TBT: The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)


A couple of years ago, I revisited the Richard Chamberlain The Count of Monte Cristo (1975) and was treated to an eye-opening example of how movies that seemed pretty great as a kid really did not hold up over time. So, today I got around to re-watching Jim Caviezel in The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), a film that I saw 20 years ago and thought was terrible, hoping maybe time had mellowed me out somewhat to help me see the film with new eyes.

Well, I’m here to report that it’s still a terrible movie, but I kept finding myself enjoying it despite that fact. I’m honestly at a loss to explain how I could sit through a film that was managing to get on several nerves all at once and yet I still was sucked into the underwhelming drama of the two very flat-affect leads so I couldn’t just turn it off and walk away. Jim Caviezel as Edmond and Dagmara Dominczyk as Mercedes are two very pretty people who managed to be blander than day-old oatmeal as they mumbled their way through the dialogue, while Guy Ritchie must have gotten TMJ from chewing all that scenery. About the only actor that didn’t make my teeth itch was Luis Guzman as Edmond’s right hand man, Jacopo. Honestly, this is not surprising considering it was directed by Kevin Reynolds, the same guy who brought us Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1987), another film that is notable for its absolutely dull-as-fuck main characters and an over-the-top scene-stealing villain who somehow manages to make watching the film worth it.

Admit it.

The Count of Monte Cristo clearly had a Budget(TM), because the costumes, sets, and props were all really good. This helped assuage the pain of listening to Mercedes and Edmond deliver their lines without moving their lips or having expressions because there was always something interesting to look at when the main characters were too boring to give a fuck about. The costumes were designed by veteran designer Tom Rand, who also designed another one of my favorite Napoleonic Era films, The Duelists (which I would love to cover one of these days, if only I could find someone who actually knows anything about Napoleonic military uniforms to talk about the costumes with some expertise and not just my usual “Uh, I dunno, it just looks hella cool” take on everything).

When the film opens, Mercedes is wearing simpler printed frocks, which are more or less appropriate for the 1814 start date.


Her hair is up for most of the film, unless she’s shown in a state of undress at home. And there are some good hats on many of the female characters, such as this one that Mercedes wears before the magistrate.


16 years later, Mercedes shares a dance with the handsome and mysterious Count of Monte Cristo. She’s risen in station to become a countess, married to Edmond’s best friend, Fernand.


Mercedes’ red party dress, inexplicably worn with a modern hairstyle in this promotional photo. This was the era of the sari trim in historical costume flicks, and this film relies heavily on it. Still, the dresses are decent, even if the main female characters are wearing styles that are a bit outdated by the late-1820s/early-1830s.


I did mention good hats, didn’t I? Helen McCrory‘s character, Madame Villefort, has this fabulous hat and gown combo. She sort of just disappears as a character, however.


That’s a young Henry Cavill as Mercedes’ son Albert. And I don’t care if the motif isn’t period on Guy Pearce’s jacket, it is beautifully tailored.


The Count makes quite the memorable entrance in a hot air balloon, which looked pretty real to be honest. Like I said, this film had a serious budget.


His costume is pretty cheesy, but who wouldn’t want to swish around in that plush velvet robe?


Look! Mercedes has an emotion! Looks like she traded her bobby pins for it.


Have you seen The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)? Tell us what you thought about it in the comments!


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

18 Responses

  1. stepsis

    Ever asked @privatecannon (on twitter) about his willingness to talk about military gear? He did threads on movie costumes/Napoleonic or rather British uniforms over there (‘Uniformly tragic’).

  2. Megan

    Looooooved this movie when it came out, and want to be able to dispute the critique here, but playing scenes back in my head while reading this review, I have to admit it’s pretty on the nose!

  3. florenceandtheai

    This was the film that launched my Henry Cavill crush (conflicted now after hearing about Witcher & Superman, :(). Jim Caviezel still thinks he Jesus, and that annoys me too. And I never got Guy Pearce, except in PQotD. But great hats!

  4. Al Don

    Heh, I remember liking this movie even if having problems with it as an adaptation. The opening with Napoléon, quite different from the book of course, doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. The filmmakers really confused Napoléon’s exile on Elba with St. Helena; he was not under British guards during the former, so the entire sequence would be unnecessary.

    As for The Duellists: great film and Ridley Scott’s most authentic. I will say it’s not quite as authentic as people suppose – the uniforms for first section of the movie are wrong, probably owing to the budget. There are some genuine experts who could probably really go into detail. Beautiful movie, though.

    • Janet Nickerson

      Re: The Duellists – When you see steam rising from the clothing drying out by the fire…that makes up for anything wrong!

  5. Cheryl from Maryland

    I love this Count of Monte Cristo as it was the last film fully fight choreographed by the late, great William Hobbes, who also was on the Duellists (why one likes it beyond the pants and cadenettes) and Richard Lester’s Musketeers. That means REAL sword fights that convey character. Henry Cavill, no matter what his faults, spoke movingly of Mr. Hobbes and how Mr. Cavill tried to bring the same sensibility to The Witcher. Also, Mr. Pearce is always aces.

  6. Coco

    Richard Harris is good in this, but his costume is just tattered rags.
    Having seen the French miniseries with Gerard Depardieu, in which Mercedes drove me nuts with her constant, for lack of a better word, bitchiness, I’ll take this version any day of the week. (Although how did this Mercedes keep that piece of twine on her finger for 18 years?)
    FYI in the post you accidentally wrote in Guy Ritchie instead of Guy Pearce, and I was so confused for a moment.

  7. Vesta

    …you’re not wrong about RH: PoT
    Rickman’s Nottingham IS the only reason to keep the DVD.
    <3 Rickman

      • ED

        I’ll step up to bat for The Best Friar Tuck, for that absolutely legendary soundtrack, BRIAN BLESSED and a Maid Marion of whom I have fond recollections.

        Also, Mr Kevin Costner being surprisingly willing to play the fool: he’s not a great Robin Hood, but he can nonetheless be quite a lot of fun.

  8. Lily Lotus Rose

    Oh, God. I hate this movie, even though it is beautiful. The Count of Monte Cristo is such a book and this movie—Lord, just thinking about it gets on my nerves. You’re braver than I am, Sarah, because every now and again I think about giving it another try now that I’m older, but I. JUST. CAN’T.

  9. Keith Fraser

    I remember seeing this when it came out, having loved the book a few years earlier, and being disappointed that so much was not only cut out (inevitably; it’s a pretty big book) but changed around. I’d forgotten Henry Cavill was in this!

    I’d love to see an episode on The Duelists; I remember watching it on TV, it made a big impression.

  10. A

    “The Count of Monte Christo” used to be one of my favourite books. (Maybe it still is, I haven’t re-read it for a while). As far as I know, it has exactly 0 good adaptations. I watched this one once and nothing of it stuck in my mind, other than the fact it sucked, both as an adaptation and a movie.

    I remember having high hopes for the French miniseries, being 1) French and 2) miniseries (much easier format for hefty novel with loads of plot), but I was greatly disappointed. Gerard Depardieu may be a great actor when he wants to, but he is the worst possible choice for Edmond Dantes. They also made stupid cuts to the plot (shortening both Edmond’s time in prison and time between his escape and appearance in Paris).
    And each and every adaptation, as far as I remember, makes the same mistake of trying to make Edmond Dantes into a nice guy. The Count of Monte Christo is not a nice guy. He was in his youth, he got terribly wronged, and it turned him into someone bitter, cruel and obsessed with revenge. Redeemable, maybe. But not nice.


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