The Three Musketeers
Another all-star cast: Charlie Sheen is Aramis, Kiefer Sutherland is Athos, Chris O’Donnell (he’s the reason I watched NCIS: Los Angeles) is D’Artagnan, Oliver Platt (he’s in the various Chicago TV series) is Porthos, Tim Curry is an exceptional Cardinal Richelieu, Gabrielle Anwar (she’s appeared in Burn Notice and the last season of Once Upon a Time) is Queen Anne, as I’ve already mentioned, Michael Wincott (Guy of Gisborne from Prince of Thieves) is equally exceptional as Rochefort, and Paul McGann (the Eighth Doctor) is Girard [a relatively unimportant character, but my mind was blown when I thought the name was familiar and looked him up]. It is a Disney film, though I don’t think they tend to run it on their channel. Although it is a classic French story, none of the main actors are French, and luckily don’t try to sound it. It was one of the PG movies my mother let my brother and I freely watch (after she watched it the first time). And it is my favorite film version of the Three Musketeers story (I also love BBC’s Musketeers series, which we will get to at the end). I have tried to read Alexandre Dumas’s novel, twice, and gotten about ten pages in. Hopefully I get through it one day.
The first scene is in an underground lake that leads to a prison. Cardinal Richelieu is set up as the villain early on, instructing Rochefort to kill a man who just pled for mercy. A lighter scene is next, D’Artagnan dueling Girard in the country. Girard will avenge his sister’s honor, but makes the mistake of calling D’Artagnan’s father a disgrace to the Musketeers, mocking the young man’s plan to ride to Paris to join the guard’s ranks. Girard’s multiple brothers arrive to help Girard and D’Artagnan rides away, causing a mess of chaos (Girard’s voice gets hilariously high at times in his anger). Later, D’Artagnan sees two women riding, followed by two men. He assumes the women are in trouble, so knocks out the two men. He’s confronted by a gun held by one of the women. D’Artagnan admits he thought the men were bandits. The woman explains they were the queen’s personal bodyguard; meaning the other woman is the queen of France. She asks the young man for his name and his purpose. When D’Artagnan implies he would enjoy seeing the woman again, she states that it is forbidden for ladies in waiting to socialize with Musketeers. As they ride away, she gives D’Artagnan her name, Constance.
Meanwhile, in Paris, the Cardinal has disbanded the Musketeers; Rochefort announces they will have places in the infantry for the coming war with England. The Cardinal’s guards will protect the king now and if even one Musketeer resists, the whole guard will be imprisoned. Rochefort mocks, “all for one, and one for all.” The men remove their blue tunics and toss them into the fire, laying their swords on the ground. However, he has to admit afterwards to the Cardinal that three Musketeers have not turned themselves in. Richelieu is not pleased and orders Rochefort to take care of them, no excuses this time. In a controlled fit of fury, Rochefort slices a candelabra, naming “Athos, Prothos, Aramis” as he pokes the candle pieces apart.
When D’Artagnan arrives at the Musketeer headquarters, he encounters a man examining the burnt remains of the Musketeer banner, who brusquely inform the young man that the guard has been disbanded. D’Artagnan takes offense to the man’s tone and agrees to a duel outside the city walls later that day. D’Artagnan lands in more trouble throughout the morning, knocking into a man as he runs from Girard and his brothers. The man, introducing himself as the famous Porthos claims the sash he wears is a gift from the queen of America. D’Artagnan calls him on his lie and ends up with another duel scheduled. D’Artagnan is then landed on by another man; a priest running from an angry husband (the guard had cause to be angry, the priest was seducing his wife while he was supposed to be tutoring her on religion). The man apologizes, but D’Artagnan does not accept. A third duel.
In the palace, the Cardinal approaches the queen, inquiring of her happiness. He and her father, King Phillip III of Spain had hoped that the arranged marriage between her and Louis XIII would be a good match [Disney, unsurprisingly, got some historical facts mixed up. While Louis’s queen was known as Anne of Austria, she was indeed Spanish. Her mother was Margaret of Austria, no doubt how Anne received the title. So, when the Cardinal states “Austria’s loss is France’s gain” he’s wrong.] Anne admits that she and Louis have been distant since their wedding (which is historically true…just wait for Musketeers). Louis enters to speak with Richelieu; he’s displeased with the Cardinal’s timing of the Musketeers’ dismissal; those men were his friends and the king wanted to speak to them. He will judge what is best for himself and for France, standing up to the Cardinal. Afterwards, the Cardinal remarks to Rochefort that the boy is becoming as troublesome as his father; the Cardinal wishes to set himself on the throne.
