Judging a film based on its first half seems unfair, so I was awaiting the second part of Martin Bourboulon’s The Three Musketeers (2023). Despite solid performances from Pio Marmaï as Porthos and Vincent Cassel as Athos, the first film, subtitled D’Artagnan (2023), had a messy narrative and a disappointing take on Milady de Winter, played by Eva Green. The sequel, Milady, was released in December and now in the U.S., centers on the schemes of the eponymous villainess while still following the musketeers. They now have to defend the kingdom of France against a rebellion from the Protestants, which threatens the King himself. As for the youngest recruit, D’Artagnan (François Civil), is ready to risk anything to save his lover, Constance Bonacieux (Lydia Khoudri), who was captured at the end of the first film.

Unfortunately, this sequel is a step backward, not forward. One of its major issues can be spotted straight away, as a series of awkward flashbacks summarise the previous movie in less than five minutes. They feel quite unnecessary, making Milady look more like a made-for-TV feature, and also raise a major question: who is the film targeted at? Despite his best efforts, Martin Bourboulon cannot find an answer. If the film was intended for fans of the first, then the flashbacks feel quite redundant and dispensable. On the other hand, the sequel’s ensemble cast will make it hard for first-time viewers to understand “who is who” if they have not previously watched D’Artagnan

Indeed, the second film does not fix most of the issues of the first part and even amplifies some of them. When it comes to its narrative structure and characterization, The Three Musketeers: Milady has very little to offer. The film never knows which main storyline it should explore and tries to discuss politics, religion, Athos’s past, D’Artagnan’s future, and Milady’s agenda all at once. As could be expected, the result is extremely disjointed, which keeps jumping back and forth between characters. 

The sequel’s subtitle suggested we would finally learn more about Milady de Winter’s motivations and past, but she ends up “drowned” in an ocean of antagonists. Eva Green promised in an interview that her version of the femme fatale would be more modern, suggesting that the film could be targeted at younger generations and those looking for a powerful female villain. Yet despite bearing her name, the sequel does not pay homage to Milady’s greatest asset – her diabolical intelligence. And it is her short fight scene against D’Artagnan, where he easily bests her, that helps Eva Green’s Milady stand out as a memorable character. 

Vincent Cassel & Eva Green in The Three Musketeers: Milady
Vincent Cassel & Eva Green in The Three Musketeers: Milady

The actress does bring a poisonous charm to the spy, but she sometimes overplays the femme fatale with too much to hide. When it comes to its titular character, The Three Musketeers: Milady again struggles to find the right balance: it will not get any favors from fans of the classic novel, who will find that its over-the-top portrayal deviates too much from the original story. The idea of a badass Milady is appealing to modern viewers, but the film never goes anywhere with it. 

If The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan raised interesting questions about what an adaptation should be, Milady raises some about the role of a sequel. The movie’s disjointed plot and lack of characterization make it inaccessible to first-time viewers, but returning ones will find that the film does not have much to add to the first one’s story. Indeed, characters are so numerous that most are reduced to a few traits: François Civil’s portrayal of the naïve D’Artagnan seemed endearing in the first movie, but the hero never evolves and here comes across as clumsy and irritating. This does not mean the cast is to blame: Vincent Cassel is an amazingly shady Athos (he deserves a special mention). At the same time, Romain Duris makes for a charismatic Aramis, and Pio Marmaï plays a hilarious Porthos. 

Yet none of the musketeers is given enough time to shine, and it feels like each character would have deserved their own movie. Instead, Bourboulon struggles to choose one main protagonist – and even a main storyline, as D’Artagnan and Milady’s plans have to share the spotlight. The sequel’s potential thus goes to waste, and viewers are left to wonder if the movie would have worked better as a TV series, having had more time to introduce its characters and subplots.

In its current form, Three Musketeers: Milady is definitely a disappointment. Yet it remains a fun and entertaining watch, with a fast pace that will please action fans. There is also one noteworthy (and very positive) change: most critics agreed that the first film was too dark, and upon hearing this, Martin Bourboulon strived to improve the lighting. His efforts did pay off: the film’s color palette is more geared towards warm colors, and more scenes are shot in broad daylight, allowing us to appreciate the beauty of the costumes and the scenery. 

The film is just as well-produced as the first part, and French moviegoers will be glad to see that this homemade blockbuster never looks or feels cheap. The fight scenes are well-shot, but their “undercutting” can prove disappointing: shots are so long that the choreography of the fights is not always the main focus. Nonetheless, there is a grandiose feel that comes out of many brawls, and for viewers looking for a fun film more than a fully successful sequel, this should be a good enough reason to watch Milady.

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The Three Musketeers – Part II: Milady (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
The Three Musketeers – Part II: Milady (2023) Movie Cast: Eva Green, Louis Garrel, François Civil, Vincent Cassel, Romain Duris
The Three Musketeers – Part II: Milady (2023) Movie Genre: Adventure/Action/Drama | Runtime: 1 hr. 54 min
 
Where to watch The Three Musketeers: Milady

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