Bonjour Le Outposters. I went to see Napoleon with two of my sons last night and have a hot off-the-press review for you. Let’s go!
First off let me say I am unapologetically a Ridley Scott fan. Yes, he has hits and misses and can be inconsistent, but he has far more good than bad. Ridley Scott’s good isn’t just normie good, it’s genre-defining good – Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator to name but a few. These are movies that are still the gold standard today. However, Napoleon was nowhere near this level and probably smack bang in the middle of the best of Ridley and the worst of Ridley.
The Bad – Josephine
Let’s start with the negatives. Too much of the story was about Napoleon and Josephine.
Without being a history buff, we all know that these two were lovers with a typical relationship, one that was fitting for the late 1700s or early 1800s. Bonaparte was often away for long periods of time, and while he was gone Josephine needed plenty of le pénis. This obviously caused issues and the movie clearly shows that these two simply couldn’t live without one another. The problem is, that the movie repeats these scenarios time and time again.
Yes, Ridley, I understand they loved each other and also despaired at one another. I get that Napoleon was dedicated to France first, and everything else second. I can see that he wanted an heir and Josephine was unable to provide one. And yes I appreciate that politics dictated that Bonaparte produced an heir. But to explain this over and over again, or drag it out for the 157-minute run time was unnecessary and should not have been one of the main focal points.
The Bad – Joaquin
Joaquin Phoenix is a great actor and will probably go down as a modern great, but he needs to sort his voice out. He was mumbling, quiet and to be honest, quite hard to hear and understand in a lot of scenes. My advice would be for Phoenix to lay off the fags for a bit (that’s cigarettes to you pearl-clutching Americans) and let his voice recover or he is going to be unintelligible within 10 years.
The Bad – Desaturisation
Honestly, WTF is it with Scott (and Speilberg) and their increasing and insistent need to desaturate all the colors from their movies?!
TV and movie screens are the best they have ever been, and the colors they can capture can be stunning beyond compare. Yet Napoleon was practically grey for most of the movie. Scott has taken the muting of colors to a whole new level in this movie and if I’m honest, it was not nice to look at. I kid you not when I say you couldn’t even see the facial features of some characters at certain points of the movie.
Ridley Scott has always been great at cinematography, but fuck me sideways, this was a letdown. There were some truly epic scenes – very Scott-esque – but they were so drab and depressing to look at that the gravitas of the event was, well, a bit “meh” to be honest. Yeah, that’s it, if there was a color tone to represent “meh”, Napoleon found it.
The Bad – French
The French. That’s it. Ghastly people. As an Englishman, I can say this as they are our natural enemies.
The Good – Capturing Time
Now let’s get on with the good bits.
Ridley Scott and his crew do a truly stand-up job of capturing these moments in history. The use of CGI and real-world locations used to recreate parts of France, Moscow, Waterloo,and so on during the late 18th and early 19th century is applaudable. Scott really managed to pull you into these places and times, and one could be forgiven for thinking one was using the Vatican’s Chronovisor.
And even though I have lamented Scott’s dour color palette for Napoleon, the costumes, make-up, and again, the locations of these scenes are excellent. Alas, I can only imagine what everything would look like if the color gradients were increased by 30%. I honestly believe it would have been Oscar-worthy in all the categories I mentioned above. Such a shame.
The Good – The Battles
Let’s be honest, Scott wasn’t going to let us down when it came to the battle scenes. Going back to the recreation of the times, the battles, the armies, and the weaponry they used were incredible. Scott clearly enjoyed showing the reliance on cannons and the damage they caused, you could almost smell the gunpowder! A scene with a horse and a cannon was worth the money alone.
I would happily see more of these, or longer versions in exchange for 30 minutes of Napoleon slipping Joesphine une saucisse or whining to one another.
The Good – Waterloo
The Battle Of Waterloo really was the pièce de résistance and rightfully so. Epic in grandeur and mesmerizing (to a degree – see previous comments about color), Scott captured the moment perfectly. The assembly of each army, the tactics used during battle, and even the decorum whilst it was all going on. Wellington even instructs his soldiers to ready for battle by calling: “Prepare to receive infantry”.
After each battle throughout the film, the generals and higher-ups are both dignified in victory and/or defeat. We see both sitting, congratulating and sharing a toast with one another for their efforts. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea, I’m clearly not a historian. Regardless, it was a look at a more civilized time… after they blew each other to bits with metal balls, stabbed one another with bayonets, or simply trampled each other to death by horse. It was done with class and looking fabulous!
The Good – French
Watching them get their arses handed to them by the British. Fucking glorious. Rule Brittania!
Increase the colors. Remove about 30 minutes of the repetitive Napoleon and Josephine nonsense. Give me more battle action and this could be one of Ridley Scott’s finer movies. As it stands right now, it would probably work better as an Apple TV series.
I always judge a film on re-watchability and I asked myself whether I would revisit Napoleon. Put it this way, this was one of those films that if you were channel surfing after a long day and about an hour away from bedtime, and you came across the last half of this movie, yeah you would watch it. Would I purposely seek it out to watch it in its entirety again? Non.
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