Case Number 23936: Small Claims Court


PBS // 2012 // 120 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // June 7th, 2012

The Charge

"You are always training yourself to be, mind and body, as clear as crystal, and you always are, and never change; whereas I am a muddy, solitary, moping weed."

The Case

There is one rule that needs to be followed with respect to literary adaptations: Don't make films of unfinished works. Too bad the makers of The Mystery Of Edwin Drood didn't follow this advice. For you see, the source novel was written by Charles Dickens, who died with only six of the book's planned twelve installments completed. As a result, to adapt the novel, the producers need to not only adapt the source material, but also create an original conclusion that stays true to the author's style and unknown intentions. This is an impossible task.

The first half of this Masterpiece Theatre production stays very true to the first six parts that Dickens finished. John Jasper (Matthew Rhys, Titus) is the opium addicted choirmaster of Cloisterham Cathedral. His nephew, Edwin Drood (Freddie Fox, The Three Musketeers), is soon to be married to Rosa Bud (Tamzin Merchant The Tudors). However, there's a problem: Jasper is in love with Rosa. However, Jasper doesn't know that Edwin and Rosa are on the brink of breaking-off their engagement.

One night, Edwin disappears. Nobody knows where he is. No body is found. Jasper's believes that Drood has been murdered by Neville Landless (Sacha Dhawa, The History Boys), a young man from India, who (along with his twin sister) has come to study at Cloisterham. There is no evidence that Neville has done any such thing. Is Jasper the murderer? Is it someone else? What really happened? We don't know because Dickens died.

And so, it's at this point that the production veers off into uncharted territory, piecing together a story that is superficially Dickensian. However, the ending is contrived and predictable with things coming together very quickly in a melodramatic manner. Further, the ending can be telegraphed somewhat because Jasper's opium addiction is given far too much prominence. The other problem is that none of the characters are particularly easy to sympathize with. Jasper is an addict. Drood and Landless are hot-headed jerks. Rosa doesn't do much.

There are no extras.

Overall, while this is a Masterpiece Theatre production with solid acting (Rhys is excellent as John Jasper) as well as great production values and attention to detail, the story doesn't work. Only Dickens knows what he wanted. More importantly, only Dickens knew how to write what he wanted. Anything else is just speculation and an attempt to mimic Dickens.

Some may call this adaptation a noble failure. Perhaps, but it still fails.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 60

Perp Profile
Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb