Bat’Magnan and the Mean Musketeers (2001)

themusketeerI wasn’t sure what to expect from The Musketeer (2001) but the title didn’t give me a lot of confidence – after all, while the number of Musketeers in the title is canonically questionable, it’s the plural that’s important. I mean, last time I reviewed a piece of Musketeer Media that was only about a single Musketeer, we got Athos being sad on the moon.

This time around, we have Tim Roth in a hat, and a script that thinks it’s okay to tell the Musketeer story without Milady and, for the most part, without giving Athos anything to do.

It’s not okay.

We are introduced to the young Bruce Wayne D’Artagnan as a small boy, fencing with his father, until an arch Tim Roth in a glamorous all-black ensemble turns up to snark about taxes and kill both D’Artagnan’s parents for shits and giggles.

Just as I was wondering why you would cast Tim Roth as Rochefort and not give him an eyepatch, newly-orphaned Bruce Wayne D’Artagnan went at him with a sword and made an eyepatch supremely necessary.

The kid is left in the charge of Jarvis Alfred Planchet, a kindly servant who will do his best to raise him without anyone building a Batcave, creating a utility belt, or dressing up in silly costumes to fight crime.

Well, two out of three isn’t bad.

After a truly awful opening credits sequence which seems to be demonstrating how someone found a computer filter to turn the least interesting still images from the movie into “oil painting style” but ended up with something a bit closer to “crayon pixels,” we meet the new and grown up D’Artagnan (Justin Chambers) with his effortlessly ageless butler servant Planchet.

This D’Artagnan has a knack for arranging fight scene set pieces. One small bar brawl quickly transforms into a rolling concoction of barrels and Hong Kong style swordplay with jumps and flips. Seriously, don’t let this kid near any more barrels.

The budget for this movie is so low that Rochefort can’t afford a proper eyepatch. The scenery is pretty but otherwise they spent all the money on swords and Tim Roth.

That’s not… the worst decision a production crew has ever made, I suppose.

For some reason, however, he is called Febre instead of Rochefort. Also, there’s a different character called Rochefort who does not have an eyepatch. Why would you do this to us, movie?

porthosPorthos is played by Big Al from Stella (Steve Speirs), which makes me almost forgive them for rewriting the traditional meet-cute so that it’s a vaguely threatening conversation instead of a three way challenge to duels. Aramis (Nick Moran) is – okay. Aramis is often done terribly, but this one is particularly hard to take given that he has none of the characteristics of the character in the book at all. He’s a bit more whiney than Porthos, they’re both drunk for most of the movie, and no one seduces anyone or makes even a passing reference to God.

Also, there is no Athos. At this point of the movie, I chose to believe that this was because he was honouring the spirit of Oliver Reed by refusing to leave the pub just because they’ve already started filming. My theory proved to be… overly optimistic.

Mena Suvari plays Constance, only she’s called Francesca and is a chambermaid, and the daughter of a dead seamstress (THEY FRIDGED CONSTANCE BEFORE THE MOVIE STARTED). She and D’Artagnan are so boring on screen together that I may choose to ignore them entirely.

SO DULL.

Stop talking stop talking stop talking just stick to the fight scenes.

The second attempt at a meet-cute between D’Art, Porthos and Aramis (still no Athos what the hell) has him knocking them over with a barrel (did I not say to keep this kid away from barrels?) while dressed as a Red Guard. They end up teaming up to free the imprisoned commander of the Musketeers, Surprisingly Elderly Treville, despite Aramis and Porthos being drunk, and D’Artagnan not being a Musketeer.

It’s an excuse to blow things up. Also, the Red Guards run very slowly which is why they can’t catch up with the world’s slowest carriage.

Even the actors are bored with the talking parts. Big Al is the only one prepared to put a bit of oomph into it. He is my favourite.

Athos finally turns up, possibly because this scene is set in a bar, appearing as an extra-drunk tramp who challenges D’Artagnan to a pub knife throwing competition. When D’Art refuses to put up with his slurred challenge, everyone cuts him like it’s high school and he just failed to impress the Mean Girls.