The final three musketeers are waiting in a tavern for the Cardinal’s guards. Well, Porthos is waiting in the rafters to bring the house down. He misses Rochefort, whom they have not seen since he was drummed out of the Musketeers for conduct unbecoming a Musketeer. They should know the charges; they spoke against Rochefort. Athos informs Rochefort, who is to inform the Cardinal, they will continue their duty to protect the king. Outmanned, Rochefort must let the three men leave. They meet with D’Artagnan outside the walls for their scheduled duels, revealing to the lad that they are all Musketeers. He will keep his word to fight them, but it will bring him no pleasure to kill them. Their duel is interrupted by the Cardinal’s guards again. D’Artagnan insists on joining their fight, making it a more even four against five. A rather fantastic fight sequence plays out, each Musketeer dispatching their guard (or two in the case of Aramis). D’Artagnan’s fight leads him to the top of the wall, which the guard eventually falls off. Still a devout man, Aramis administers last rights to the deceased; Athos quietly tells D’Artagnan that he was once one of the Cardinal’s students. Porthos cheerfully states, “you boy, are arrogant, hot tempered, and entirely too bold [he’s not wrong]. I like that, reminds me of me.” Aramis admonishes his friend, “don’t encourage him,” for he’s now made an enemy of Rochefort and the Cardinal. Rochefort appears after the three Musketeers ride away. D’Artagnan gets it in his head to ride at the man in black (like a joust), shouting “long live the Musketeers!” Rochefort knocks the boy off and another guard finishes knocking him out.
D’Artagnan wakes in a cell. Rochefort, holding D’Artagnan’s sword, which in turn was the lad’s father’s, demands to know where the other three Musketeers are. D’Artagnan doesn’t know, and even if he did, he wouldn’t tell the man. After Rochefort leaves, D’Artagnan sneaks out. He spots a cloaked figure who enters a room to speak to Richelieu. He never sees the figure direct, but we find out that it’s Milady de Winter, plotting with Richelieu. Well, they plot after Richelieu demonstrates that he is not a chaste cardinal and the reason why Milady’s previous husbands end up dead. Richelieu is planning a treaty with Buckingham which will put him on the throne. Milady is to take the treaty to England to obtain Buckingham’s signature. After Milady departs, Rochefort catches D’Artagnan listening. It comes out that D’Artagnan’s father was indeed a Musketeer, he died protecting the king, Louis’s father. Louis XII was then assassinated. Richelieu recognized the name and Rochefort minutely gestured to his patched eye; meaning that D’Artagnan’s father was the one who damaged it. Richelieu further mocks, that like the Knights of the Round Table, the Musketeers have outlive their usefulness.
The next morning, D’Artagnan is taken to be executed. Girard in the crowd gleefully calls out “don’t lose your head!” But the lad is pleasantly surprised when one hooded man finishes his prayer with “all for one, and one for all (Aramis).” The executioner then informs him that the axe was a gift from the tsarina of Tokyo (Porthos) [he’s mixing his countries again, a tsarina would be in Russia, not Japan; but it’s played for humor, so we’ll allow it.] They then attack the guards, freeing D’Artagnan and join with Athos who has stolen the Cardinal’s carriage. Richelieu puts a bounty on their heads as they careen out of Paris; he’s prefer them dead. “All for one, and more for me.” Porthos enjoys raiding the Cardinal’s snacks and offers Athos wine, something red for a chase. He remarks to D’Artagnan who takes the reins so Athos can drink, “you can’t have any, you’re too young.” (My brother’s and my favorite line of the movie). D’Artagnan passes along the information he overheard about the Cardinal’s treaty with Buckingham; the man rules England the way the Cardinal rules France. If the Musketeers can get the treaty, they can prove Richelieu guilty of treason. When the Cardinal’s guards come after them, they ride into a military camp, unhitch the horses, and light the carriage on fire, sending it towards their pursuers.
They take shelter further away in a tavern. Porthos and Aramis intend to educate D’Artagnan on the fine art of wenching, if he is to become a true Musketeer. Porthos’s advice is to focus on the kiss; Aramis recommends poetry. D’Artagnan fails at the poetry, so goes for the kiss. Athos much rather drink himself into a stupor (a little confusing after Porthos just mentioned that D’Artagnan is too young). D’Artagnan joins him and when he proposes a drink to love, Athos bitterly recounts a story of a count who married a beautiful woman, only to discover later that she was branded with the mark of a murderer, the fleur-de-lis. He banished his wife and ordered her executed. Afterwards, the count realized how much he had loved her and in despair, gave up his land, his title, his position.
The bounty hunters catch up to the Musketeers the next morning, forcing them to split up. D’Artagnan rides with Athos; Porthos with Aramis. In a quiet moment, Athos comments that he knew D’Artagnan’s father by reputation. He died as a result of a trap laid by another Musketeer, essentially murdered. But their tail catches up and Porthos orders D’Artagnan to continue to Calais. On the road, D’Artagnan passes out from a injury that he must not have realized he obtained. Milady is the one to find him and takes him to her chamber. He wakes up only in his breeches (and the camera likes to focus on Milady’s assets when it has the chance). Trying to either impress her or garner belief, he states that he is a Musketeer on a mission to intercept the spy. Considering she is the spy, Milady de Winter knows she has to take this young man out. She kisses him and pulls out a hairpin. In the brief struggle that follows, she is revealed to bear the fleur-de-lis mark. Her guards help knock D’Artagnan out and they don’t have time to properly kill him, so they must take him with them.
