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Warning: Do Not Compare to Dumas

Period Flick Goes Over the Top

By Eric Chemi

Staff Writer

Written by Alexandre Dumas (novel) and Jay Wolpert (screenplay)

Directed by Kevin Reynolds

Starring James Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Dagmara Dominczyk, Richard Harris, Luis Guzman

Rated PG-13

What starts off as a tale of a French sailor and his beautiful love quickly turns into a story of betrayal and backstabbing, animosity and affliction, glory and grandeur, and, finally, revenge and retribution.

Edmund Dantes (James Caviezel), an illiterate sailor from Marseilles, is comfortable with his life and intent on marrying the beautiful Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk). Unfortunately, the captain of his ship falls ill while at sea. In haste to save the elderly man’s life, Edmund and a small group sail ashore on the infamous island of St. Elba, where ex-emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is being held captive. In exchange for the services of Napoleon’s physician to save the dying captain, the exiled dictator makes Edmund deliver an “innocent” letter to one of Napoleon’s friends back in Marseilles.

After Edmund’s group heads back to France, a stunning turn of events changes his life forever. He is chosen to replace the dead captain in an unexpected promotion. Jealously seizes those around him, who devise plots to have him arrested.

Soon Edmund finds himself wrongly imprisoned under charges of treason, while the government informs his family that he has been executed. With the help of another inmate (Richard Harris) at Chateau D’If, Edmund manages to escape after thirteen years of torture. From there, an adventure begins that takes Edmund across the world as a pirate, revenge-seeker, member of high society, and in the end, a family man.

The main problem with this movie is its title. The film does not in any way measure up to the original Alexandre Dumas classic, which the movie banks on. It’s almost as if the movie has nothing to do with the book itself, which sets the film up to be a huge disappointment. The film and movie are completely different in their plots after Edmund escapes from prison. Anyone who has already read the book will probably feel like walking out within the first hour.

Of course, this opinion only applies to people who have read Dumas’ version. For those who have not, this film is a decent action movie. A good pick as a rental or maybe at matinee price, this film should not face the undue challenge of being compared to the book. But again, if you have not read the book, many of the twists and turns in the plot will come as surprises. The scenery is definitely spectacular; the contrasts between stone-walled prisons, wide Mediterranean beaches, and the grandeur of gorgeous Parisian mansions will delight those with such taste.

Much of the plot is far-fetched. For example, the morning after Edmund’s escape from prison, he is washed ashore to the grim delight of thieving pirates. Edmund is promptly given a knife and ordered to give the pirates entertainment by battling with the group’s most skilled knife-fighter. It’s not realistic for a rested pirate to lose to a man who has just woken up after being washed ashore the morning after he escaped from a prison where he spent thirteen years. But of course, this is fiction and fortunately the result of the fight will still manage to surprise viewers, and it actually serves an extremely important purpose in the story.

Another scene in which grandeur and decoration is overly abused is the new Count’s introduction to his high-status guests at his new palace. With fireworks in the background, the Count flies in on a hot air balloon with acrobatic dancers scaling down from ropes hanging from the balloon. At least the budget-busting scene can be deemed somewhat appropriate as it ties in nicely with the overdone costumes and ornamentation of the evening party.

In general, the movie has some humorous parts and charming surprises with quality action scenes. This decent film is possibly worth a viewing, but I recommend you read the book instead.