Help support TMP

"My Review of Ridley Scott's Napoleon" Topic

131 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

In order to respect possible copyright issues, when quoting from a book or article, please quote no more than three paragraphs.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Blogs of War Message Board

Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board

Back to the Napoleonic Media Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Ruleset

Featured Showcase Article

Featured Workbench Article

Cleopatra & L'Ocean

Monkey Hanger Fezian's motivation to paint Napoleonic ships returns!

Featured Profile Article

Featured Book Review

7,586 hits since 22 Nov 2023
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Pages: 1 2 3 

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2023 4:50 p.m. PST

There are spoilers – at least from a wargamer's perspective.


Personal logo Stosstruppen Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2023 4:56 p.m. PST

I'll wait till it goes to streaming….

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2023 5:04 p.m. PST

Had hoped for better – thanks for sharing your view

SBminisguy22 Nov 2023 5:27 p.m. PST

I found the movie visually appealing, and Ridley Scott spent a lot of screen time building a spectacle, including faithfully reconstructing some famous paintings of Napoleon within the movie.


He never painted a picture of who Napoleon was. For a movie about Napoleon I never got a sense of what motivated him, and who he was as a person. Joaquin River Phoenix delivered a very inconsistent performance as Napoleon -- sometimes showing a driven man, but many other times a sort of buffoonish clown who acted as a Mama's boy and was infatuated with Josephine. Maybe they should have called it "Josephine and Napoleon" because the elevate her into being the central pillar of his life, who seemed to simple flash a pair, as it were, and he came running. For example, they depict Napoleon leaving the Egyptian Campaign because he hears she's cheating on him in Paris. They even have him decide to leave exile in Elba and return because….Josephine is sick and he misses her. Josephine gets lots of screen time.

The battles are very poorly choreographed -- and I'm not talking about "oh, that guy has the wrong buttons for an 1807 campaign." No, I mean there's almost no effort made to depict a battle of the Napoleonic period, and they don't look epic. Maybe Ridley Scott decided to not use much in the way of CGI on the battles -- he SHOULD HAVE. The "Battles" may show long shots of troops via CGI, but once the action starts they are more like skirmishes with maybe a few hundred guys, or even maybe a thousand guys, per side though he does do lots and lots of cannon scenes. 'cause Napoleon liked cannons. They don't use Napoleonic tactics, and do silly things liketroops digging in and making concealed positions that they then jump out of to surprise the enemy. And while the soldiers may start off in a simple formation, then they just all run at each other and engage in a big rugby scrum, that kind of thing. And other than Toulon, at the start of the movie that gave me some hope where Napoleon *actually did* get stuck right into the fighting, they depict Napoleon charging about at Borodino and Waterloo hacking down soldiers with his sword. What?!?

So. Visually appealing, great costumes. No consistent feel for who Napoleon was, poorly choreographed battles and not very many of them, and a weird depiction of Napoleon and Josephine. That's my take on it.

14Bore22 Nov 2023 6:05 p.m. PST

Going Sunday so will wait to read it. Not a Napoleon Fan Boy so isn't going to break my heart as long as it's entertaining

Perris070722 Nov 2023 6:22 p.m. PST

Hollywood writers and actors should have stayed on strike. I am not wasting another cent on going to a movie to support the crap they are doling out. I would rather support the YouTubers who point out all the ridiculous flaws in the movies than the actual movies themselves. Last movie I went to in the theater was Midway. My grandpa was on the USS Yorktown, so I felt I had to go.

Grattan54 Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2023 7:38 p.m. PST

Sigh. I will wait for it to go on streaming as well.

42flanker23 Nov 2023 12:39 a.m. PST

"We see the 'whiff of grapeshot" Napoleon gave to the royalists in 1795 but its significance is left hanging and the memorable phrase is never used.."

That would probably be because the phrase was coined circa 1837 by the Scots historian Thomas Carlyle in his history of the French revolution published in that year.

