[font=Optima][color=gray]"One for all... and all for one"[/color][/font]
The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) is a film directed by Randall Wallace, and is an unofficial sequel to The Three Musketeers, as it is based very loosely on Alexandre Dumas' D'Artagnan Romances, more specifically on The Vicomte de Bragelonne. The movie centers on the aging Musketeers Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan and the reign of King Louis XIV of France. It attempts to explain the mystery of The Man in the Iron Mask, using a plot most similar to The Man in the Iron Mask (1939). Although a critical failure, it is notable for ending Titanic's six-month stay at the summit of the US box office.
France is under the reign of a cruel and self-centered version of King Louis XIV, who spends his time declaring war, distributing rotten, disgusting, foul-smelling food to the now-rioting citizens of Paris, and seducing women who hope to win his heart and become Queen.
Aramis is now an aging priest, and Porthos likes to spend his time drinking and hanging around with women half his age (who fancy him). But Athos is different: he has a son named Raoul (in his twenties) who is prepared to join the Musketeers and has just built up enough courage to propose to the girl he loves, Christine Bellefort. At the festival, the two loves are greeted by an older D'Artagnan and wished luck, but just before Raoul can propose, Louis' eyes fall on Christine from afar, and he immediately plots to have Raoul killed.
D'Artagnan informs Athos of this, and Athos swears that if Louis dares to harm Raoul, Louis will become his enemy and so will anyone else who interferes, even D'Artagnan. Unfortunately, Athos' friendship with D'Artagnan is shattered when Raoul is sent to war and killed by the cannons on the battlefront. Driven by revenge, Athos attempts to assassinate Louis, but he is stopped by the guards and spared when D'Artagnan orders them to let Athos go home, but Athos still refers to D'Artagnan as a traitor.
After hearing this, Aramis plots to overthrow Louis with Athos and Porthos' help (D'Artagnan refuses to aid them, citing their oath they took to protect the king) using a secret plan Aramis has formed. The three musketeers free a mysterious young man from a remote prison (possibly the Chateau d'If)(obviously not the Chateau d'If as it is stated many times in the movie as The Bastille): a man in an Iron Mask. They take the man to a safe house in the village and unmask him, and he is revealed to be the identical twin of Louis: Phillipe. Although he looks the same as his cold-hearted brother, Phillipe is the polar opposite, and he accepts the truth behind his past. It is revealed that he was sent away to live in the country to prevent the two brothers from fighting for rule of the throne and tearing France in half. When Louis ascended the throne, he was told about the deception and had his twin brother locked away in the mask ("Wear it, until you love it. And die in it!").
Meanwhile, Louis succeeds in seducing Christine (Louis tells her that he ordered Raoul a place far away from the battlefront, but his orders were disobeyed by the general), and they eventually make love, but Christine later reveals that she was pretending to love him.
Athos, Porthos and Aramis teach Phillipe how to act like Louis so as to replace Louis with Phillipe, and they attempt to abduct Louis and take him to the Chateau d'If during a fancy dress ball, replacing him with Phillipe and putting him in Phillipe's cell. They succeed at first, but Phillipe's good manners give it away a bit, especially after he helps a fallen woman to her feet and spares Christine's life after she calls him a lying murderer after having found out the truth about Raoul's death. Unfortunately, D'Artagnan asks Phillipe to escort him to the dungeons, and Phillipe can't refuse. They arrive at the dungeons just as Athos, Porthos and Aramis are about to sail to the Bastille. They make a trade for the brothers' lives, but during their escape, Phillipe is recaptured. Later in his offices Louis confronts his brother and it is here that D'Artagnan realizes that the king has a twin brother. D'Artagnan sees Queen Anne after this encounter and we find out that at some point they had a secret affair which resulted in Louis and Phillipe. Phillipe is once again placed within his iron mask and returned to the prison, just as Christine commits suicide by hanging herself from her window.