A grumpy D’Art returns to his dodgy lodgings where he is traumatised by giant cockroaches, falls through the floor and ends up half in Constance’s Francesca’s bath.

The story keeps jumping weirdly between set pieces, often failing to glue them together with any logic. Somehow D’Art convinces the Mean Girl Musketeers to accompany him through a sewer to get to the palace, in the hopes of preventing a diplomatic incident.

Because yes, sewer-smelling drunk Musketeers turning up in the kitchens during a palace banquet, that’s sure to improve DIPLOMACY.

Disguised as a wine-pourer, D’Art suffers workplace sexual harassment form a lusty lady who doesn’t mean sword when she’s talking about his sword. Athos, dressed as a baker, learns grumpily to make bread (he would rather be the butcher) while taking instruction from his hostage in the cupboard, and Aramis has too soft a heart to butcher a pair of live geese. This is the best bit that doesn’t involve fighting, and literally the only good bit with Athos.

So much better than anyone else in this movie.

So much better than anyone else in this movie.

This is the point at which I realised there was really truly going to be no Milady in this story, and Athos is being written as a disposable character because as far as they’re concerned, he really is. Sigh.

A peasant flashmob attacks the palace and a very underwhelmed Cardinal doesn’t seem especially invested in saving the situation.

The Musketeers reveal themselves and lead the King, Queen and Ambassador Buckingham to safety, away from the riot.

Sewer time!

Now I see why the kitchen was reconstructed with such loving detail – it becomes the setting for a glorious fight scene in which pretty much every prop gets used including fire, soup and pot racks.

Never mind Big Al Porthos, the Queen (Catherine Deneuve) is now officially my favourite. Sloshing through the sewers in her pretty dress with the King and Buckingham, she gives an impish smirk and says she’s heard there might be crocodiles down here.

The Queen is a loveable smartass.

Later, D’Artagnan sees off a horde of Red Guards from his lodgings with a fine display of ‘my choreographer got the memo that I’m the main character’, and Not-Constance deals with her own sexual harassment in the workplace with a knife held at Bonancieux’s privates.

A knife to the privates is, as we all know, the universal sign of ‘strong female character.’

"How shit is the lighting in this movie?" "I know, right?"

“How shit is the lighting in this movie?” “I know, right?”

Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea) would rather be in another movie, I think. He says lines like ‘men without greed make me nervous’ in the same tone of voice he says everything – flat ennui with a side order of ‘le sigh’. Tim Roth would be better off emoting his own speeches to an empty room.

In a series of dull and weirdly shot scenes, the Musketeer extras are all arrested by the Cardinal’s men.

The actual interesting part of the movie – the change they have made that genuinely makes an improvement instead of sucking all the life out of the room – is the tension between the king and queen, where she’s genuinely trying to be involved in political discussions, and he and the Cardinal pat her on the head and send her out of the room.

The Queen’s rebellion, then, is not to sleep with Buckingham but to sneak out of the palace and Do Diplomacy with him.

Constance pulls D’Art out of bed and takes him to a carriage where the Queen is dressed like a serving wench and playing cards with Planchet SHE IS THE BEST.

The Mean Girl Musketeers turn up to bring D’Art in on a fun romp to free their compatriots and he has to refuse because of the Secret Queen Job. They get huffy at him and start defriending him from all their social networks.

Best Queen Ever. Accept no substitutions.

Best Queen Ever. Accept no substitutions.

I’m starting to see why this movie is called ‘The Musketeer’ because it’s not about awesome bromance and friendship, it’s about how this one kid who isn’t even a Musketeer is better than the rest of them, and it actually sells the concept. He might be an entitled brat, but they’re all twice his age and I want to smack them.

So far, the only bromance is between the Queen and Francesca.

Queen Deneuve has far too much fun for D’Art’s liking on their road trip, including “helping” during a bar brawl and hiding a pistol in her skirts. Mena Suvari has heart eyes and “I want to be you when I grow up.”

