Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Steampunk musketeers? Really? by Vijaya Schartz

I watched on cable recently a movie I missed in the theaters last year. THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Yes, I'm French and was raised reading Alexandre Dumas, and this story is very familiar to me. It's also a piece of true history, and this version also includes the scandal of the Queen's Necklace.  The same classic author wrote The Count of Monte Cristo, The Queen's necklace, The Black Tulip, Queen Margot, and many other well known stories.

Loved the actors. They felt very real to me as D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis

In the first sequence of the movie, the musketeers steal a Leonardo Da Vinci engineering design from a vault in Venice, and Milady double-crosses them and sells the design to the English Lord Buckingham. I thought it was an interesting twist to the original story, but still in line with the characters. The costumes are a little farfetched, but why not steampunk musketeers in at times modern-looking brown leather? Like the classic Musketeers, they wield swords and the palace guards carry muskets (early handguns that shoot once and take forever to recharge).

Very well acted Buckingham and Milady
King Louis XIII is portrayed as a juvenile poppinjay. That's not what I know about him (he was nicknamed Louis the just and was taciturn and suspicious). He also had a speech impediment and a double row of teeths, but too much history is not always attractive. What the heck, some artistic licence is okay. I went with it.

Louis XIII of France

When Milady steals the queen's necklace and has to meander through laser-like lines protecting the vault, I started scratching my head. Lasers? in 1620 France? Or were they silk threads, or spiderwebs? But then why avoid them?

Imagine my surprise, however, when a third through the movie, Lord Buckingham lands his flying machine in the gardens of the French royal Palace. A sea-faring vessel straight out of the British Royal Fleet, complete with sails, but attached to a huge balloon.

This is where the story (set around 1620 at the start of Louis XIII reign) loses all credibility. Hot air balloons were not invented until over 160 years later. The first was tested in 1783 and did not include human passengers. To compound the gross inaccuracy, at one point an entire fleet of flying vessels attacks France. And they are firing traditional cannons from flying ship to flying ship? Get real.

And how did they navigate? From what I've seen the weight alone made these contraptions ludicrous. The science did not add up.

And don't you think I would have heard about this battle in my history books? I didn't, because it never happened. It's one thing to frictionalize history. But to change true history and use the name of the original author is akin to intellectual property rape. This movie is not even labeled as fantasy or alternate history, and it's not a time travel either. It is presented as The Three Musketeers.

I often heard of authors scandalized about how Hollywood changed their stories. Unfortunately this author is not here to defend his work. Although Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) must have been familiar with hot air balloons, he must be turning in his grave, because all his novels were always historically accurate. That's one of the things I love about them. The man did his research.

Historical rape aside, the movie was well acted, with lots of action scenes. Loved Milla Jojovich in the role of Milady. All the musketeers were likeable and fantastic swordsmen. Too bad the writers botched the history and the science, and didn't bother to make the story believable. Special effects alone do not a movie make.

I can easily guess the movie did not make it big in France.

Whenever I write, history, science fiction, even fantasy, as an author I make sure my science is believable, as well as the historical details. But, that's just my opinion. I guess it's a matter of ethics.

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick
Find the links to my books at the top right column.


Sydell Voeller said...

Viviana, An excellent review! The movie photos do a good job to substantiate your well assessed observations. When I read your own books, though, I can always rest assured they are historically accurate--the mark of a true professional.

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