Friday, October 21, 2011

Evolution of the Musketeers

The Three Musketeers has been adapted for film 20+ times. While the novel is considered a timeless classic, the movies seems to have quit adapting it and started adapting each other.

One big problem is that it is a long novel. The plot follows the young D'Artagnan as he travels to Paris to follow in his father's footsteps and become a Musketeer (this was an elite force). Along the way he manages to offend the title characters (Athos, Porthos, and Aramis) and is challenged to a duel by each of them. The first duel is interrupted by the Cardinal's Guard (they are rivals to the Musketeers) and D'Artagnan joins in the fracas, earning the respect of the Musketeers. Later he acquires a mistress - the Queen's dressmaker and through her becomes involved in palace plots. The first of these involves a romance between the Queen and the English Duke of Buckingham. The Queen gave a set of 10 diamonds to the Duke as a memento and one of the Cardinal's agents (Milady) manages to steal two of these.

The Cardinal talks the King into holding a ball so that the Queen can wear her diamonds. D'Artagnan and the Musketeers rush to London to retrieve them.

Later D'Artagnan becomes involved with Milady and discovers that she is Athos's wife who had been sentenced to death. This puts all four Musketeers on Milady's hit list along with the Duke of Buckingham. After the Duke is assassinated, and D'Artagnan's mistress is killed, Milady is caught and executed.

Many adaptations stop with the Queen's jewels. Others try to squeeze the entire plot into a movie. The best of these efforts was directed by Richard Lester. While it was filmed as a single, long movie, it ended up being split in two. This continues to be the best version for fans of the book.

The Lester version cast Christopher Lee as the Cardinal's henchman, Rochefort. Lee wore an eyepatch which was not in the novel.

The next big-budget adaptation was by Disney. They gave the 17th century a thorough going-over in the early 1990s. In addition to the Three Musketeers, they did Pocahontas, Squanto and The Scarlet Letter (through Disney's Touchstone subsidiary). Disney pretty much threw the Dumas's plot away and started from scratch. In this version D'Artagnan arrived in London only to find the Musketeers had been dissolved. He had to rally them in order to save a young King Louis XIII from the villainous Cardinal. The cardinal's henchman wore an eyepatch and did a Christopher Lee impression but wore Black. Milady was an ambiguous character - forced to evil by Athos's hatred.

More recently, a version simply called "The Musketeer" followed D'Artagnan as he saved the young King from the man in black who wore an eyepatch and spoke like Christopher Lee. It featured a lot of wire-work (sometimes called wire-fu) inspired by martial arts movies and was released on the heels of Crouching Tiger. It was more a remake of the Disney version than an adaptation of Dumas's classic.

Now, the newest version looks like it has wire-work, a young king, and a man in black with an eyepatch. Milady seems to be ambiguous. So this looks like a remake of The Musketeer which was a remake of Disney's version which was influenced by Lester's version which was based on the novel.

I don't expect much from it. At least the costumes look better than the Disney version.

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