The full passage reads:
"In old Broglie's time, six years ago, this Whiff of Grapeshot was promised; but it could not be given then, could not have profited then. Now, however, the time is come for it, and the man; and behold, you have it; and the thing we specifically call French Revolution is blown into space by it, and become a thing that was!"

The reference is to the Comte de Broglie, who in the early days of the revolution was reputed to have pronounced "Pour la canaille, il faut mitraille" – which might loosely be translated as 'For the mob, only grapeshot will serve.'

The use of the word 'whiff' may be Carlyle's droll way of suggesting that it only took a token salvo to do the job.

Wargamorium23 Nov 2023 12:55 a.m. PST

An interesting review thank you. I think you expect too much from Hollywood though. I do not plan to watch this film – I am too much of a purist.

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2023 2:07 a.m. PST

Good reviews. It would seem that the trailers were true to the spirit of the film and all the errors spotted therein. Oh well, there's always Spielberg. Having said that I will be going to the cinema to watch this. My wife, who cares little 'whether General Lasalle ate his breakfast or led light cavalry' wants to go too. It will be interesting to see her take on the film.

4th Cuirassier23 Nov 2023 3:04 a.m. PST

I'm looking forward to seeing Boney personally capturing the Grand Redoubt at Leipzig. As long as they nail that accurately I can live with the other errors.

By the way, what colour are the bricoles and who plays Messrs Derselbe and Ibid?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2023 7:04 a.m. PST

Thank you, Flashman, SBMinis. I am saddened but not surprised. It was too big a bite, and Scott's contempt for history, shown in the interviews, didn't help. A pity. I bet he could have done a very nice job on a single event in the life.

And nothing he has done with this movie can diminish The Duelists.

rustymusket23 Nov 2023 8:01 a.m. PST

Thanks for the review. My daughter is taking me to see it next week for my birthday, so I am putting off reading about it until after I see it so as to try not to begin with a bias.

Double G23 Nov 2023 8:37 a.m. PST

Thanks for the review………..

"Cossacks had what looked like carriage-less mortars instead of licornes?"

No licornes?

That's it; I'm out………………

Grattan54 Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2023 9:21 a.m. PST

Trying to do his whole life in one movie was way too much. Either do his early life, up to where he crowned himself emperor, or do it from his invasion of Russia to his defeat at Waterloo.

Silurian23 Nov 2023 10:08 a.m. PST

Exactly Grattan54. Take a leaf out of Peter Jackson's book.

I'm pretty good at suspending belief and expected the inaccuracies and so on, but still came away a little disappointed.

PzGeneral23 Nov 2023 10:17 a.m. PST

You do realize that when the film is sent to streaming over 90 minutes of footage will be added….


David Manley23 Nov 2023 12:18 p.m. PST

A friend has seen it, described it as "Napoleonic Braveheart" :)

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2023 1:36 p.m. PST

It would be interesting to see the original version, which I am told is 4 hours long – one wonders what hit the cutting room floor

Georg Buechner23 Nov 2023 1:51 p.m. PST

Should just do it as three movies really and with different actors playing Napoleon in each , I think his life and indeed how distinctly he changed in appearance and mood over the period would make this approach very suitable

14Bore23 Nov 2023 4:22 p.m. PST

Well change of plans looks like Saturday evening I am going to.

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2023 4:54 p.m. PST

Good point on the 'director's cut'. That made a big difference to 'Kingdom of Heaven'. On the other hand, someone should point out to Sir Ridley that he should stop relying on 'the cut' to maintain his reputation.

Perris070723 Nov 2023 8:04 p.m. PST

If it was going to be an action movie, then why not cast Tom Cruise? He's the right height. MI – Napoleon.

Trajanus24 Nov 2023 8:35 a.m. PST

Am I going? Thought about it, decided against it.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2023 8:43 a.m. PST

FYI, I ran through the "top critics" on Rotten Tomatoes. None of them seemed to feel there was anything wrong with the battle scenes--which speaks both to their educations, and to the lack of any urge to brush up on the period before reviewing a historical film about a great general.

