Whenever a new Musketeers project is announced, people always gather together to have pseudo-intellectual discussions about just what makes Dumas’s characters and stories so gosh-darned compelling 170 years later. I won’t bore you with that, because the simple answer is: because they’re awesome.
I will watch any adaptation of The Three Musketeers or The Man in the Iron Mask that you want to give me because it is always guaranteed to wildly absurd and wildly entertaining. Provided you nail the casting of the Musketeers, de Winter and Richelieu, everything else might as well be played by sock puppets against a white background.
So I hardly need to say that the BBC1 production of The Musketeers (a 10-part mini-series adapting the first of Dumas’s trilogy*) works. Because it just does. Athos is suitably moody, Porthos (played by Luis Guzman’s British cousin by the looks of it) is suitably horny and Aramis is suitably both.
d’Artagnan is… well, I’m a little disappointed on that front. It’s not that the actor who plays him is doing a bad job — he isn’t. It’s that the script has turned d’Artagnan from a hot-headed teenager into a noble young man on a revenge quest. There are enough revenge quests in the world, quite frankly, and the idea that d’Artganan keeps getting into trouble because he’s young and dumb is not only more interesting but also just more human. But it looks as though, by the end of the first episode, they’ve mostly put the revenge to bed, so we’ll see as the show progresses. In fairness, it’s one of the only changes that they bothered making, so perhaps there is something to be said for at least trying a new direction after a century and a half.
But if you want to talk about the real anchor of the show, it’s Peter Capaldi as Richelieu — over-the-top evil, constantly sucking his teeth like he’s a senior struggling through an iced tea, dressed in some kind of black leather dragon print with the classic Mustache Sword we all know and love. He’s so cartoonishly villainous, hiding in the corners of scenes scheming and plotting, that it’s a little hard to believe that the King didn’t think maybe — just maybe — this guy wasn’t the best possible council. But still. Just great.
So far the involvement of the women is a nice surprise. de Winter is de Winter, evil, dressed in red, sexy, etc. There’s not a whole lot you can do with that character as she is essentially the female version of Richelieu — ridiculously villainous. But Constance Bonacieux, despite the fact that she will surely be damseled in subsequent episodes, is enjoying at least a little more of the action than in other adaptations — seducing guards, protecting d’Artagnan, outraged at her low prospective prostitution fees. And Adele, a new character (as far as I can recall) adds more emotional weight to the story than just the usual “random mistress” we see Aramis enjoying in other adaptations.
In any event, the first episode was a good, ridiculous, teeth-sucking start to the show.
*Yeah, trilogy. Trust me — don’t read the second one.