Napoleon Flew Too Close to the Sun

Icarus was not alone in overestimating himself because Napoleon is right beside him. Widely regarded as one of if not the greatest general with legendary feats in mankind’s history, Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix) is an individual whose achievements would be overwhelming for a movie as a medium to cover while keeping it entertaining. Yet, here we are now, with a movie by director Ridley Scott armed with a complete disregard towards details in being historically accurate resulting in Napoleon flying too close to the sun not just as a historical figure but also as a movie.

In life, Napoleon Bonaparte is remembered as a figure who came into power during a massive political and social crisis post French revolution and successfully resolved a multitude of problems within a year. In the movie Napoleon, the general turned monarch is portrayed as a buffoon with an inflated ego constantly dancing in the palm of his wife, Josephine Bonaparte (Vanessa Kirby) for her attention. While history often agrees that Napoleon’s decisions throughout his military and political career were motivated by pride and ego, it also agrees that he made decisions for the greater benefits of his country. Although the movie tried but failed to fully paint the picture of Bonaparte making justified political and military decisions for France, it succeeded in portraying him as a narcissist by constantly shouting at others to remind them of his greatness.

With over 80 battles spanned into multiple campaigns throughout his lifetime, the movie basically catapulted Napoleon through various stages of his life, be it leading military campaigns or dealing with political and family affairs in France. Director Ridley Scott treated the movie’s pacing like a college student with their powerpoint presentation and the only difference is one has a 158 minutes runtime. Ultimately, Scott failed to portray any character progression, display the dominant power of France throughout Europe or even educate the audiences with history.

Even with just the meagre amount of campaigns making into the movie, Battle of Austerlitz and Battle of Waterloo were the only ones that scraped through a showcase of Napoleon’s grandiose force that history made it out to be while only the former managed to capture the tactical genius of the general. While both of these battles did provide a display of Napoleon’s decision-making, it is also unfortunately riddled with inaccuracies and made up scenarios purely to remind us that this movie is in fact in the epic genre.

While the feat throughout Napoleon’s rise to power throughout the French Revolution and the Napoleonic War that follows will forever be remembered in history, no wars were won by a single man. Throughout this time period, figures such as Marshal Louis-Nicholas Davout (Youssef Kerkour) and Marshal Michel Ney (John Hollingworth) made history in their assistance for various victories, though they did make appearances in the movie, their presences and names were barely felt or remembered. Napoleon did include the appearance of every necessary figure in their specific key moments yet most if not all were treated as an extra barely worth remembering.

History will and still remembers the legacy of Napoleon which includes spreading the concept of modern civil code that is still in used up to this day, the push for French nationalism and many more that a movie review would not be able to fully cover while most of us viewers will remember Napoleon movie as a comedy for audiences who do not care about historical accuracies or movie plot in general.