Then, in an elaborate carriage attack involving many examples of what I now call the Peggy Carter (fighting on top of a car) the Queen saves D’Art with a well placed bullet.

My daughters at that point decided that she was their favourite and their best, and the only good thing in the movie. I can’t argue with that.

Once she is ensconced in a safe house in the country the Queen sends the kids back to Paris without her. D’Art and Not Constance interpret this to mean romantic picnic.

Febre attacks them, kidnaps Not Constance, then finds the Queen off camera and threatens a servant child to make the Queen sign a letter to lure Buckingham somewhere, even though he could probably have just waited since she was going to meet Buckingham anyway.

I don’t even know what’s going on here, the editing is confusing and there’s a lot of angry riding. D’Art actually rides his horse to exhaustion, something that BBC D’Art would judge him so hard about.

bullshit

Febre is crazycakes. He sets fire to a bunch of things (Ms10 was particularly upset at him endangering Surprisingly Elderly Treville’s moustache, as part of her ongoing anti-moustache agenda) to find out a thing that he basically should already know about D’Artagnan, then shoots Treville dead.

Ms10 was so traumatised at this point she asked to leave the room, despite the fact that she rages at Musketeer movies that fail to kill Constance as is (according to her) only right and proper.

The bored Cardinal is driven to shouting at Febre when he realises that the man in black is basically out to start a war with Spain out of sheer punk rock anarchy. Even shouting, he sounds disaffected. I think the Cardinal needs a holiday to get his groove back. If he ever had a groove.

Aramis' hair is full of secrets

Aramis’ hair is full of secrets

When D’Artagnan finds Treville’s house on fire, Aramis shrieks at him like a bratty younger sibling with a grudge, blaming him for ditching them without explanation (even though he’s not a Musketeer), and making him feel as bad as possible about Treville’s death, plus the off screen deaths of a couple of extras.

Aramis you are a tool.

D’Art and the Cardinal have a discreet and strangely intimate rendezvous to discuss about how Febre is off the rails, and he’s no longer working under the Cardinal’s orders, if he ever was. D’Art takes his angry self to the Musketeer extras pub to shame them all into helping him save France.

They taunt him for being overly romantic and he drops a sarcastic ‘all for one and one for all’ and his Dad’s Musketeer shirt at them before storming off to be a lone wolf superhero who possibly has some sort of flying rodent theme.

D’Artagan sets off to destroy another horse, because that’s what he does. He is also contractually obliged to only ride during sunset, so he can be properly silhouetted.

Just as he is looking wistfully at a rain drenched castle which is possibly Hogwarts, Porthos turns up in blue livery, followed by Aramis and Athos. I like to think their horses look so well rested because they all caught the train.

Does Athos even have a speaking part in this movie? He hasn’t had a line of dialogue in an hour.

The rest of the Musketeers turn up to be an army and invade Hogwarts, because this kid told them that they should. They also let him put on his Dad’s Musketeer shirt even though I’m pretty sure only the King can say he’s allowed to.

Their horses are all so pissed off at them right now. Also – is riding on horseback really the best way to invade a castle on a hill?

Turns out the answer to that question is: not when Hogwarts has cannons.

Luckily they seem to have an almost limitless source of fresh Musketeers, which is good because Febre’s men are apparently armed with magical gunpowder which works just fine in the pouring rain.

The Queen, because she is awesome, makes Francesca help throw a marble bust out the window of the Astronomy Tower to tell D’Art where they are. The editing totally made it look like the bust was going to brain Febre for a second there, which would have been a hilarious way to end the movie.

batclimb

Because he hasn’t done the Hong Kong thing for a while, D’Art throws a line and Batclimbs up the Astronomy Tower. Sadly, amusing celebrities don’t pop their heads out of windows to make snarky comments as he goes up and to thoroughly date the time in which this was made. I guess for 2001 it would have been Ross and Rachel from Friends, or maybe Sarah Michelle Gellar?) Also, when a couple of Red Guards turn up on their own ropes to attack him, my daughter yelled “reverse Bat climb!” which made me forcing her to watch this bloody movie seem completely worth it.

