THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (2002) | TEN YEARS AGO THIS MONTH REVIEW
Things begin to take an unfortunate turn, unbeknownst to Dantes, when he receives a letter to deliver on behalf of Napoleon Bonaparte. Upon returning home he is falsely accused of treason and taken to the grimy Chateau D'If prison, having given up hope he meets Abbé Faria (Richard Harris) and his quest for revenge begins.
Being this illiterate sailor, trapped in a prison, he ended up being slowly educated by his unlikely, slightly loopy, yet wise mentor. His mentor, who he refers to as "Priest" for most of their time together, helps reinvent him in to the man he needs to be to prepare for vengeance.
There are some down sides however, some inconsistencies that desperately let the film down, simple things, where if any proper research had been done wouldn't be there. Dantes when imprisoned has carved "God will give me justice" perfectly in to the stone wall, despite it being clear he hasn't been educated to read and write yet. A big area of concern is the date setting of the film, it is set according to the film and novel at the very beginning of the 1800's and covers about a twenty year span, this would be fine however there are some objects that are sequentially out of place. The most obvious date issue is at a lavish party being held at the new manor of the Count of Monte Cristo, where the roman numerals show MDCCCLXXV which translates to 1875, even though the film at its latest points are set in the late 1820's. There are several other timeline issues, if you want to try you'll spot them throughout.
The film is very aesthetically pleasing throughout. The costumes worn are glamorous (in particular the ladies) and are for the most part historically accurate. The sun-glistened scenery around the prison is beautiful adding to the physical allure of the film. The combat scenes throughout are very relevant to the tale, unlike many films where they simply cramming as much action in as possible. In addition to being relevant they are believable and enjoyable to watch also. It's by no means Pirates of the Caribbean for its action scenes but they are much more believable
One of the main reasons this remake succeeds is due to how well written it is and that it is able to get over its historical anachronisms. The way the development of the characters is written keeps them intriguing. The casting job for the film is excellent one of the notably enjoyable performances is that of Luis Guzmán who played Dantes side kick Jacopo. Jacopo is one of the main characters and is the lynch pin of the film, holding a lot of different aspects of the film together. Jacopo has an almost mischievous nature adding some comedic relief in what can be a slightly heavy film at times; he is a fun character who is tenacious in his loyalty to Dantes. In many ways he represents the original Dantes before he is imprisoned. Also well cast is Dominczyk, beautiful on screen, conveys the different sides of her character well from the confident woman to the broken widow.
It's a predictable plot for the most part, despite this it keeps you wanting more, you know what's going to happen at the end from about ten minutes in but you continue to watch as you want to see how they will tie everything up, how the quest will go, what challenges he will face. I found myself relating to the characters in different ways throughout, even questioning who was in the right at certain points.
Ten years on The Count of Monte Cristo hasn't aged badly at all and to this day it's the best work still of Director, Kevin Reynolds by far, despite being predictable at times, despite all the small time line inconsistencies it still achieved something that a lot of remakes never do, which is to outdo its original. Granted the original was made in 1934, it is still a better film even taking the restrictive factors in to consideration, showing the character development much better than the original. Also its physical appearance is greatly better than the original. On a sadder note this was the last silver screen appearance by Richard Harris who passed away later in 2002. If you're looking for something a bit different to view one night and want something that will retain your focus and you're willing to suspend belief, I would definitely recommend this envy ridden vengeance adventure.