Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Napoleon (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Napoleon (2023): The subject is too big to capture in a biopic. 25 years of Napoleonic Wars stuffed in a 2.5 hr movie is too much. Only history buffs will understand it all. Joaquin Phoenix's performance is disappointing. He's a coiled spring that never snaps, too mechanical, lacking passion, in both war and love. Oddly, I still liked it. B-


Joe Corcoran said...

I would say it was the second strangest movie I've seen this year as far as pacing and how it was cut (Thelma & I watched the Green Knight a couple weeks ago and that by far is one of the oddest movies I have ever seen). The battle scenes and burning of Moscow were fantastically done.

All that said, Ridley Scott's The Kingdom of Heaven director's cut is one of the best movies that I have ever watched. I am anticipating something spectacular when the "full" movie is released next year.

- Joe Corcoran

Mark Steger said...

Thanks for your review, Joe. Comparing it to "The Green Knight" is unexpected. That movie was an adaptation of a middle English Arthurian epic. Even the source material was more fantasy than historical. The movie Napoleon, on the other hand, had the look of straight history, but the interpretive liberties it took with history were many. I ascribe the odd pacing to the fact that Napoleon was so much bigger than life that if you try to squeeze his life and times into one 2.5 hour movie, it's bound to have pacing problems. One critic said it looked like "an animated Wikipedia page." Like you, I will watch the director's cut if and when it comes out. By the way, here is my review of "The Green Knight".

Joe Corcoran said...

Spoilers in this comment:

Sure, I mean obviously the source material is completely different, but the movies are both odd for different reasons. By the end of the Green Knight, we have been treated (or subjected to) 1.5 hours of an only semi-likable character trudging around England, and it feels like we've been with him the entire journey without a break. There's very little dialogue or action. It's one of the slowest movies I've ever seen. It isn't until the very end of the movie that the main character shows how much he's grown, and at least for me, I had to reflect on the movie days later to realize that the movie was just as much art as story.

For Napoleon, like you said, I feel like we're yanked forward repeatedly. We get a man who starts out as a soft-spoken, shy, intelligent hero and with just a little transition quickly becomes monstrous. The transition happens so fast though that you feel like this side of him must have been there the whole time, and it felt jarring to me. But it also means that I didn't care - I didn't care about Napoleon, Josephine, Barras, Tallyrand, etc. I didn't care that the French Republic had become a Monarchy in all but name again. The only people with any sympathy in the movie were the poor soldiers who had to fight all these battles. Maybe that's the point? I don't know.

Odd pacing doesn't have to mean bad, but in both cases, I left unsatisfied with what I'd watched though upon reflection I acknowledge that they are in their own way works of art because of the pacing.

Joe Corcoran said...

I should say, they're both odd because of the pacing, but one because the pacing was very slow and the other because it was breakneck speed. Whether that was forced because of the source material (a poem versus history) I think is up for debate, but for my part I would say in movies as in all forms of art the terms are largely the producer/writer/director's to dictate.