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Film / The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

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The Count of Monte Cristo is a 2002 film (one of many) based on the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas. It stars Jim Caviezel as the title character, and also Guy Pearce, James Frain, Luis Guzman, and Richard Harris. And a young Henry Cavill.


This film provides examples of:

  • Actionized Adaptation: The original book has very few action scenes, with two duels interrupted before they can begin. The film adds a bunch of sword and knife fights, including a climactic duel between Edmond and Fernand.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Faria bursts out laughing when he realises he's spent five years digging a tunnel in the wrong direction.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The Count's schemes result in a lot less collateral damage than in the novel.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • The warden of Chateau d'If, named Armand Dorleac in the film, is depicted as a sadist who tortures prisoners as part of an annual rite, despite the fact that he knows perfectly well that all the prisoners in Chateau d'If are innocent. In the book he did no such thing, never gave any indication of knowing his prisoners were innocent, and didn't even put Dantes in isolation until after a violent outburst on his part.
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    • Fernand was already an unscrupulous serial traitor in the book, but the movie goes out of its way to make him as deeply repulsive as possible — in the book, he and Edmond weren't friends to begin with, so the betrayal was not as deeply personal. The book's Fernand was also not explicitly unfaithful to Mercedes, nor did he routinely challenge people to duels for sport; he also did not show as much disdain for his son Albert. The book's Fernand was also not a born aristocrat, so he lacks the classist tendencies of the film character.
    • In the novels, Villefort is ashamed for sending Dantes to prison in order to secure his ambitions. His guilt over this (as well as some of his other crimes) eventually breaks him. The film version has no such remorse and even conspired with Fernand to kill his own father.
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  • Adaptation Distillation: Inevitably given its size, large swathes of Dumas's novel are omitted or trimmed. Prominent characters such as Caderousse, Haydée, Franz d'Epinay, Benedetto, Bertuccio and Ali are also omitted. Some of the minor characters appear as one-shot cameos or become combinations of such. For example, we get a glimpse of Albert’s three friends, with whom he goes to Rome, who, most likely, are based upon Franz d’Epinay, Beauchamp and Debray. We can also see a black servant among the Count’s retinue, who is probably supposed to be Ali. Also, Jacopo in the movie is the combination of the novel’s Jacopo and the Count’s majordomo Bertuccio. Villefort’s wife name is Valentine, which was the name of his daughter in the novel.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Monsieur Clarion was "Noirtier" in the novel.
    • Captain Leclere became “Captain Renaud”.
    • Heloise de Villefort is now named “Valentine”, which was the name of Villefort’s daughter in the novel.
    • Peppino (Vampa’s right-hand man) is referred to as “Peppono”.
  • Altar the Speed: In this adaptation, Mercedes married Fernand barely a month after Dantes was imprisoned so that she could pass off her child by Dantes as Fernand's prematurely born heir.
  • Antagonistic Offspring: Albert confronts Dantes, though neither of them are aware of the relationship at that time.
  • Anti-Hero: Edmond, as The Count, starts off as a Nominal Hero, only heroic at all because he's using his deplorable tactics to gain vengeance on the men who condemned him to false imprisonment. However he graduates to Unscrupulous Hero at the end when he remembers his mentor's words and offers Mondego the chance to leave with his life. He doesn't take it.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: The size of the treasure of Monte Christo is measured in how many boat loads of treasure chests full of gold coins it contains. This allows the Count to buy whatever he wants.
  • Ascended Extra: Jacopo, who obeys the Count's instructions without question in the book, becomes The Watson. Jacopo also serves as a Composite Character, merged with Monte Cristo's faithful servant Bertuccio.
  • Badass Preacher: Abbe Faria is revealed to have been a soldier before he was a priest, and teaches Dantes all he knows of swordfighting while in prison with him.
  • Batman Gambit: The Count's plan for revenge has two of them. The first is that everyone will be so overawed by his spectacular displays of wealth that nobody will contact the local College of Heraldry and realize that he cannot be the Count of Monte Christo because there is no such person. The second was that since his enemies were willing to betray him for so little the first time, they'd be more than willing to betray him a second time given the opportunity to make a fortune while doing so - enabling him to use his vast wealth as bait for a trap.
