‘Reimagining’ lacks imagination

Steven Snyder

 

The Musketeer

Directed by Peter Hyams

(Justin Chambers, Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Tim Roth)

Rated: PG13

 

Movies like The Musketeer are becoming as ubiquitous as boy bands and cell phones.

Each version, from The Musketeer to other recent films including Summer Catch, American Outlaws, The Mummy Returns and A Knight’s Tale, slowly chips away at the collective intelligence of the movie-going public.

The studios bastardize a time period, a sport or a classic work as a means of putting butts in the seats. Summer Catch uses the guise of baseball to make this Freddie Prinze Jr. bile more palatable. A Knight’s Tale, titled after one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, includes Chaucer as a drunk, gambling buffoon. While some may appreciate this for camp value, the majority of the teenie-bopper crowd likely did not even catch the ridiculous reference.

And now, The Musketeer. According to its trailer, Peter Hyams’ film is a “reimagining” of Alexandre Dumas’ classic The Three Musketeers. For this critic, however, it’s time to call a spade a spade. This title is little more than a hook. A catch. A lure. The studios cast pretty boys for the girls, write fights for the boys, get the PG-13 rating for the box office and throw a time period, sport or classic reference in to attract those naive enough to believe they are going to see something different and creative. The Musketeer might more aptly be titled Swordfights in Old-Time France.

The question becomes how to judge these works. Should they be compared to thoughtful films of the past? Critics such as Ebert enjoyed Jurassic Park 3 for being a good B movie. What ever happened to bad A movies? Is there true camp value and enjoyment in these action spectaculars, or have even the most discerning critics given way to making excuses for sludge?

There are elements of The Three Musketeers in this new, reimagined spectacular. There is still the story of Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea), the musketeers and the king of France. However, they are not so much historical figures as indicators of what side the audience should be cheering for when the swords come out. The political backstory, told in rapid monotone, exists only to justify the excessive action sequences.

The swordfights are the true magic in the episode, and choreographer Xin Xin Xiong (Time and Tide) crafts sequences that rival any fights ever recorded. What completely shrouds The Musketeer in mediocrity, however, is the complete lack of character development. The musketeer, played by Justin Chambers, could be anyone defeating armies single-handedly. Unlike The Matrix or Star Wars, where the complex and compelling stories build anticipation for sensational duels, The Musketeer can barely keep the audience awake with its dialog, much less induce cheers during its finale.

But in rating this film, can these fights be extracted from their absurd context? No. Can the pandering and juvenile emotions be overlooked? No. Just as a ringing cell phone may play a cheery tune yet still be annoying, and N’ Sync may have a catchy chorus but still mock the notion of real music, The Musketeer looks pretty and boasts spectacular battles but remains little more than a forgettable nuisance.

-Steven Snyder