Athos, Porthos and Aramis (with D'Artagnan's help this time) once again break in and escape with Phillipe. Louis, foreseeing what would happen, has set an ambush and traps the four musketeers with Phillipe in a tunnel. The five men fight valiantly and the king's soldiers are loathe to fight their captain and the respected musketeers. As the 'legendary 4 musketeers' charge the younger musketeers, guns aimed and ready, the younger soldiers see the valour and can't bring themselves to watch as they are ordered to fire.
The smoke clears to see D'Artagnan, Aramis, Athos, and Porthos standing, along with Phillipe.
Louis becomes violent with rage when his own soldiers refuse to attack and tries to stab Phillipe on his own. D'Artagnan saves Phillipe by putting his body between the dagger and the man, and so Louis succeeds in mortally wounding his once most loyal guard. The man who used to serve as D'Artagnan's right hand man, Lieutenant Andre, sends out the other guards and it is then that D'Artagnan reveals that he is Louis' and Phillipe's father. Andre is furious at how evil Louis is for killing his mentor ("All my life, all I EVER wanted to be... was him."). When the other guards manage to arrive on the scene, the musketeers (with the help of the lieutenant) have switched the twins and Phillipe (posing as Louis) tells the guards to take the man in the iron mask away to a place where no one can hear him and his crazy talk,and will be fed by a deaf and mute servant.
The next day, Philippe, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Queen Anne attend D'Artagnan's funeral, in which the three musketeers are finally redeemed. With Louis, who received a royal pardon, now living in a countryside house, France is now at peace under the reign of Philippe.
[font=Optima][color=orange]->Differences between versions<-[/color][/font]
The novel and the filmed versions of the tale have some differences in how they portray the Royal Twins and in how they present the plot to switch them.
In Dumas' The Vicomte de Bragelonne, although the plot to replace King Louis XIV with his twin brother is foiled, the twin brother is initially depicted as a much more sympathetic character than the King. However, in the last part of the novel, the king is portrayed as an intelligent, more mature and slightly misunderstood man who in fact deserves the throne. In the 1929 silent version starring Douglas Fairbanks as d'Artagnan, the King is depicted favorably and the twin brother is depicted as a pawn in an evil plot, so the plot being foiled by d'Artagnan and his Three Musketeer friends seems more appropriate.
But in the 1998 version, the King is depicted very negatively while his twin brother is portrayed with considerable sympathy. So the plot to switch the two brothers is presented as an attempt to save France from a bad king, by replacing him with the one man in France who has an equal claim. d'Artagnan finds himself torn between loyalty to his King and loyalty to his Three Musketeer friends; the way in which this conflict is resolved provides much of the dramatic tension in this version.
Furthermore, it is revealed that d'Artagnan himself is the actual father of the twins, as well as being dedicated to the interests of France. His paternal feelings therefore complicate his dilemma.
[font=Optima][color=orange]->Historical and literary inconsistencies<-[/color][/font]
Historical blunders abound in the film:
* A portrait of Louis XV can be seen in Louis XIV's apartments : the film takes place about half a century before Louis XIV's great-grandson and successor was even born.
* The fact that Louis XIV, after being replaced by his own twin brother, was remembered as France's most generous king, is generally viewed as hilarious by French audiences. Louis XIV is considered by the French general public as an authoritarian, heartless king, if a political genius.
* D'Artagnan's death is inconsistent with the actual character's biography : the real d'Artagnan died in battle, as depicted in The Vicomte de Bragelonne.
* Louis XIV had, in real life, a brother called Philippe : the actual Philippe of Orléans, who is not depicted in the film, was not, however, the King's twin brother.
* The character of Christine is comparable to Louise de la Vallière, a mistress of Louis XIV's who, in Dumas's novel, is also loved by both the young king and Raoul. Her name change may have been so as not to create confusion between 'Louise' and 'Louis'.
The film is also inconsistent in its treatment of Alexandre Dumas' fictional universe : the plot implies that d'Artagnan was Anne of Austria's lover (and hence the father of Louis XIV and of his twin brother), while none of Dumas's works even remotely implied such a relationship.