New ‘Count’ succeeds despite altered details

If you have read The Count of Monte Cristo, you will shake your head at the new film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale of revenge. But you probably also shook your head at the dozen other versions. In fact, Dumas’ famous tales of a revenging count and some crazy musketeers have been told so many times in so many ways, a filmmaker would be a fool to tell one of the stories as it stands for fear of being called unoriginal.

But since films have to be made and stories have to be told, sometimes popular source material is altered in the name of entertainment. With that said, the new Count has omitted characters, created new ones and changed sequences and timelines. But, in the end, they don’t take away from the core of the original story, and if anything, they actually work to make a very entertaining film.

And while the story is so familiar and the trailers give away the most of the film anyway, the new details are constructed in such a manner to make almost any moviegoer sit on the edge of his or her seat.

Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line) is the lovable simpleton Edmond Dantes, a poor sailor who dreams of one day becoming a ship captain and marrying the woman he loves. Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential) is the backstabbing villain Fernand Mondego, his childhood friend who has everything yet covets Edmond’s happiness.

One day Fernand accuses Edmond of treason and makes a deal with the town magistrate to lock up his friend. With our hero now rotting away in a secret prison, Fernand makes his move to comfort Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk) Рthe weeping fianc̩e who believes Edmond is dead.

Time passes, and Edmond makes friends with fellow inmate Abbe Faria (Richard Harris), an elder one-time priest. Faria and Edmond spend their years planning an escape and playing teacher and student in the arts of reading, writing and fencing. Before Edmond escapes, Faria gives him the map to the lost treasure of Monte Cristo, a sum of gold that makes him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. Thirteen years of prison torture have given Edmond plenty of opportunity to plot the demise of those who tried to take away his life. And thus, he makes himself a count.

The manner in which he avenges his torment may differ from the novel, but it is in the new details where the film succeeds. The changed scenarios are just as riveting, if not more engaging, to the viewer – especially since Caviezel and Pearce bring the essence of good and evil to their characters to make the eventual final showdown worth waiting around for.

Certain Hollywood elements detract from the film’s overall success as a piece of art. While Luis Guzmán’s role of Edmond’s sidekick is hilarious, it is nothing more than comic relief reminiscent of playing Cheech to Caviezel’s Chong. And silver screen clichés, such as a happy ending and changing Fernand’s background from poor to rich, eliminates some of the novel’s themes. Although they could be distracting to some, they’re ultimately necessary when translated to film.

Overall, the film differs from the source material, but the dedication to the amended story by the actors and filmmakers shines through. In the end, revenge is still served, and that’s all anyone could ask for from a piece of a Hollywood re-hashing of a timeless tale.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo is Rated PG-13