There have been numerous adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ signature tale The Three Musketeers, but this version, released in 1993, provides a slimmed down, but ultimately fun adventure movie.
Beginning with D’Artagnan (Chris O’Donnell), he journeys to Paris to join the King’s Musketeers, who served as King Louis’ royal guard. Unknown to him, the nefarious Cardinal Richelieu (played by a scenery chewing Tim Curry) has disbanded the Musketeers for a sinister purpose, using the upcoming war with England as his public reason. D’Artagnan, upon arriving at Musketeer headquarters, meets the taciturn Athos (Keifer Sutherland). After a less than ideal first meeting, D’Artagnan challenges Athos to a duel later that day. Later encounters with Aramis (Charlie Sheen) and Porthos (Oliver Platt) leave the young firebrand with three duels in one day.
As this was released in 1993, both Sutherland and Sheen were bankable stars. Both had starred in the successful ‘Young Guns‘ films and had starred in various hits before this film. Oliver Platt and Tim Curry were solid character actors, and O’Donnell was ‘the new guy’.
Before their duel, the three compatriots are drinking to the demise of the Musketeers when Richelieu’s right hand, Rochefort (Michael Wincott, who had played Guy of Gisbourne in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves prior to this film) arrives to apprehend them and demand they surrender. Athos and friends take out Rochefort’s men and we learn that Rochefort was once a Musketeer, and was cast out of the corps, thanks to the testimony of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
At the duel, D’Artagnan learns the three men he challenged were the Muskteers he was looking for. Before the duel can commence, more of the Cardinals’ Guards appear to arrest the men for the second time that day. The new compatriots battle the Cardinal’s men, but don’t push their luck when more numbers arrive along with Rochefort. D’Artagnan, ever proud, attempts to take them on before being knocked out and waking in a dungeon cell.
Upon attempting his escape, he sees Richelieu meeting with an unknown woman and overhears a sinister conversation. Richelieu is planning an alliance with the Duke Of Buckingham and to take the throne in a coup. The woman is revealed to be the Countess de Winter (played by the lovely Rebecca De Mornay). She is also an operative of the Cardinal and will be delivering the letter to England.
This is a PG rated Walt Disney Film and does a solid job of building characters, putting storylines together, and getting the audience invested in what is going on. Barely an hour in and we’ve already got a number of fighting sequences and a plot to overthrow the king of France.
D’Artagnan is recaptured, but is freed by his new friends. Athos and Porthos have taken the place of a headsman and a priest while Athos has secured transportation, in the form of the Cardinal’s personal carriage. Taking refuge in the countryside, D’Artagnan learns that Athos was once a count who fell in love with the wrong woman and renounced his lands, and to be careful of “love”, as D’Artagnan has caught the eye of a young woman, who is a lady in waiting for Queen Anne (Gabrielle Anwar).
As their sworn duty is to protect the king and queen, the Musketeers capture Countess de Winter and learn of the Cardinal’s plan to assassinate the king and seize the throne. It is also discovered that the Countess was the woman Athos had talked about, who had been convicted of crimes against the Church. She was saved from execution by Cardinal Richelieu after Athos discovered her crimes and cast her out.
The third act commences with the Musketeers gathering up their decommissioned compatriots to save the king from Richelieu’s assassination attempt at a birthday celebration for King Louis. A very fun action sequence between the Musketeers and the Cardinal’s Guard lead to a climactic sword fight between D’Artagnan and Rochefort, whom we learn murdered D’Artganan’s father when the previous king was assassinated. The Musketeers are able to intercept Richelieu, save the king and queen, and also France. We have our Walt Disney happy ending in which the Musketeers are commended and D’Artagnan is officially made a Musketeer.
The only thing it has in common with its literary namesake are the character names, but this movie still holds up. It is a sold action movie that, with the exception of a few moments, is family friendly and easy to watch. For those of you out there who are used to seeing Chris O’Donnell and Kiefer Sutherland as grimacing authority figures, it is fun to see them at a much different point in their careers.