  • Beardness Protection Program: The Count trims his prison beard as part of his noble disguise. Noteworthy because of how effective it is. Upon returning to exact his revenge, Dantes is able to fool Villefort (who admittedly only met him once), his longtime employer Morrell and his lifelong friend Mondego. Only Mercedes recognizes him. Mondego actually doesn't recognize him 'til he shaves. Granted, it had been over a decade.
  • Best Served Cold: The original novel is probably the most famous example.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Deliberately invoked by The Count when he rescues Albert.
  • Bodybag Trick: Dantes taking the place of Faria's corpse in a body bag (subsequently being thrown off a cliff into the ocean).
  • Bond One-Liner: An unusual variation, as it is exchanged while the victim is still dying from their wounds.
    Fernand: What happened to your mercy?
    Edmond: I'm a count....not a saint.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Fernand and Villefort's frame up would likely have gone perfectly if they had just had Edmond executed as stated rather than thrown in prison for the rest of his life. The film escalates it into For the Evulz levels, since the prison here is implied to be little more than a corrupt torture chamber they and other corrupt aristocrats dump their scapegoats so they can suffer.
  • Call-Back: How Mercedes realizes that the Count is Edmond, given his habit of twirling his hair.
  • Chess Motifs: Edmond and Fernand have a chess king that they trade back and forth when the other has a victory, recognizing the other as "King of the Moment". Edmond explains this to Napoleon Bonaparte, who observes that "In life, we are all either Kings or Pawns." This becomes foreshadowing for later, when Fernand refuses to give up the king piece to Edmond after Mercedes accepts his proposal. Fernand soon after makes Edmond a pawn in his machinations. Fernand then gives Edmond a king piece as Edmond is dragged away, to "remember better times." When they next meet, Edmond manipulates Fernand in turn, ultimately winning.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: The Count goes out of his way to show off his wealth in order to draw Villefort and Fernand's attention, so that he could learn enough about their current habits to plot their destruction. Some items include buying an enormous villa with a literal cartload of gold, inviting hundreds of people to his coming-out party, and arriving at the party in a hot air balloon.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Abbe Faria, the sole living man who knows the location of the treasure of Monte Cristo, tunneled his way into Dantes's cell by accident. Years later, just after Dante manages to escape, he runs into a smuggler who he convinces to give him a new identity and wardrobe, so he can earn enough to buy a skiff to sail to Monte Christo.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Edmund of course. Being betrayed by your close friend and staying for 13 years in a Hellhole Prison as a consequence does that to you.
  • Death by Adaptation: Clarion, who is Villefort's father. It was something of a running gag in Dumas's novel that he was virtually indestructible.
  • Defeat Means Friendship. When Edmond spares Jacapo after defeating him in their knife duel, the latter swears eternal loyalty after his defeat.
  • Dialogue Reversal: "Why are you doing this?" "It's complicated."
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: The Count's final words to Villefort.
    "You didn't think I'd make it that easy for you, did you?"
  • The Dog Bites Back: The sadistic warden of Chateau d'If gets killed by Edmond, the man he regularly tortured for several years.
  • Driven to Suicide: Dantes's father killed himself in despair over his son's imprisonment. Later, when Villefort is being carted off to Chateau d'If, Dantes has a pistol left behind for him if he'd prefer the easy way out. He almost immediately does. It was unloaded, however, prompting Dantes to reveal he wouldn't let him off so easily.
  • Duel to the Death: Several added to the script.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After being betrayed by his jealous friends on the eve of his wedding and condemned to spend years in a dungeon by a self-serving prosecutor, and then learning that his grief-stricken father committed suicide and his beloved fiancée married his enemy, Dantes would be forgiven for feeling on top of the world as he left the Chateau d'If for the last time with his true love, his son and his best friend at his side, the vast Spada fortune in his possession, and having exacted sweet revenge on his betrayers.
  • Engineered Public Confession: The Count engineers one for Villefort.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: The despairing title character gives up all hope in God, having been unjustly incarcerated in a harsh French prison for several years.
