It’s easy to see why some people (specifically mainstream movie critics) would have a problem with the 1998 film The Man In The Iron Mask. It shares more in common with the 1939 film directed by James Whale, and, like the 1939 film, less to do with Alexandre Dumas’ last half of The Vicomte de Bragelonne. There’s also a flair for bits and pieces of melodrama throughout Randall Wallace’s version, which can be welcomed for simplicity, but frowned on because it’s too heavy handed. Like the scene with the angry, starving mob at the gates. Someone throws a rotten fruit at D’Artagnan- and the crowd does gasp! Will the Musketeer army fire upon the crowd? Instead, D’Artagnan agrees that the food is rotten, and brings the issue up before young, brash King Louis XIV, who is bankrupting France with his unpopular wars. King Louis XIV is played by Leonardo DiCaprio as a cold hearted tyrant with the mental state of a spoiled child abusing the power granted him. In this version, it is revealed that D’Artagnan had an affair with Queen Anne, and that he believes the King to be his son. The young King knows nothing about the affair, but what he does know is that he has a twin brother, Phillipe (also played by DiCaprio) who, because of his bloodline, has been locked up and has his face hidden by an iron mask.

It is DiCaprio’s contrasting performance which won me over in this film, not to mention the enjoyment levels raised by supporting veteran actors Gérard Depardieu, Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich, but, dare I say it, the relationship levels of all:

Leonardo DiCaprio against Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Man In The Iron Mask'- brothers or symbolic duality?

The father-son dynamic.
D’Artagnan cannot directly tell the young King that he is his father, but he has hopes that Louis will cease at his indifference and become to grow into being a good King. Upon the discovery of Phillipe, D’Artagnan is shocked to know what Louis has done to his brother (and a son he never knew) and becomes torn on which is the son he would rather have. The King also sets up Athos’ only son Raoul to be killed in battle in order for Louis to have Raoul’s love, Christine, for himself, and has made an enemy of Athos because of it. Which also plays into:

The value and test of friendship
While D’Artagnan has assumed responsibilities as captain of the Musketeer army, Aramis, Porthos and Athos have grown tired of the King and choose to free Phillipe in order to ‘replace’ the King. Aramis seeks to redeem himself of a horrible mistake he made in putting Phillipe in the prison and mask, also, he sides with the people who are on edge of revolt due to the Kings policies. Porthos has also lost respect for Louis XIV. D’Artagnan has his loyalties divided again when asked to go to kill his old friends; they did not involve him in the plot because they suspected he would not go along with the plans.

Forbidden love

D’Artagnan also is reminded of his relationship with the Queen, and they both still have strong feelings for each other, but cannot have the past come out into the open, for fears of scandal. Also, Raoul is rather shy in asking Christine’s hand in marriage, when he has finally decided, he finds out that the King (who has many women in and out of his bed) has chosen Christine for his next conquest. Christine had expected the proposal from Raoul to come soon, but the tempting words of King Louis have an element of truth. What was Raoul waiting for? Raoul also gives up when he sees that he would have to challenge the King. But the King must pull a David-Bathsheba act in order to stop Christine from going back to Raoul.

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