Francesca takes a bullet for the Queen, which is my favourite Constance-killing method of all time and should be the only one allowed. When D’Art leans over to kiss her goodbye she whispers “I’m not dead, now will you please go kill him?” which is pretty cute.

tim_roth_justin_chambers_the_musketeer_001D’Art and Febre then fill out the rest of the squares on their fight scene bingo card, including ‘across the battlements’ and ‘ladders’ which brought back some great Xena memories.

I wish I was watching Xena right now.

Xena and Catherine Deneuve’s Queen would have got along like a house on fire.

Finally, Tim Roth is dead, to be reincarnated as all the other villains in historical movies through the late 90’s and early 00’s. We don’t get to see the final sword thrust, because editing.

It’s the end! King Barely Appearing in This Picture gives medals to the Muskteers while the Queen eye-flirts with Planchet and his trick card deck from across the court. I know where she’s sneaking off to next Saturday night.

Oh, and Francesca is alive with no actual explanation of how she survived the bullet. No strategically placed Bible or dented drinking flask, nothing. Maybe she’s an android. My daughter liked this theory so much she pointed out that it also explained why Francesca didn’t strip off to hop into the lake with D’Artagnan during the picnic.

The Cardinal tries to get in on the ‘D’Art is my bro’ action, but Dart whispers ‘One of these nights I will come for you’ which is either a threat or a highly seductive promise.

D’Art then breaks the Cardinal’s heart by riding off in a Just Married carriage, without questioning why his new wife is bulletproof.

I kind of wish I’d watched the movie that made it explicit that she was a robot duplicate.

It’s almost enough to demand a sequel.

No, no it’s not.

Androids make exceptional ladies-in-waiting.

Androids make exceptional ladies-in-waiting.

This Musketeer Media Monday post is brought to you by the paid sponsors of Musketeer Space, all 50+ of them. You guys rule! Previous posts in this series include:

Musketeers in an Exciting Adventure With Airships (2011)
Musketeers Are All For Love (1993)
Looks Good in Leather: BBC Musketeer Edition Part I (2014)
You Can Leave Your Hat On: BBC Musketeer Edition Part II (2014)
It’s Raining Musketeers: BBC Musketeer Edition Part III (2014)
Mickey Mouse the Musketeer (2004)
Musketeers Crack Me Up Seventies Style (1973)
Musketeer in Pink (2009)
Musketeers Break My Heart Seventies Style (1974)
Musketeers in Technicolor (1948)
Musketeer on Mars (2008, 2012)

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6 replies on “Bat’Magnan and the Mean Musketeers (2001)”

  1. Grant Watson says:

    I remember when this film came out in cinemas (and in retrospect I’m surprised that it made it to cinemas and didn’t go DTV) they promoted it entirely on the back of Crouching Tiger-style wire work and stunts.

  2. Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) says:

    Now you know about the Secret Sifu! 🙂

  3. tansyrr says:

    Grant, I am not surprised to hear that 😀 The film would be such a disappointment if you went into it on that pitch. Even the good stunts (and there are some really good set pieces) are let down by poor cinematography, and lighting, and framing, and oh the SOUND QUALITY.

    As a Musketeer movie (and that was my many focus here) it’s pretty bad, but as a FILM it’s abysmal. I do however want the Catherine Deneuve version of the Queen edited into all other Musketeer Media, possibly even including the BBC series.

  4. Grant Watson says:

    Is D’Artagnan’s Daughter on your list? I can probably source you a copy.

  5. tansyrr says:

    It is, and that would be much appreciated – I have La Femme Musketeer on my DVD stack already but not D’Artagnan’s Daughter.

  6. Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) says:

    The one good bit about the movie IS the Queen, I agree, Tansy 🙂

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