  • Flynning: Played With. Most of the sword fighting in the movie is straight-forward Flynning, but the climactic duel between Edmond and Fernand shows Edmond using some legitimate unarmed defenses, like batting away Fernand's sword with his gloved hands, and blocking a strike with his arm (which shows, accurately, how useless rapiers are for slashing).
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Good Adultery: Mercedes sleeps with Edmond, who was her original love (and the true father of her son), and who she still loved for years after his apparent death, despite being married to Fernand. Bad Adultery: Fernand has slept with at least four different other women while married to Mercedes, some of whom were already married, and on at least one occasion killed the lady's husband in a duel when he objected.
  • Good Shepherd: Abbe Faria is always kind and keeps up Dantes' spirits when they're in prison. In spite of being unjustly kept there, he unfailingly thanks the jailers each time they bring food. His not thanking one alerts the jailer that he died, since it's the first time he'd failed in doing so.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The tunnel plan only works because the guards only interact with the prisoners twice a day - to deliver food and take away nightsoil. So long as the bucket is left by the door in the morning and the bowl is left by the door in the evening, the guards can't be bothered to go into the cells to realize what's going on in there. They also don't notice how heavy the nightsoil buckets are (they're used to get rid of the dirt) despite the prisoners only being fed one or two ladles of soup a day.
    Edmund (Reading a passage during a reading lesson from Faria): Thus neglect becomes our ally.
  • Hellhole Prison: Château d'If.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Cameo appearance by Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Dantes loses his faith on account of his unjust imprisonment (and then regains it at the end of the film). This is a contrast to the novel, in which Dantes is still religious as the Count — he just worships a very vengeful God.
  • Hollywood Density: The treasure is stashed in very large trunks filled to the brim with gold coins. Large enough that two men being able to lift one seems highly implausible. It would also possibly founder their skiff when they load a dozen chests into it.
  • Hope Spot: Villefort realizes Edmond is innocent and is actually about to release him. Then he finds out that the intended recipient of Napoleon's letter was his own father.
  • Human Ladder: The priest asks to stand on Edmond's shoulders to see out a window for the first time in decades.
  • I Never Told You My Name: "Edmond Dantes is dead." Mercedes never told "the Count" Edmond's last name. Whoops.
  • In the Local Tongue:
    Luigi: We shall call him... Zatarra.
    Edmund: Sounds fearsome.
    Luigi: It means "driftwood".
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Why are you doing this?" "It's complicated."
    • "I'm a count, not a saint."
  • Large Ham: A gleefully sneering Guy Pearce as Fernand.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Subverted. Dantes leaves Villefort a pistol, but it isn't loaded.
  • Looks Like Jesus: Dantes in prison, eventually.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Dantes to Albert. Neither of them are aware until Mercedes does The Reveal.
  • That Man Is Dead: Edmund states this once he learns that Mercedes married Fernand. Unusual in that the person to whom he says it is unaware of his true identity at that time.
  • Mathematician's Answer:
    Mondego: How...?
    Dantes: How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I'm a count, not a saint."
  • Meaningful Name: Abbé Faria ("The Mad Priest"). Notable in that since he hasn't had a conversation during the length of his entire sentence in the prison, he must have given this name to himself.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Faria dies in prison after years of helping Edmond dig a tunnel and educating him in the arts and in combat. But his death provides Edmond with a quicker means of escape by taking the place of his wrapped-up corpse.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Mercedes gets one. Justified in that she's concealing her naked body from the manservant of her lover, and not her lover himself. Averted in that once said manservant gives her favorable news, she suddenly cares not for preserving her modesty.
  • Never Learned to Read: The first thing Faria has to teach Dantes, though he could already read in the book.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Albert is an idealistic young boy with none of the treachery of his father, making one marvel that he is Fernand's son. As it turns out, he's not.
    • Also Edmund at the beginning. After the prison, on the other hand...
  • No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: Besides having an entirely different body build and almost certainly having somewhat changed the shape of his face (losing pretty much all of your body fat will do that, and the beard would also hide the shape somewhat), the dark, dangerous, and self-assured Count also doesn't speak, move, or act anything like gentle, sweet, nervous Edmond Dantes.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Jacopo keeps a knife in his sleeve, which he uses to temporarily incapacitate Fernand.
