Directed by Richard Lester and written by George MacDonald Fraser, The Four Musketeers defend the queen and her dressmaker from Cardinal Richelieu and Milady de Winter. Starring: Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Frank Finlay, Christopher Lee, Geraldine Chaplin, Jean-Pierre Cassel and Roy Kinnear.
For a film that came out in the 1970s, long before the sequel obsession reached further than horror, it’s great to see how quickly The Four Musketeers picks up where the first film left off. It jumps right back in and feels like it creates a more interesting plot for the characters to get mixed up in, now that their origin has been established. However, though it starts strongly, it weakens itself with time, getting far too distracted.
Firstly with the classic man being led astray by any woman who happens to walk past, it’s a shame to see as spending so long connecting Raquel Welch and Michael York in the first film, she feels wasted here. It does also reflect that typical 20th century mindset of being a heartless cheater doesn’t make a man less of a hero. Then secondly by wading into a war setting which doesn’t have much to add and feels like an odd tangent that throws everything off course.
Interestingly for a film about four men, the film’s strongest element is its women because they so fiercely control the plot. Welch, Dunaway and Chaplin are busy driving the story forward while it feels like the Musketeers are just caught up in the trap. In itself that wouldn’t be an issue if it were any other film but being The Four Musketeers it’s a shame they don’t have a more definitive part to play.
There are many satisfying elements that reflect the first film though, particularly the quality of the aesthetic and costumes. As well as keeping that tone of frivolity, it’s having a good time and going for melodrama rather than any sense of seriousness.
The Four Musketeers is a fun follow up to the first film but struggles to maintain itself in its second half. The visual is there, it’s a fantastic cast but the focus feels in the wrong place, dragging the Musketeers along for the ride rather than making them the driving forces. Although for fans of the first film, they’ll find plenty to love.