The Three Musketeers |
directed by Stephen Herek
(Walt Disney, 1993)
The 1973 version of The Three Musketeers and its immediate sequel, The Four Musketeers, provided a dramatic, often hilarious interpretation of the novel by Alexandre Dumas. In 1993, Walt Disney tried to up the ante -- and failed.
The remake is a comedy of extremes, wandering far afield from the Dumas tale. Where the earlier Cardinal Richelieu, as played by Charlton Heston, orchestrated subtle plots to gain political power and royal favor, Tim Curry's version is merely evil. The cardinal's cunning plan to discredit the queen is replaced with a simple one to assassinate the king and, somehow, gain both crown and queen for himself. (A hint to Disney: royal succession doesn't work that way.)
The one-eyed swordsman Rochefort, played with ruthless disdain by Christopher Lee, is portrayed here by Michael Wincott as, again, just plain evil. The cardinal's spy, Milady de Winter, is no longer the crafty seductress brought to life by Faye Dunaway; instead, Rebecca De Mornay leads with her bosom and speaks in dusky whispers.
Where Michael York's hero D'Artagnan was arrogant in a clumsy but endearing way, Chris O'Donnell is simply cocky. As for the musketeers themselves, Kiefer Sutherland handles the intensity of Athos well, but pales to Oliver Reed's blend of intensity and wit. Oliver Platt turns Frank Finlay's pompous Porthos into a gimmick-laden pirate. And Charlie Sheen carries off the piety of Aramis, but lacks Richard Chamberlain's amorous charm.
The bumbling King Louis XIII and his philandering wife Anna have been replaced by a naive boy-king (Hugh O'Conor) and his shy bride (Gabrielle Anwar), who only want to be young and in love. Instead of Raquel Welch's klutzy, tragic lady-in-waiting Constance, object of D'Artagnan's amore, we have Julie Delpy's confident, self-sufficient successor.
Disney opted to litter the script with personal vendettas, too. Rochefort has a score to settle with the gallant three musketeers. Aramis has a personal grudge against the cardinal. D'Artagnan wants revenge from Rochefort. Oh, and there are old wounds between Athos and de Winter, too -- although the closure in this version has lost much of the former emotional power, settling instead for a somewhat sappy resolution.
Dialogue is straight out of the late 20th century, more suited to the MTV generation. Worse yet, the fight choreography is for the most part uninteresting. Rather than show us the luxurious palace, we see secret dungeons, torture chambers and catacombs hidden beneath.
All that said, Disney's The Three Musketeers isn't a bad film if you're simply looking for a bit of flash and swashbuckling entertainment. It's funny and has an exuberant sense of adventure. But if you want good storytelling, a classic period piece and strong performances by a top-notch cast, pull the 1973-74 movies from the shelf and settle back for a much better time.
[ by Tom Knapp ]