We live in the Age of Kornbluth, and the only reason to get historical fiction right is personal integrity. The audience simply doesn't know or care.

Escapee Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2023 9:03 a.m. PST

Cruise could readily capture the soaring ego and may be the right height, but really, who could have played this role? Lawrence of Arabia was the breakout for Peter O'Toole, who had plenty of charisma. Surely charisma is a defining characteristic here. There must be others who might have O'Tooled this role. From the trailer, I don't get it.

Helpful reviews. The historical errors may go too far here, and it sounds like Phoenix cannot drag the film above and beyond these deficiencies. I can take a lot of historical license…Sharpe is a good example, good stories, charismatic lead, bad guys everywhere. The scale works even when a battle has a couple of dozen French attacking because it's symbolic. It's the character we are compelled to follow.

So, no Leipzig, as usual. There is not even a modern readable narrative history about this mighty clash. Its importance, in fact all of 1813, is so routinely underrated that I have all but given up. Instead, yet another portrayal of Waterloo and this one sounds pretty dodgy.

If the full cut adds 90 minutes, it does not add much hope. But I will watch for the spectacle, and for the possibility of occasionally being transported back to those times. I have read that the hats are great.

Thank you Flashman and SB!

4th Cuirassier24 Nov 2023 9:46 a.m. PST

I'm seeing it tonight so will reserve judgement until then, but it sounds like my previous pessimism was well placed ("any film about Napoleon from this man is going to be an utter, utter stinker"; "It's going to be Pearl Harbor with horses")

TMP link

Nine pound round24 Nov 2023 9:56 a.m. PST

Deer season opens tomorrow so I am headed for the mountains, but looking forward to reading all the reviews. They might be better than the movie.

Oliver Schmidt24 Nov 2023 10:08 a.m. PST

The climax of the battle of Waterloo in this movie reminded me of the famous reenactment of the battle of Pearl Harbor:

YouTube link

Trajanus24 Nov 2023 11:15 a.m. PST

"It's going to be Pearl Harbor with horses"

Well good luck with that. Its the only movie I have walked out on in my life! 🤣

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2023 12:11 p.m. PST

This Guardian reviewer was pretty harsh: link

-- but I read that an earlier Guardian reviewer gave it five stars. Weird. Maybe the Guardian is just in CYA mode.

SBminisguy24 Nov 2023 2:17 p.m. PST

Oliver Schmidt+1 ROFLMAO! Ridley Scott also used a transition graphic between segments that looked like parchment with the year written in a Quill pen style. When the French Revolution was being depicted early in the movie, the transition graphic flashed up on the screen with "1789."

One of the guys in my group quipped, "Later, 1789" and then another laughed and quipped "Later that night, 1789" great timing! So funny! Oh, if you don't get the reference, it's from Mel Brooks' "History of the World Part I" movie and they had a segment on the French Revolution, and he was making fun of this production style by using silly dates like "Still 1789" and so on.

GeorgBuchner24 Nov 2023 4:50 p.m. PST

hmm i was keen to see it in the theaters but now i just don't feel like i could care enough to go a movie theater and then just be made to feel like a flat-cola brained mouthbreather

i am sick of the total ignorance in film world of 1813, and well really everything from 1806 up to then – make a movie of Patrick Rambaud's "The Battle" all about Wagram

Hollywood just has no imagination and no willingness to step outside the same old cliches really when it comes to history.

Louis XIV24 Nov 2023 5:21 p.m. PST

I saw it with the family. I told them that essential Napoleon would be: Austerlitz, Borodino, Moscow and Waterloo and that's what we got. My wife thought the Josephine angle was pretty good but I got the sense the film tried to be a war movie as well and struggled to mix the two. Obviously it needed more time but I am sick of 3+ hour movies.

Movie was a B+ and the Soundtrack A-. The battles were not maneuver accurate but good enough for this gamer.

