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The School Newspaper of Franklin High School

Pantherbook

The School Newspaper of Franklin High School

Pantherbook

Nothing Short of Terrible: A “Napoleon” Movie Review

The new film from Ridley Scott fails to reach great heights.
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Napoleon (2019 Academy Award winner Joaquin Phoenix) leads his men on the battlefield. Accessed as part of the Napoleon press kit.

The long anticipated historical war drama Napoleon finally hit theaters on November 22 and with it came adoration, outrage, and disappointment. It makes sense there would be mixed reviews (like there is for most movies) however, Napoleon went through a rollercoaster of excitement and disgust.

In January of 2021, Napoleon was first announced. The hype was almost immediate as audiences could not wait to see one of history’s most iconic figures take the big screen. Although everyone’s favorite little general has been featured all ready in over 100 different screen adaptations, this time it was different. The director to take charge of this 130 million dollar project was none other than Ridley Scott. The critically acclaimed director, best known for his masterpieces Alien (1979), Gladiator (2000), and Blade Runner (1982) stirred up expectations for the movie. Additionally, Joaquin Phoenix was announced to take upon the infamous role of Napoleon Bonaparte. Joaquin Phoenix is known for his fantastic roles as Commodus in Gladiator (2000), the Joker in Joker (2019), and Theodore Twombly in Her (2013). With Ridley Scott’s directing, Joaquin Phoenix’s acting, and the incredible story of Napoleon Bonaparte to show off on the big screen, the movie was geared for massive success… until it wasn’t.

Your dad’s favorite movie of the year

— Regal Cinemas

The Controversy: 

Initially most people were on board with Ridley Scott’s directing of Napoleon, but soon skeptics would begin to pick up on the director’s dismissive attitude towards history and overall disrespect for Napoleon. The first little piece of controversy started when Ridley Scott compared Napoleon to Hitler on one of his panel interviews stirring up a bit of debate, but that was only the beginning. Early viewing left French critics claiming that the movie was “pro-British and anti-French” because the British director chose to focus on the French army’s failures under Napoleon meanwhile showing the British’s success. Ridley’s response: “The French don’t even like themselves.” It seems the two nations still might have some beef against one another. Anyways, a lot of hate stemmed from when Dan Snow, a historian, asked Scott about how he is being criticized for historical inaccuracy and Scott replied “How do you know, were you there? No? Well shut the ____ up then.” Then the director continued to imply that most of the records about Napoleon were not to be taken seriously because “Napoleon had 400 books written about him… the first one maybe is most accurate, by the time you get to the 399th a lot of it is speculation.” Many translated this as Scott being completely ignorant to history and probably taking a ton of creative liberty with Napoleon’s story. This diminished many history buffs’ excitement tremendously… and it only got worse. The official trailer dropped on November 20th showing Napoleon firing cannons upon the Great Pyramids of Giza, completely out of character for the French leader and highly unlikely to have happened. When asked about this, Scott said “I don’t know if he did that, but it was a fast way of saying he took Egypt.” Somehow Napoleon’s hype had gone from being through the roof, to becoming a disgrace to history.

Nap(oleon)

— 2 Star Review

My Review: 

Extreme disappointment was my initial reaction to this movie. Although I will say it had very well done visuals (set and camera wise) and I was impressed by the large scale battle scenes, the movie failed to capture Napoleon as the cunning general that he was and instead opted to make him an awkward loser. Most, if not the entirety, of the movie is about Napoleon’s mistakes and complications in his very messed up love life. In any movie the audience needs somebody to root for, sometimes it can be a hero, someone relatable, or even a captivating villain. It would be reasonable to assume that in the movie titled Napoleon that the audience would want to root for Napoleon, however the movie focuses so much on Napoleon’s awkwardness, depression, and defeat that there seems to be no platform to enjoy the main character. If Ridley Scott’s goal was to reveal the tragedy and inner discourse of Napoleon that a lot of people don’t see, he succeeded, but failed to uphold any respect to the brilliance that Napoleon had. I recognize the director’s attempts to showcase this historical figure in a different light, however I believe that it was the wrong choice for a highly anticipated blockbuster movie that had a bunch of history buffs excited to see their admired short general take over Europe. I would have, and I’m sure others would have as well, rather seen the rise of a low ranking soldier use his groundbreaking strategic mind to climb the ranks into becoming the emperor of France only to let his ambition for power and ego sink him down until he is a man who lost everything. There can still be Napoleon’s downfall included, but there needs to be scenes of triumph and success to not only accurately interpret who Napoleon was, but also to add more depth and emotion to his not so glorious end. Overall, I would give this movie a 3 out of 5 stars because of its low entertainment, disappointment, and shameful portrayal of one of history’s greatest figures

 

About the Contributor
Sam Shoneman, Writer
Sam Shoneman is a junior at Franklin High School and has participated in Pantherbook for two years now. He loves writing reviews and critiques for all the upcoming movies. Sam has been with the Franklin track team since his freshman year, but he also is a competitive fencer outside of school. Along with watching movies, Sam enjoys skiing, watching football, and writing in his free time. This year, he looks forward to branching out to different topics of writing, but also will continue to post movie reviews for all the new big hits!