Ardent and frequently jaw-dropping with its audacious, applause-worthy set pieces, The Three Musketeers is a big actioner of rare panache. The King's Musketeers — Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, and Luke Evans)— have been rendered obsolete as Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) extends his influence over the insecure teenaged Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) — until D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman), a provincial arrived in Paris, injects young blood into the threesome and franchise. It little matters that you can speak most of Musketeers' script before the characters do, for director Paul W.S. Anderson is the rare visual stylist who actually notices when he's working with 3D and a widescreen frame. His Musketeers introduces anachronistic airships and owes nearly as much to Spielberg and Leone as to Dumas — but most importantly, it understands the ubiquitous artifice of the 17th century. The film begins with a view of the continent as a board game covered in massed model armies, takes place largely in a splendid baroque-theater Paris, and is filled with references to clothes, including a running sartorial rivalry between Louis and the pompadoured Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). "Fashion favors the bold," Buckingham says, and this profoundly shallow Musketeers understands dress and valor both as masculine peacocking: The Musketeers' great mission is a raid on Great Britain undertaken to preserve appearances in the Royal marriage, while Athos carries on a splendid professional-romantic rivalry with Milla Jovovich's double-agent "Milady," in an interpretation that goes more for "Some for me!" than "All for one!"
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