You know the name, you know the number… oh no, wait, wrong saga! Just when we thought all had been said and shown about Alexandre Dumas’ famous musketeers came the news of a new, actionised, big budget remake by French filmmaker Martin Bourboulon. The adaptation is split in two parts, and the first, D’Artagnan, was released in France at the beginning of the month, while Milady is due to hit cinemas on December 13th.

The trailer and its remix of late Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise had me really excited, as had the perspective of a badass fighter Milady, so I couldn’t wait to get my tickets. But should you get yours? Just how ultimate The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan?  

Loosely based on the book: an actionised take on the classic

If you are a fan of Dumas’ work, the first thing which will strike you is how different the film is from its source material. The book does, nonetheless, adapt the first part of the novel. As such, it focuses on a necklace given by the Queen to her lover Buckingham, which the musketeers need to retrieve to prevent war between France and England – all the while the young D’Artagnan tries to make a name for himself. As you can guess from this pitch, and unlike its reputation, the book spends more time discussing plots against the French Kingdom than actually showing badass sword fights. Bourboulon smartly understood that an adaptation, especially in our day of action blockbusters, would have to take the fighting to the next level, and he did just that. Another positive point: you will see the heroes fighting with guns and stabbing their enemies in the back. Forget the chivalrous and everlasting sword fights, this is the real deal!  

It is isn’t just the intensity of the combats which went up a notch: the film is centred around its fight scenes, and can definitely be classified as an action movie. The only ones who’ll be disappointed are fans of 2011 movie (if there really are any) – don’t expect flying ships this time around! The idea of an actionised take on the novel is excellent, and helps to set it apart from other adaptations. However, Bourboulon’s filming of the fight scenes is definitely one of the movie’s weakest points: most combats are over-cut, especially towards the beginning, which makes some sequences pretty hard to follow. This is a shame, as shots are interesting and care was given to the musketeers’ fighting choreography. Some brawls are even shot in a Western-like fashion, which suits the initiatory journey of the innocent D’Artagnan.

One for all, all for one: what about the characters?

All of the musketeers are well-played by their respective actors, and hearing that Pio Marmaï (Porthos) had fun with the role did not surprise me – the chemistry between the three older fighters and their pupil D’Artagnan is present. François Civil deserves a special mention for his interpretation of the young hero: always innocent but never too naïve, he is an interesting protagonist! Other highlights are the King (Louis Garrel) and the Queen (Vicky Krieps): much more time is devoted to their narrative arc than in most adaptations – and in the novel. This might surprise some viewers, who expected more badass protagonists to be put forward, but the actors really create an interesting couple. 

And… that leaves us with my biggest disappointment in the film: I was really excited to see Milady de Winter, one of the most badass femme fatales out there, playing by Eva Green, who knows how to embody strong women convincingly – regardless of their moral compass. Well, if you are also a Green addict, beware: Milady is quite transparent throughout the film, and her role is mostly reduced to shooting characters and wearing a wig. Yes, Milady is meant to be a ruthless villain, but I hope that we will see her true “evil genius” abilities in the second part of the movie – here, I was left hungry for more!

Flawed but fun

So, as you might have guessed already, The Three Musketeers – D’Artagnan is a mixed bag: there are lots of creative ideas in the film, which are apparent in the new plot and in some carefully crafted shots chosen by Martin Bourboulon. The director clearly wanted to bring something unique to a well-known source material, and offers some unexpected twists on a famous story. Let’s be honest, not all of his ideas work: the film is far from perfect, and Bourboulon bit off more than he could chew (so many storylines get interwoven, that even the camera has to rush through!).

Nonetheless, the challenge is met: The Three Musketeers 2023 is a fun take on a historical adventure film, with gripping fights and a relentless pace. Milady is coming out at the end of the year, and I hope that we will see more of the famous villainess – and get some more developed storylines. In short, the film is flawed, but also unabashedly fun, and does get certified ultimate. One for all, all at the movies!