Directed by: Martin Bourboulon
Written by: Matthieu Delaporte, Alexandre de La Patellière
Starring: François Civil, Vincent Cassel, Romain Duris, Pio Marmaï, Eva Green, Lyna Khoudri, Louis Garrel, Vicky Krieps, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd
Released: May 16, 2024
Grade: B

The Three Musketeers: D'Artagnan

Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel has been translated for cinema many times, but this is the first French adaptation since the not-so-well-reviewed Revenge of the Musketeers hit theatres in 1994.  Just a teenager at the time, Martin Bourboulon can remember being taken on set by his father, Frederic, who served as the film’s producer.  There’s a sense of serendipity at play here as Martin, who followed his dad into the industry, is now directing his own big screen interpretation of The Three Musketeers.

“Big” is the right word to use.  The budget was €72 million (huge for a French flick), the shoot took 150 days, and there are two movies in all (both roughly 120 minutes each).  French audiences had to wait nine months between instalments but here in Australia, the gap is much narrower.  Hot off its showing at the French Film Festival, The Three Musketeers: D'Artagnan gets its turn in cinemas this week with The Three Musketeers: Milady arriving next month on June 6.

Previous adaptations have emphasised the novel’s comedic elements (such as the 1993 American version starring Chris O’Donnell) but here, the two-man writing team have gone with a heavier, Game of Thrones-type vibe.  It’s still set in the 17th Century, but they’ve taken the opportunity to look at Dumas’ work through a more current day, progressive lens.  As examples, one of the Musketeers is bisexual, and they’re considerably more respectful of women. 

For those unfamiliar with the material, it’s centred on the young D'Artagnan (Civil) who, driven by a desire to serve and protect the king, befriends three influential musketeers and falls under their tutelage.  He’s immediately caught up in a conspiracy involving murder and manipulation, and so the expanded quartet go on a mission to find out who’s responsible.  One person in their sights is the maleficent Milady de Winter (Green) who is as cunning as she is seductive.

The story isn’t the easiest to follow (lots of characters and subplots) and while parts of the translation are confusing (the politics), there’s still a lot to like.  In the same vein as The Lord of the Rings, there’s something appealing about a swashbuckling epic with a bombastic film score set across a variety of cool locations with swords, horses, and spirited battles.  The production values are great!  Led by star François Civil (Love at Second Sight), the cast are a worthy fit for their respective characters and give us clear heroes to cheer for, and villains to root against.

You get a sense the juicier stuff is being saved for the second film but The Three Musketeers: D'Artagnan still stands on its own two feet.  Fun, interesting, and engaging.