Napoleon by Ridley Scott
My Disappointment Is Immeasurable And My Day Is Ruined
Note to reader: The only Ridley Scott movie I have watched before this was "The Martian," which I thought was lackluster and not particularly memorable. Also, I just found out he directed the 1984 Apple Macintosh commercial, which I absolutely love for its message and storytelling. The Fortnite version is poetic as well.
Where do I even begin? I became obsessed with Napoleon over the past year or so since finding out that he was exiled to the tiny island of St. Helena after absolutely dominating Europe for over two decades with absolute control and power. He rose during the French Revolution, coming from humble Corsican origins, won the most battles of any military general in history, outwitted all his enemies but was finally defeated in his seventh war against the coalition forces, which was the rest of Europe.
It took 19th-century Europe, the continent which unequivocally ran the world in all known human metrics, decades to get rid of this little Corsican brute. His ambitions knew no boundaries. When reading "Napoleon" by Andrew Roberts, I particularly resonated with the fact that he devoured biographies in his teenage years as a young cadet at military school and dreamt of living a life as victorious as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and other great people in history.
I was excited when I first found out that Ridley Scott was making a movie about Napoleon. Where do you even begin with a movie about Napoleon, and what do you focus on when shortening one of history's greatest figures into a 2 hour 38-minute movie?
Turns out, Ridley Scott decided to focus on his love for Josephine.
When Napoleon initially fell in love with Josephine, she was a 32-year-old widow with children from a previous marriage, whose husband had just been executed. Napoleon was 26 at the time and quickly rising through the ranks. They got married within months, and even early on in their marriage, Josephine was publicly known to have cheated on Napoleon (he would do so as well, but only after Josephine).
His love letters to Josephine are famous today for his deep expression of love (read: sexual) and how candid they were. It is an interesting eye into the life of Napoleon, and he wrote his most intimate thoughts in these letters to Josephine. They are also famous for the fact that this great man of history would write love letters at night in the middle of battles to his wife, who didn't reciprocate his love. Her responses were not as passionate as Napoleon's.
Although it is said that eventually, Josephine fell in love with Napoleon, but by then it was too late as Napoleon's desire for glory involved having an heir to his throne, but Josephine was too old to bear his child. He later divorced her and remarried Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria, in 1810. This was important politically as he was marrying the daughter of the Austrian Emperor and unifying two countries that were staunch adversaries. Although this union wouldn't work out as Napoleon planned, it was a breaking point in the story of Josephine and Napoleon.
Now to the movie.
I had low expectations, but this was still disappointing.
Throughout the movie, Napoleon's relationship with Josephine is the main focus, with all his wars in the background.
Also, his love life isn't something that is particularly flattering or character-building either. The movie doesn't make any attempt to make the characters likeable and is too fast-paced to make meaningful connections with the viewers.
Napoleon is portrayed as a dumb, horny loser who had little charisma, bravery, and intellect.
Throughout the movie, there are erotic scenes involving the lovers, but they are, for lack of a better word, awkward and weird. These scenes seem rushed and fail to convey positive impressions of either character or add to the story. Instead, they only make Napoleon appear even more of a colossal loser than he is already portrayed, a portrayal that is obviously in great contrast to the real Napoleon.
The main conflict is Josephine cheating and her being unable to give him an heir, which leads to their divorce, but there is a huge lack of character building of either character, making it hard to relate or understand them. Napoleon is portrayed as a strict, stoic military officer who doesn't show emotion, while Josephine just sits there and does what he wants her to.
I am perplexed. How does one make a movie titled "Napoleon," focus on Josephine and Napoleon's love life instead, and even then doesn't make the characters likeable?
The movie should have been titled "Josephine and Napoleon" instead, and it still would not have represented them properly.
This is with me ignoring all the glaring obvious historical inaccuracies and fabrications to make this movie more 'interesting.' How does one shoot the Egyptian Pyramids with a cannon? Also, the movie makes it seem like Josephine cheating on him was the sole reason he abandoned and deserted his troops in Egypt instead of his personal ambitions to consolidate power in France amongst the unstable political environment.
Although they show that his quest for glory trumps his love for Josephine by divorcing her, it still focused on him thinking about her and visiting her regularly. While somewhat historically accurate, it's a shame that the main focus was on this love story where Ridley's portrayal of it was lackluster and boring with bits of war sprinkled on top.
The reviews said it was funny, which I guess is true if you find boomer humor and cringe stuff funny. The lack of any real character for these great historical figures was particularly striking.
Overall, I would recommend watching it to see how bad it is and if you want to spend 2 hours and 38 minutes in agony and pain at how dull it is.