  • Not His Sled: The aforementioned Luke, I Am Your Father moment. In the original, Albert is indeed Fernand's son and not Edmond's.
  • #1 Dime: A chess piece has sentimental value to Edmond and Fernand.
  • Passed-Over Promotion: Danglar's motive for his part in the betrayal - the ship's owner promoted Dante for trying to help the dying captain, giving him the choice of serving under a younger man or leaving his job to find another ship. So he helped to remove Dantes to free up the captain's slot again.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: The scars on Edmond's back that he received from being repeatedly lashed in the Chateau D'If represent how his time in prison embittered him.
  • Playing Gertrude: Dagmara Dominczyk was twenty six at the film's release. Henry Cavill, who played Albert, the son of her character Mercedes, was nineteen. Jim Caviezel, who as Dantes turns out to be Albert (Cavill)'s father, was thirty four-slightly better.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Many aspects, including the relationships between major characters and the ending, have been changed, simplified, or removed; and action scenes have been added. The main themes of the story are intact. Given that this is an adaptation of a 440,000+ word novel, this is probably for the better.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: In the book, the priest's lessons were purely academic. In the film, he also teaches Dantes fencing... well enough to win two fights during his escape.
  • Rags to Riches: Dantes, who progresses from second mate of a trading ship to the wealthy Count of Monte Cristo.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The movie is adapted from the Trope Codifier.
  • Sauna of Death: A scene with Villefort and the Count takes place in one of these.
  • Slow Clap: Abbé Faria does this when Dantes realizes the reason Villefort burned the incriminating letter and imprisoned him right after acquitting him of the charges.
  • Spiteful Spit: Fernand does one to Edmond as he goads him to finish him.
  • Spotting the Thread: Mercedes realizes The Count is Edmond when he twirls his hair the same way he used to.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Jacopo's response upon hearing Dantes's plans for revenge.
    Jacopo: Why not just kill them? I'll do it! I'll run up to Paris — bam, bam, bam, bam — I'm back before week's end. We spend the treasure. How is this a bad plan?
  • Swashbuckler: The book was written by the Trope Codifier author, after all.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Dantes's appearance on the beach after escaping Chateau D'If provides the smuggling captain Luigi one such option. As he explains to Dantes, he and his crew originally landed to give Jacopo a taste of being Buried Alive for trying to sneak some treasure for himself on the side of jobs. However, Luigi found himself asked some of Jacopo's comrades to spare him, which he notes he can't do without losing respect of his crew and risking a mutiny. Thus, his solution is to have Dantes fight Jacopo to the death: if Jacopo wins, he comes back and all is forgiven. If Dantes wins, Luigi gave Jacopo a chance for mercy and the crew has a replacement. And if Dantes refuses they just slit his throat and they're a bit short handed.
    • When Dantes wins the resulting duel, he offers Luigi a fourth option, in that Jacopo gets to live but Dantes joins the crew anyways, having shown off his fighting skills to prove his worth. Luigi agrees, and Jacopo gives Dantes the I Owe You My Life speech.
  • Teach Me How To Fight
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: In the Final Battle Albert is kept from intervening by Jacopo. Jacopo himself also refrains from intervening, even though he is a very capable fighter, because this is Dantes's fight.
  • Tired of Running: After Fernand shoots Mercedes, he turns tail to run, mounts his horse and escapes at full gallop. However, after less than a minute, he pulls up and takes a moment to stare at the horizon, remembers his station, turns around, draws his sword, and shouts his challenge.
    Fernand: I couldn't live in a world where you have everything and I have nothing.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Edmond is a hapless, uneducated merchant sailor when he is arrested; he returns to Marseille as an educated, erudite, swashbuckling nobleman.
  • When You Snatch the Pebble: Edmond is challenged by the old priest to move his hand through dripping water without getting wet.
  • Would Hit a Girl: By the final confrontation, Fernand has no problem with trying to shoot Mercedes with a gun.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: When Villefort senior is accused by his son of treason for receiving a letter from Napoleon to help him escape his exile, he retorts that it's just a matter of dates. "When the Emperor returns, perhaps it is you they will call traitor."

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