Friday, October 28, 2011

The Three Musketeers

So, they are remaking yet again, The Three Musketeers? Well it is a classic and it is a central theme throughout fiction in general. Alexandre Dumas did a great job on this one. And it's a story I've loved since childhood. I feel attached to it, so I kind of object when I see they have decided to spice it up to the point that it is hard to imbibe. A little sugar and cinnamon in a hot drink is good, but too much sugar, spice or heat and you have an impalatable drink.

I first came across the Three Musketeers most likely on television as a kid with cartoons. I then saw the Gene Kelly version and fell in love with the story.
Around that time I discovered that my parents had some 78RPM records. These were the thick, brittle 78s that came in a real album of multiple disks. I still have them. We had three of these story albums: The Three Musketeers with Errol Flynn, he was fantastic as always, his voice always carrying a lighthearted rendering.

Robin Hood with Basil Rathbone.

And A Christmas Carol again with Basil Rathbone. I always liked Basil best at Sherlock Holmes, but his part in the film version of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn was just about perfect.

Then the film version came out that is one of my all time favorites, the 1973 Richard Lester (Director) version. That would be the version with Oliver Reed (Athos), Raquel Welch (Constance de Bonacieux), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Frank Finlay (Porthos), Michael York (D'Artagnan), Faye Dunaway (Milady), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu). For me, this is to date, the definitive version, with just the right amount of humor, action, and true to the times technologies, some cutting edge for the time and delivered in a mostly realistic fashion. Even if it did draw a law suit in their shooting two movies together in paying the actors for one. Some great films came out about that same time, like a few years earlier 1968 with Franco Zeffireli's Romeo and Juliet. But of course, that has on relevance here.

There were other versions before the Gene Kelly film, where you almost felt like he danced his way through it and made me want to watch Singing in the Rain every time I saw it.

There were the mostly forgettable versions, too.

Like the one you could almost call the Brat Pack version. It was professionally done to be sure, but no comparison to the 73 version, so one has to ask, why? Money, obviously, capitalizing on the popularity of those actors at that time. Okay, that's part of Hollywood, of filmmaking. But I don't have to like it. And to be fair after all, you never do know if it will be that new classic until you try. I just don't see that for this new 2011 version.

But now, this latest version with its attempt at adding the glitz and glamour of more modern times, with an apparent attempt to blend the Matrix franchise stylistic moves in some way with its quick camera shots and SFX. It's simply too much, an MTV version even more pronounced than the Keifer Sutherland version which really refers back more to the old style. Don't get me wrong, I love Keifer's work for the most part and his taking chances. For example, a brief aside now....

I'll never forget the film "Freeway" with Reese Witherspoon for a couple of reasons. Partly because of the story, partly because of her acting and my wondering "who is this?. But even more so because of Keifer's ongoing degeneration by way of getting so beaten up that it hits the point of dark comedy. The other reason I won't forget that film was that I was working on a script with a production company around that time (I think it was Euphoria). IMDB on Freeway: "A twisted take on 'Little Red Riding Hood' with a teenage juvenile delinquent on the run from a social worker traveling to her grandmother's house and being hounded by a charming, but sadistic, serial killer/pedophile."

One of the producers told me that he met this fresh new actress at a recent party, named Reese. He thought he might be able to get her for our film but he'd have to move fast because she was a rising star about to hit the stratosphere. Which, she did even faster than he'd suspected. I had never heard of her so he told me to check out the film, "Freeway" to see her chops and indeed, she was very good in it. Had we gotten her, our lives might have taken a far different turn for the better. But, maybe not, too. He couldn't get her and the film fell through for a variety of other reasons. End of brief aside.

I like the actors in this new film, especially Matthew Macfadyen (Athos) who I know from the BBC's MI-5 and The Pillars of the Earth miniseries that I liked a lot, Luke Evans (Arimis), Ray Stevenson (Porthos), Logan Lerman (D'Artagnan), what's not to like about Milla Jovovich (Milady de Winter), Orlando Bloom (Duke of Buckingham) always as the love interest.

But come on, this is more of a live action cartoon from what I can see of the previews, than a true adventure. I look forward to seeing it, but too much is too much and that is the same thing that has ruined the James Bond franchise for decades: "a little is good so a whole hell of a lot should bring us lots and lots of money" and you can almost see the producers and the studio greedily rubbing their hands together like the over the top bad guy in these films.

Maybe I'm just the wrong demographic for this one and maybe I will like it when I see it, or maybe the marketing department once again screwed up on the shots it has released, but I'm not having high hopes for this one, just irritation. It makes me want for Oliver Reed's morose Of course, I'll have an open mind, I'll give it a chance. I mean, I WANT to like it because of some of the actors in it and because I love the original Alexander Dumas tale. I just object to updating old tales to modern appliances and techniques to such a degree. I simply think that you can make an above average film without that and it would be far better in the end for it.

Only viewing will tell.

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