4th Cuirassier24 Nov 2023 5:53 p.m. PST

I'd give it 2/10. Josephine was portrayed as a mere beguiling slapper, Napoleon as a buffoon with no discernible talents at all. The uniformology was good, the battles nonsensical, and the Prussians arrived from the wrong direction.

Perris070724 Nov 2023 8:43 p.m. PST

SBminisguy – the movie that you are referring to is actually "Start the Revolution Without Me!" starring Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland. It has some hilarious moments with the portrayal of the Corsican Brothers. Not sure who directed it, but it definitely has a Mel Brooks feel to it. If you haven't seen it and want some great laughs check it out. Oh, and Orson Welles as the narrator.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2023 10:16 p.m. PST

Ganz "Napoleon", Steigers "Waterloo", Holm's "Napoleon in Love," and all the Sharpes. Do we really need another version. half-a** production at that?

Yes, various War and Peace.

I have seen all the others, so I guess I will bite the bullet and at least enjoy the popcorn.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2023 1:01 a.m. PST

I have always said, the only person that can pull something like this off is Peter Jackson.

Escapee Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2023 12:45 p.m. PST

With hundreds of thousands of Russians and Austrians marching on him, a Napoleon victory at Waterloo would have delayed the end. A highly dramatic postscript and a brutal battle, but the sheer massive scale of Leipzig, Borodino, or Wagram might have provided a more incisive picture of Napoleon's amazing achievements and failures much nearer the height of his powers. His supporting ensemble of skilled and colorful commanders were mostly gone by Waterloo, but would be great subplots on their own.

I second Rimbaud's "The Battle" as a great drama with film potential. But alas, Waterloo is a commercial necessity.

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2023 2:39 p.m. PST

Where did Ney get that moustache from?

14Bore25 Nov 2023 7:25 p.m. PST

Just got back from seeing it.
Best part was thought Josephine character was very good
Napoleon was good
Wellington was bad
Battles were horrible

14Bore25 Nov 2023 7:31 p.m. PST

Flashman's critic is very good, can't add anything off hand

BigfootLover25 Nov 2023 9:38 p.m. PST

I hated the Waterloo battle scenes. No Hougoumont, no La Haye Sainte, and I was aghast when Wellington looked and saw the Prussians arriving…from the wrong side of the battlefield!

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2023 11:37 p.m. PST

Bud Yorkin


42flanker26 Nov 2023 2:07 a.m. PST

"Wellington was bad"

God bless him, but is not quite the toff that Hollywood believes him to be. But then, nor was Wellington.

14Bore26 Nov 2023 7:46 a.m. PST

I certainly could have outlined a better Waterloo and done a better job finishing the movie with their storyline.

arthur181526 Nov 2023 7:49 a.m. PST

Saw it yesterday. Exceeded even my expectations – after reading reviews and watching the trailer – of awfulness.

Even the Waterloo episode of the television series Sharpe was truer to the historical battle – and far cheaper to produce.

Soldiers on both sides leaping out of trenches – I heard someone shout "Over the top!" as if it was WWI – Napoleon leading a cavalry attack at the end of the battle. Utter nonsense, and unworthy of its subject.

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP26 Nov 2023 1:44 p.m. PST

I watched History Hit's interview with Sir Ridley last week and what filled my heart with dread was his attitude toward historicity and historiography. Regarding the former, his response to many criticisms is literally to ask "were you there?". That is a fair approach to details about which we have little or no information, e.g. intimate conversations, but obviously is ludicrous when it flies in the face of documented evidence. His thoughts on historiography lean heavily on the notion that whatever is recorded closest to the event is the most accurate and subsequent analyses stray further and further from the "truth". By this measure, Napoleon's bulletins are given considerable weight despite their contemporary reputation as propaganda.

14Bore26 Nov 2023 1:58 p.m. PST

So history is what I make it is, nothing more. Nothing less.

(rolls eyes from one who wants facings and pompoms correct)

4th Cuirassier26 Nov 2023 2:22 p.m. PST

Ridley Scott and humility are mutual strangers.

Pages: 1 2 3