on the continent, the idea is still the same, not to mention that a war of the European powers at the time would have likely included colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
  • Bare-Handed Blade Block: D'Artagnen blocks Rochefort's sword with the back of his hand and later catches it. Both feats leave his hand bloody.
  • Batman Gambit: Richelieu's makes up the plot, so the Musketeers counter with their own Kansas City Shuffle; Milady knows what they'd normally do, and they know she knows, so they decide to send D'Artagnan in as a decoy to get Buckingham cocky enough to let down his guard so the other musketeers can steal Buckingham's Cool Airship, which they can then use to kidnap Milady, who sure will have the jewels they need because she would never trust anyone else to keep them!
  • Battle Couple: Athos and Milady, before her Face–Heel Turn.
  • Badass Crew: This version takes this and the Praetorian Guard aspects of the Musketeers played up in other movies up to eleven, so much they're essentially royal special forces or a full-fledged secret service. Also the three Musketeers make up the entire corps, until D'Artagnan makes four.
  • Beneath Notice: Used to great effect by Planchet.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: A rare example of Milady playing two sides, ending up as a potential duumvirate with either Richelieu or Buckingham. She goes with the latter.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, this movie ends fairly high on the side of idealism. Sure, Richelieu's a Karma Houdini, but his plot failed, the Musketeers have renewed confidence in themselves and their work, and King Louis hints that he's going to start taking his job a lot more seriously. However, Milady's Not Quite Dead, and she and Buckingham are on route to France with an entire warfleet. Of course - Brits may cheer at that!
  • Camp Straight: Louis XIII. He exudes a crapload of subtext with D'Artagnan at the beginning of the movie, but it's revealed later on that he is genuinely in love with his Queen, he just Cannot Spit It Out. However, historians think Louis may have been bisexual, so he might have been interested in D'Artagnan as well anyway.
  • The Chessmaster: Richelieu, of course; he also uses Chess Motifs a lot throughout the movie.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: the King's first (on-screen) meeting with the Three Plus One Musketeers. Richelieu seethes while the King rewards them for it.
    "Oh, and, yes, before I forget: no more fighting with His Eminence's guards. Or there'll be none of them left."
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Richelieu knows full well that Milady is capable of this, being such a Wild Card, and reminds her that he's more than willing to see she's Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves if she even thinks of betraying him.
  • Cigar-Fuse Lighting: Porthos does this during the assault on the Tower of London.
  • Clock Punk: The setting predates the steam engine, so... Besides the airships, there's scuba gear and automatic mortars.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Many, but Porthos stands out among the Musketeers. He only gets his sword out by the final act, smacking enemies around by any number of ways for the rest of the film. After doing the latter throughout an earlier fight scene, the mere act of partly drawing his blade scares the few remaining mooks away.
    • For the villains, Rochefort takes the cake by far. His first "duel" with D'Artagnan ends abruptly when he shoots him with a pistol the second he turns back around. He tries to do the same thing towards the end.
      D'Artagnan: Afraid to face me in a fair fight?
      Rochefort: No, I just don't fight fair.
  • Costume Porn: Nearly everyone, as it is Truth in Television. King Louis and Buckingham's outfits are especially fabulous.
  • The Dandy: Almost every important character sports fancy clothes at some point, but King Louis seems the most concerned about them.
  • Death by Adaptation: Rochefort dies in the next book, but here he dies at the end of the story, as per the film adaptation tradition.
  • Disney Villain Death: Milady which turns out to be a Disney Death.
  • The Dragon: Rochefort.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The Musketeers are doing this after being betrayed by Milady... or they would do, if they had any money.
  • Dual Wielding: Rochefort employs briefly a classic espada y daga combination in his final fight with D'Artagnan.
  • Freeze-Frame Introduction: Each member of the main cast gets introduced with a freeze frame and a title card of the character's name.
  • The Heavy: Milady, whose treachery set the whole plot in motion to begin with.
  • High-Dive Escape: Milady does this rather than be shot on the airship.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Leonardo da Vinci (post mortem), Buckingham, and Cardinal Richelieu.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
  • I Have This Friend: King Louis plays this out of embarrassment when having a guy talk with D'Artagnan, who obviously realizes the truth but plays along because it's the King. The latter tries his best with the illusion for most of the dialogue, but after trading a …But He Sounds Handsome joke, it's implied he realizes what D'Artagnan has been doing and simply elects to play it to the end for decorum, giving him a little knowing look that feels like a "well played, sir". This is further shown when they later recall the talk, with the King now giving D'Artagnan a wink and a heartfelt thanking.
  • I Kiss Your Hand:
    • Slight subversion with Richelieu; everyone but the King and Queen has to kiss his ring after an audience, because that's what you have to do to a Cardinal; he often uses it as a way of letting people know he's done talking to them.
    • Buckingham amps this up to eleven. Then again, he amps everything up to eleven...
  • I Know You Know I Know:
    • The break-in at the Tower of London takes this to amusing levels. Milady, who's worked with them in the past, knows their methods, and can give Buckingham the information. They know she knows their methods and will tell Buckingham. She knows they know she knows and will tell Buckingham. The English capture D'Artagnan, who she knew they'd use to infiltrate while the others acted as decoys, assuming she wouldn't take him into account. Turns out, they knew she'd do that, he's the decoy, and they do something completely different.
    • Cardinal Richelieu and the Queen play a brief battle of this, the latter revealing to be aware of his plans and the former verbally invoking an Evil Laugh.
    • There are also shades of this in King Louis' and D'Artagnan's talk about love and women, which is hosted under a rather flimsy I Have This Friend approach, as the King is implied to realize about the end that D'Artagnan has been merely playing along.