Meanwhile, in the palace, the Cardinal enters the queen’s bathing chambers, after the queen had been discussing love with Constance. He is a lecherous man and the queen is properly wary. The king has even heard rumors of Richelieu’s behavior, but the Cardinal passes it off, adding that there are rumors that he makes pigs fly along with plotting against the king and visiting the queen in her chambers.
Porthos and Aramis have reached the ship ahead of D’Artagnan and Milady and managed to kill the crew and scare off the men accompanying Milady. When Milady tries to flee, she’s stopped by Athos. This was his former wife; she’s alive because the Cardinal took pity on her. Athos can’t bring himself to shoot her, but the family of her last husband is more than glad to have her arrested and arrange for an execution. The following morning, Athos stops the execution and begs for Milady’s forgiveness. She gives it, and a small kiss, then whispers the Cardinal’s plan in Athos’s ear. She turns and jumps off the cliff they’re on, still paying for her crimes. The quartet ride back to Paris, firing arrows containing the message “All for One, One for All.” Other men, presumably Musketeers, uncover their hidden tunics and swords.
The day of the king’s birthday celebration dawns; our heroes sneak in to the palace grounds, searching for the assassin Milady told him about. He’s perched high on the roof, spotted by D’Artagnan who races up to him. The king and queen admit softly to each other they’re scared of the Cardinal. As they’re waving to the people, a shot is fired, but knocked off target by D’Artagnan tackling the assassin. Richelieu is quick to blame Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, who have revealed their tunic. As the Cardinal’s guards race to action, other men come out of the crowd and reveal their Musketeer tunics. Athos orders, “save the king!” and the fight has begun. D’Artagnan struggles against the assassin until Porthos shoots a crossbow bolt.
Inside, the Cardinal reveals his plan; Rochefort will kill the king using a Musketeer’s sword, the same sword that failed to protect the king’s father (D’Artagnan’s sword). To comfort the grief-stricken country, Richelieu will assume the throne, with a queen by his side. The queen would rather die. “That can be arranged!” At that point, the fight spills inside. Athos takes on Rochefort and the Cardinal has the king and queen led away. Aramis stands in front of them, intent on arresting the Cardinal. The Cardinal shoots him, witnessed by Porthos, who also sees the Cardinal and his hostages go down a secret passage. Rochefort stabs Athos in the arm, causing the Musketeer to switch dueling hands. He manages quite well, but gratefully lets D’Artagnan take over. He and Porthos check on Aramis to find that his cross stopped the bullet. All three venture down the passage, but have to split up once they’re underground.
D’Artagnan takes his sword back and continues the duel with Rochefort. Rochefort divulges that he killed D’Artagnan’s father. D’Artagnan loses the sword for a moment, but continues to dodge Rochefort’s attack. In the end, Constance gets the sword to D’Artagnan as Rochefort goes for the kill. Instead, it’s Rochefort who’s stabbed.
Porthos encounters a very creepy guard, but manages to dodge him and the guard stumbles into spikes [I hated that part of the movie, I still turn away ’cause it’s creepy.] Athos fights the guards, later joined by Porthos, but the Cardinal and the king and queen manage to get on a boat. The Cardinal shouts that they’re still too late, by now Buckingham has signed the treaty and the alliance is complete. “That would be difficult, considering the treaty never left France!” Athos corrects. A minor setback; the Cardinal will return stronger than ever. Aramis flings off the cloak and quickly dispatches the guards. The king has Aramis pause before he takes on the Cardinal. Louis punches Richelieu instead.
Afterwards, there is a ceremony, the king thanks the three Musketeers and D’Artagnan and commissions the young man into his guard. D’Artagnan takes a moment to kiss Constance. Outside the palace, he quickly joins his mentors. Now what? They protect the king and queen, in the name of God and France. Girard reappears, ready to fight D’Artagnan again. The Musketeers also protect each other. “All for one, and one for all.” Girard screams and flees as the entire corps of Musketeers give chase.
As with Prince of Thieves, there’s a pop love song, All For Love, ironically enough sung by Bryan Adams (and Sting), who did the song for the former movie.
I love Tim Curry in this movie; he’s unapologetically a villain; he seems to enjoy it. Calm and cool one moment, but brief outbursts show he’s not a man to be trifled with. Michael Wincott shines a bit more in this film, not overshadowed by Alan Rickman. The primary Musketeer is D’Artagnan, but the others get their moments to shine. The action is fantastic. This is why I like sword fights, or at least, how I got interested in them. The king and queen have at least some backbone. The story is nicely developed, characters are well developed. Well, Constance is only there as a token love interest, but she at least holds a pistol and gives D’Artagnan his sword. Just an overall good movie.
Next Time: The Musketeer