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The latest reincarnation of “The Three Musketeers” – starring Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich and Oscar winner Christoph Waltz – is one of the most gorgeous films you will ever see.

Its masterful use of 3-D camera work easily joins the ranks of “Avatar” and “Legend of the Guardians” atop the pantheon of the most spectacular movies ever made with the fledgling technology.

Furthermore, its magnificent sets and luxurious costuming are over-the-top stunning, with rich, vibrant colors and gaudy architecture strutting with 17th century opulence – a masterpiece on film worthy of an Academy Award.

The film’s clever computer graphics and coreographed ballet of swordfighting add a fun touch to what you’d think – from everything I’ve written so far – would be a fantastic, popcorn-munching, moviegoer treat.

But buyer beware.

All that glitters is not gold. And, to move away from the cliché to a more apropos metaphor, just because Hollywood offers you an apple that’s all round and red and shiny – “pleasing to the eye,” as Genesis 3:6 describes – doesn’t mean you should give into temptation and take a bite.

For starters, despite all its visual eye candy, “The Three Musketeers” has one of the most droll, cliché, unimaginative and frankly boring scripts on display this year.

It’ bad. It’s laughably bad. “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ bad.

And while the actors might have talent, with no lines to work with and very little wit in the story, all the swordfighting and explosions and vivid colors can’t fill the void of character and creativity that sucks nearly all enjoyment out of this film.

The movie starts out promising, suggesting part “Zorro,” part “National Treasure,” part “Mission Impossible.” It even follows the storyline of Alexandre Dumas’ novel – the original “Les Trois Mousquetaires” – fairly well … for a while.

About an hour into it, however, I was fighting to keep my eyelids open.

But there’s another apple offered by “The Three Musketeers,” a tempting fruit that looks pleasing to the eye, while holding within it death: The moral of the story.

The film follows closely the disillusioned cynicism of the betrayed Musketeer Athos, who has fallen on hard and drunken times, believing that nothing – not country, not honor, not even a woman – is worth fighting for anymore.

Yet at the movie’s climax, when his young apprentice, D’Artagnan, must make a critical choice, Athos resolves that there may yet be something that can rouse a Musketeer to battle:

No, it’s still not country or patriotism. “France will take care of itself,” he says.

No, it’s still not honor or valor or even revenge.

“Life’s too d— short,” he concludes, “not to have someone to keep you warm at night.”

In other words – and other words are needed, because the script is pathetic – what’s worth fighting for is the avoidance of loneliness and an opportunity for love. I guess it’s a woman after all.

The inherent worldview in this moral is romanticism. Not to be confused with being “romantic,” romanticism is the belief that what is good and right – and thus, worth fighting for – is best determined by the heart, what “feels” right.

First popularized in reaction to the rationalism that pervaded the Industrial Revolution, romanticism claims what’s true is not what’s logical, not what can be proven by science, not what is revealed by a god or authority, but what “feels” true. Taken to its natural conclusion, romanticism gave birth to relativism, the abandonment of absolute truth and the disregard for the One who claimed “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).

And in “The Three Musketeers,” there’s no reason to be true to God – for the church and its leader, Cardinal Richelieu, are the villains – and no reason to be true to country, for nations are nothing but the petty playthings of kings. Be true instead to to your friends, to yourself.

It’s all so perfectly postmodern. “Be true to yourself” – it’s practically Disney. It’s pervasive and convincing. After all, it “feels” right. Perhaps that’s why so many today live by a romanticist mantra.

But just as humanity’s bite into the fruit that was “pleasing to the eye” brought sickness and death into the world, so too romanticism offers a temptation the consequences of which are separation from God and the decay of society.

For what “feels” right is very often at odds with what is right, and truth is not relative, but revealed to us by God, through His Spirit, in His Son and in His Word. And there are things worth fighting for; there is purpose, there is meaning to life – and a piece of meaningless fluff like “The Three Musketeers” does a bit of the serpent’s work to dress its romanticist lies in such a pretty package.

Content advisory:

  • “The Three Musketeers” contains about a dozen profanities and obscenities.
  • The film is, naturally, quite violent, with swordfights, cannonfire, pistol shots and battles and killings of dozens upon dozens of men and women. There is, however, a clear intent to avoid blood or gore, which makes hardly any appearance despite a hundred or more blade wounds in the film.
  • Outside of some flirting, kissing and a couple of innuedos, the film has very little sexuality. The ladies in the movie, however, wear bodices that boost and reveal thir cleavage. Lots and lots of cleavage. Gratuitous cleavage. One woman also shows a lot of leg in a couple of scenes.
  • One of the Musketeers in the film had once studied to be a priest. At one point, he recites the Lord’s Prayer before assassinating someone, and a conversation is had about him praying for his victims. He says they deserved death, but they also deserve peace. In one of the film’s few poignant lines, he explains, “I realized being a manopf God and a man of the cloth aren’t always the same thing.” There is also a theme throughout the film that the cardinal is the villain and all his henchmen wear crosses. At one point, one of his ships has a skeleton wearing a crown and wielding a cross as its masthead. There isn’t necessarily a theme that the church is evil, however, only this particular church leader, and there is no overt occult content.

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