    • Buckingham and Milday's exchange as she leaves the Tower is also a minor one, with extended pauses and meaningful looks after he tells her he asked her favorite color to see if she could tell the truth. There's an implication he's aware she's at least trying to con him and possibly that he's guessed she's working for the Cardinal (having previously made it clear he knows Richelieu has a spy in his castle), but decides the Musketeers are the more pressing issue. She even gives a shrug of acknowledgement before she goes.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: On a very huge scale - a galleon-sized airship gets impaled on the largest spire of the Notre Dame cathedral!
  • It's Personal: It certainly is with Athos.
    Milady: You didn't kill Buckingham, but you'll kill me?
    Athos: Yes... I don't hate Buckingham.
  • Kick Chick: Milady does several spinning kick feints in her fight scenes.
  • Laser Hallway: You might think being set in the seventeenth century means Paul W.S. Anderson won't be able to do another laser hallway scene with Milla Jovovich. You would be wrong (it's invisible razor wire).
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Milady with the booby-trapped vault corridor.
  • Large Ham: Orlando Bloom quite clearly is having a grand old time. Then again, much of the cast looks like they're having a lot of fun. Even Milla, of all people. Intriguingly, Christoph Waltz averts this as Richelieu, a historically prize ham role.
  • Layman's Terms: When Aramis gives D'Artagnan a ticket, including a Translation Convention joke.
    Aramis: Failure to remove animal bowel movements from public area.
    D'Artagnan: French.
    Aramis: Your horse took a dump on the street.
  • Lost in Imitation: Several elements, including Rochefort's eyepatch and Milady's Disney Villain Death, have multiple precedents in earlier film versions but don't appear in the book.
  • Master Swordsman: Obviously many, but oddly enough, the Combat Pragmatist Rochefort seems to be the best example in the film. He dominates his climatic battle with D'Artagnan, who is already easily on par with the Musketeers in skill.
  • Monumental Battle:
    • The Musketeers busting D'Artagnan out of the Tower of London. (Via airship!)
    • The airships end up fighting rather close to the Notre Dame in Paris. ( As it turns out, a bit TOO close for one of them...) And then, D'Artagnan and Rochefort continue with swashbuckling on its roof.
  • Monumental Damage:
    • The Musketeers' attack on one particular room in the Tower of London must have caused at least some destruction to this part of the building. (In any case, a lot of fire can be seen when they fly away.)
    • Also, the Notre Dame in Paris, at least if some broken off spire tips and shattered roof tiles already count.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Early in the movie D'Artagnan learns this lesson, and barely survives it, when Rochefort shoots him during their first duel.
  • Sequel Hook: Milady survived and Buckingham now has a whole army of airships to fight back. Obviously a setup for The Four Musketeers.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Milady double-crosses the titular Musketeers, her former partners, leading to their downfall.
  • Smart People Play Chess: There is a scene where Richelieu plays chess against himself. Milady interrupts him and quickly figures out how to win the game. A bit later, Richelieu plays against Louis XIII and wins easily. Louis XIII is a sore loser and thows the pieces away.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Anderson is a fan of the 1973-74 two-part version directed by Richard Lester. Like those films, D'Artagnan is introduced sparring with his father, Athos wears all black, and Rochefort has a red outfit with an Eyepatch of Power.
    • The 1993 version has Milady dying by jumping to the sea off a cliff instead of being beheaded, which this film recreates by having her jumping to the sea off an airship (only that this time she survives). Also, this film having Judo throws in its choreography might be a reference to that version featuring a Japanese katana master.
    • Rochefort simply shoots D'Artagnan when the latter challenges him to a duel. This references the 2001 version, where Rochefort's substitute Febre does the same to Monsieur of Treville.
    • The famous quote "life is pain, anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something" from The Princess Bride is paraphrased.
    • The contortionist burglary scene is a blatant reference to Entrapment.
    • "Apologize to my horse" is taken from A Fistful of Dollars, where it's a mule.
    • In the practice duel with his son, the elder D'Artagnan (as well as Athos in a short scuffle with Milady) demonstrates the same Mutual Kill dagger move as an early chapter of Frank Herbert's Dune, to teach him the same lesson.
      "Look down."
    • During the Action Prologue, Aramis, sporting a hooded cloak that conceals his eyes, leaps off of a roof in a way that's strikingly similar to Assassin's Creed. The DVD commentary confirmed that this was indeed a reference to the video game.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Constance and Milady both survive in this version.
  • Stock Scream: One is heard twice during the attack on the Tower of London, while a Wilhelm Scream is heard during the battle of the two airships.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: A mook throws his sword at Aramis, but he grabs another mook and shoves him in the way. Aramis then throws his own sword and kills the first mook instantly.
  • Token Romance: D'Artagnan and Constance, lifted from the novel.
  • Truer to the Text: D'Artagnan is 18, and the majority of previous adaptations (and following ones too) had him played by guys in their 30s (the needs for experimented leads prevailed). Here, he was played by Logan Lerman just at the right age (18-19).
  • Unfolding Plan Montage: Seen when they break into the Tower of London.
  • The Unfought: Richelieu is presented here as a great swordsman, but he never fights personally.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Milady and Arthos both run their Unfolding Plan Montages at the same time, overlapping. But while the audience hears all of Milady's plan, Arthos withholds several crucial details from us, and his is the one that succeeds.
  • What If?: Done with gusto. Athos as bitter at state ex-MIB leads to the whole new attitude towards women - like lecturing D'Artagnan that saving your true love and enjoying the youth is better that having your life ruined by serving the crown. Total opposite of the personality in book.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: When the Duke of Buckingham visits France in his Cool Airship, King Louis immediately asks why he doesn't have one of those things.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Justified, as it's revealed to be a secret invention of Leonardo da Vinci.