Master director Ridley Scott once again makes theaters shake with historic battles. But is it worth going to the “Napoleon” cinema?
If Ridley Scott invites you into a historical epic, film fans willingly follow its call. With works such as “Gladiator”, “Kingdom of Heaven” and, more recently, “The Last Duel”, the director has finally earned a reputation as a master of historical battle scenes. If he stars in “Gladiator” again Joaquim Phoenix “The Crown” star works together Vanessa Kirby managed to secure and with their help stage the life of the famous French emperor and general Napoleon Bonaparte – yes, nothing can go wrong, right?
At the November 23, 2023 it simply starts with the name “Napoleon” The named film will be shown in German cinemas before being streamed exclusively on Apple TV + some time later. After all, exorbitant budgets are only available on streaming services these days, unless you’re dealing with a franchise film. Fortunately, Apple opened its wallet because Ridley Scott really knew how to use the $200 million that his last work would have cost (via Variety). The trailers have already proven this:
Ridley Scott once again delivers the best battle scenes
“Napoleon” follows the title character through 22 truly turbulent years, in which he rose from artillery lieutenant to French emperor and, for a time, the most powerful man in Europe. Scott didn’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of his strengths and his budget: several things await you in the film gigantic battle scenes, which impress with its precise and exciting production – and at the same time, alongside all the cinematographic splendor, it does not ignore the cruelty. When cannonballs and gunfire rain down on armies, and even on unarmed civilians, the bloody and horrific result is clear.
But all the noise of battle and campaigns of conquest are just one facet of “Napoleon.” The film also brings to life the relationship between the emperor and his empress Joséphine shockingly toxic and dysfunctional way. In these soaring scenes from the imperial wedding, Vanessa Kirby and Joaquin Phoenix show why they are among the most sought-after actors of our time. Her characters enter an unhealthy emotional dependence early on, although for obviously different reasons: above all, Joséphine needs Napoleon’s social status and financial resources. He, in turn, is driven by a seemingly childish desire to possess and control his wife; just for you, of course.
The emotionally immature side of its main character will certainly be the biggest surprise in “Napoleão”. Because where other biopics often aim for pathos, Ridley Scott’s work feels like one in many moments eloquent comedy. The historically fraught general is repeatedly reduced to a boorish, playful figure who exposes himself to ridicule precisely because of his overly masculine behavior. At the same time, the period film shows how ridiculous and harmful it was that men had the say at the time and women were reduced to their ability to give birth. Not bad for an 85 year old man white Man, Mr. Scott!
“Napoleon” is simply too epic
As successful as all these comic interludes are at Napoleon’s expense, they do detract from the film from time to time. In some places the question arises as to why this particular man was able to achieve such power. We don’t really see the tactical genius that Napoleon was, by all accounts, in action until halfway through the film, when he uses some brilliant tricks to secure a magnificent victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. However, it does not matter that Napoleon was also quite capable as a statesman and lifted France, which was practically ruined financially, out of its misery.
This is probably “Napoleon”’s biggest weakness: The film simply doesn’t last long enough. Even the running time of 158 minutes is not enough for Ridley Scott to be able to dance well at all the chosen weddings. The marriage to Joséphine, the characterization and biography of Napoleon himself, the political developments and the numerous battles make this work overflowing, to say the least. This makes it look out of focus, even out of shape.
Fortunately, there’s a solution in sight: Ridley Scott will also have one on Apple TV+ at an as-yet-unknown date Director’s cut publish – which according to its statement on for four hours it could be. I only went to the “Napoleon” screening because of this view with a wish: After the first viewing, I wish I still had enough interest in this work to find the four-hour version compelling. The theatrical version definitely lived up to that hope, especially since Scott also promised that his director’s cut will give more space to Vanessa Kirby’s Joséphine (via Empire), which the actress and we as viewers definitely deserve.
However, I can only encourage you to see “Napoleon” in the cinema: the epic battle scenes, costumes and set design deserve to be experienced on the biggest screen possible. In a perfect world, the four-hour version would have been released immediately, but perhaps Apple will be convinced by such a campaign if it proves so successful. But then with a proper bathroom break, please.
Do you know the history of historical films well? To understand:
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