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The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

Ridley Scott’s Napoleon: Another lackluster blockbuster

Photo courtesy of Instagram @sonypictures
Napoleon movie poster

With a budget of around $200 million and a fascinating subject: one of the greatest military generals in human history, it’s safe to say that there were high expectations for Ridley Scott’s Napoleon.

However, this two and a half hour epic, starring the Academy Award Winning Actor Joaquin Phoenix, was forgettable and inherently flawed.

The movie opens following the events that led to the end of the Reign of Terror in France. Scott’s portrayal actually does this time period justice. We see France in a sea of blood and chaos, as anarchical as one could have imagined. French Queen Marie Antoinette is outed and the head of the French Revolution, Maximilien Robespierre, is exposed for his injustices. Both meet their end via the notorious guillotine, making this introduction to the film both historically accurate and attention-grabbing.

Enter Napoleon, who seems to benefit from all the chaos. The film rapidly shows Napoleon seizing a majority of the power within the country as he becomes the first consul of France. The audience is simultaneously introduced to Josephine, Napoleon’s first wife played by Vanessa Kirby.

The relationship between Josephine and Napoleon was undoubtedly important to the history of France, but the movie does not develop the two characters in the context of their relationship. There seemed to be dozens of scenes between Napoleon and his wife that showed a whole lot of nothing, really shortening my attention span. With the amount of screentime the couple shared, I expected to really get a grasp on their relationship. However, by the end of the film I was still confused about whether Josephine despised Napoleon or truly loved him.

On top of that, the relationship between the two is depicted through scenes filled with bizarre humor that made me feel flat-out uncomfortable. The humorous aspects of the film added to its identity problem. For such a dark time period in history, it was difficult to discern what kind of tone Scott was trying to achieve. The only positive thing that came out of those scenes with Josephine and Napoleon was that it detailed the abundant insecurities and doubts that the military general had, which were essential to understanding him as a person.

The other focus of the film is Napoleon’s military journey. We are shown various battles throughout the film and it is clear that this is where the majority of the movie’s budget went. The action scenes are visually pleasing and they are absolutely massive. The one major problem I found with these scenes was that they failed to demonstrate the extent of Napoleon’s military genius. He was one of the greatest military leaders of all time, and this movie failed to show how much of a mastermind he was on the battlefield and the genius of his strategy.

Napoleon did have a ton of potential and was filled with bright spots, but outright weird humor and less than mediocre writing failed to make it a film worth watching. If you are a massive history buff then you should give this movie a try, but, if not, don’t waste two and a half hours on it.

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