Movie Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

A few days after finishing Dumas’ book, I watched the latest movie rendition of 2002 with Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce.

It is an adventure, action, love, mystery and soap opera all in one, 118 minutes of it. I watched it right after reading the book because the facts and details were still vivid in my memory, and I wanted to know how they could possibly pack this much detail and information into a 2 hour movie.

Now I know. They can’t.

I venture to say that not many people who watch this movie have read the book, all 500,000 words of it. Roger Ebert gave this a pretty good and valid review, so I won’t repeat the obvious here, and Ebert did not read the book.

A movie based on a book does not have to follow the book. Sometimes we want it to follow it, but sometimes it’s impossible. If the movie does not follow the book, that’s ok. The movie stands on its own and it is its own work of art or entertainment.

For those of you who want to know, however, here is the skinny: The movie follows the book in title and in grand scheme, and that is all. This movie incorporates about 2% of the book, no more. There is 98% of plot, detail, story, history and characterization in the book that is not even mentioned in the movie. The major characters are even changed, and the plot line is different.

Albert is not Edmond’s son in the book. Jacobo is not Edmond’s valet. Edmond does not get together with Mercedes, his love, at the end of the story. The thief master Vampa, who mysteriously appears in Rome, then in Paris, as if teleporting, does not have the role portrayed here. Fernand did not initially sail with Edmond and was not his best friend. The father of Villefort had a different name. Danglers did not defraud the count and get caught. There was no duel between Fernand and Edmond. I could go on all day. The gist is: the stories hardly even resemble each other. That’s how you can make a 2 hour movie out of a 500,000 word book.

I enjoyed the cinematography, the costumes, buildings, props and imagery. Seeing those details brought some of my mental pictures to life. I liked the music in the movie to embellish the emotions. It was a good, enjoyable movie, just don’t think you can watch it as a substitute for reading the book. The two don’t compare, but the movie on its own works and satisfies.

Rating: **

One thought on “Movie Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

  1. Eric Petrie

    Yeah, a movie is really another beast, and that is good. The two are fundamentally different art and mind forms. Comic books and movies have much more in common than actual books and movies do. You are just so even-handed, Norbert.

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