Saturday, October 29, 2011

Three Musketeers

The new "Three Musketeers" film is a delightful entertainment. It is also, I think, immune to complaints about historical anachronisms & taking liberties with Dumas, since Dumas, after all, took great liberties in history when he first wrote his entertaining romance.

D'Artagnan is played by Logan Lerman, an American kid lately known for playing the title role in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians." He's still good at adding a touch of impish humor to everything he does. Unlike the last two D'Artagnans I've seen in film--Chris O'Donnell (1993) and Justin Chambers (2001)--Lerman neither makes you want to plant your fist in his face nor turns the role into a manga comic book. So that's nice.

The brooding, cynical Athos is played by Matthew MacFadyen, whom I think of as the dude who played Mr. Darcy opposite Keira Knightley in "Pride & Prejudice" (2005). He's the romantic lead type, should probably play Rochester in a "Jane Eyre" pic any day now, has already done Arthur Clennam in "Little Dorrit," and he plays Athos at a moment in his long suicide by alcohol poisoning when he can still pull off heroic derring-do now and then.

Aramis, the sometime priest who remains devout even as a musketeer, is played by Luke Evans who, in a couple of weeks, will be seen as Zeus in "The Immortals." He plays Aramis as the bitterly disillusioned intellectual among the friends. Porthos, the brawny musketeer who is always flush with cash thanks to his affair with a wealthy married woman (remember, these guys are FRENCH), is played by Ray Stevenson, an action film maven who has played vampires, gangsters, Norse gods, and the Punisher. Stevenson plays Porthos with directness and a touch of humor.

I would take this set of musketeers any day over Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt & Chris O'Donnell. And I like almost everyone else in the cast too, including Milla Jovovich as Milady de Winter, Christoph Waltz as Cardinal Richelieu, and other familiar & unfamiliar actors filling out a cast in what turns out to be a surprisingly faithful adaptation, apart from the Da Vinci's Vault bit and the airships.

My only complaint is what they did with Buckingham. Orlando Bloom makes him absolutely repulsive. Both historically and in Dumas, Buckingham was an amazing dude. Bloom makes him look like Count Olaf from "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

On the video front, I've finally signed up for Netflix (at a time when hundreds of thousands of others are bailing out--my usual good timing). I figured this might, at least, be a cheaper alternative to buying disks and selling them back to FYE, especially where "TV on DVD" is concerned. My first two rentals were films by Hayao Miyazaki, whose Howl's Moving Castle I already knew and loved. First I saw Kiki's Delivery Service, a young witch's coming of age story with broomsticks, airships, a pedal-powered flying machine, and a touch of teenage friendship that could develop (as the kids grow up) into true love. It also features a talking cat voiced, in the English dub, by the late Phil Hartman, who was so right for the role that I now wonder how Billy Crystal's part in Howl would sound if Hartman had lived.

My second Netflix rental was Spirited Away, also written and directed by Hayao and widely regarded as his masterpiece. It draws on the Japanese animistic tradition in which everything in nature has a spirit behind it, such as the spirit of a given river or the spirit of radishes, etc. The main character is a small girl named Chihiro, whose parents drag her against her will into what they think is a derelict theme park, but which is actually a magical resort where the spirits go to hot-tub after a hard day's work. The parents get turned into pigs, Chihiro gets signed into servitude, and in order to get herself and her parents out she will have to remember her real name (taken from her when she signs her contract). Now known as Sen, she sets out on an adventure involving a mysterious boy who can turn into a dragon, a pair of identical twin witches with dangerous power, an enormous baby shrunken into a chubby mouse, a stink spirit, and a creepy "No Face" spirit who starts out friendly but develops into a dangerous monster.

All three of Hayao's films that I have seen share several story elements. They are essentially built on the frame of a classic quest. They focus on a seemingly powerless girl finding her own inner strength, often in friendship or true love. The beauty of these films is in their details, their rich and strange imagery, often involving movement across a picturesque landscape with atmospheric music stretching across gaps in the dialogue. The individual films vary by the type of setting they depict (ranging from the Austro-Hungarian look of Howl's world to the modern Japan of Chihiro's), the type of magic in them (from western witches and wizards to eastern spirits), and the age level they address (from Chihiro's small child to Kiki's early teen to Howl's Sophie on the cusp of sexual maturity). But they have a similar appeal, which a bookworm like me can describe no better than to say that the story for only one of them came from the mind of Diana Wynne Jones... but any of them could have.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ooooo, you're getting into Miyazaki! Have you seen Princess Mononoke? If not, netflix it now! You'll love it!