It's fair to say that I was really looking forward to this film. And though it disappoints a bit, that's probably because of high expectations (hopes?), and a missed target. Like the first Tomb Raider film, there are good actors and high production values and spectacle, but it just doesn't delight like it should.
And, unlike Tomb Raiderit's not because of the story.
There have been umpteen Musketeer films, but just in case you've missed them all: young country bumpkin d'Artagnan heads to Paris to be a musketeer like his father before him. En route he encounters Milady de Winter and the villain of the piece, before getting into arguments with legendary musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis, and challenging them all to separate duels, all of which are interrupted by the Cardinal's guards. Mayhem ensues, and the young hothead is taken under the older trio's wings.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Richeleu plots to get more control over the young king by ending his queen's influence. He fakes an affair with the English duke of Buckingham. The Musketeers must travel to England and steal back "evidence" before the queen is "proved" unfaithful!
If you're familiar with the novel, or earlier films, you might be thinking, "but hang on, that is the plot!" Yes indeed. Director Paul WS Anderson isn't mucking about with this one too much. Even the airships crowbarred in are added in a manner that doesn't derail the basic outline of the story.
Some bits are jettisoned; d'Artagnan's shameful manipulation of lady-in-waiting Constance, for one, and most of Porthos's efforts to scrounge money from various lady friends while keeping them all sweet, for another. Wise decisions, both.
So what's not to like? Logan Lerman's d'Artagnan is annoying (and patently American), but that's expected (and there's a reason why the book's called The Three Musketeers). Ray Stevenson as Porthos doesn't convince and Luke Evans as Aramis isn't really given a chance to. And Matthew Macfadyen, although good as Athos, is no Oliver Reed. The King (Freddie Fox) and Queen (Juno Temple) are okay, making their characters sympathetic in very few lines, Mads Mikkelsen and Orlando Bloom both chew pant scenery as evil right-hand-man Rochefort and cad Buckingham, respectively, and Gabriella Wilde's Constance is, sadly, awful. This leaves Christopher Waltz as the Cardinal and Jojovich as Milady to carry the piece, which they do. I'm not saying it's like watching, oh, Rickman and Streep, but they know the movie they're in, and they give a performance that suits it. More, please.
It disappoints a little on the sword front, too. There are several set pieces: the Musketeers vs the Cardinal's guards is the single biggest one, and the direction makes it pretty much impossible to follow what's going. Too much Jason Bourne and not enough Jackie Chan. Anderson saves his emphasis for a brief scene when Milady infiltrates the queen's quarters, bringing out the slow-mo for his muse. Porthos is presented as a strongman who doesn't need to use a sword, and Aramis is given, well, strange, steampunky weapons. MISSING THE POINT! This is a story about legendary swordsmen. That's where the action should be! Even d'Artagnan's climactic fight against Rochefort, which is given sufficient space, intermingles too much DANGLING(omt).
Oh, and there's James Corden, as James Corden, instead of Planchet. I'd have preferred more humour based on wit.
Sensibly, it's set up for a sequel, and I'll be amazed if it doesn't get one (we're on, what, Resident Evil 5, now? 6? And there was Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life). But Anderson needs to be even more influenced by the Guy Richie Sherlock Holmes than he has been already (humour, damnit! Look at the humour). And he really does need to look more closely at some classic swordfights.