By Lucas Battista

Streaming on Apple TV, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim and Rupert Everett.

In 1927, the five hour and thirty-minute-long titanic masterpiece of the silent-film era, “Napoleon,” made its way onto the Paris Opera’s silver screen. It was at times hagiographic, indulgent, and historically questionable, but nonetheless, epic in every sense of the word— revolutionary as the man and time it depicts. The actor who depicted Napoleon, Albert Dieudonné, was literally buried in his costume. During the late sixties, Stanley Kubrick intended to create a contemporary depiction of the Emperor’s life, much in the vain of the 1927 version. Unfortunately, due to budgeting and issues with production, the project was scrapped, and instead, the world was given “Barry Lyndon,” an absolutely stunning period-piece, nonetheless.

It has been several decades coming for someone to pick up the sword and finish the endeavor Kubrick began so long ago. Would it be a prolific director, deeply versed in history, and able to tactfully execute its stories by picture? Nah, we got Ridley Scott. In his probably infinite conceit, he decided he was the guy for the job. Really? (1492: “Conquest of a Paradise,” “The Last Duel,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” “The Counselor,” stop it.) And boy, what a disaster he conjured. It’s terrifyingly revisionist, depressingly acted, dripping with narcissism, deaf to the subject it wraps around, missing entire sections of history—we aren’t shown Napoleon’s campaign in Italy, Trafalgar, Leipzig, the Trachenberg plan, the Napoleonic code, whatever.

The battle scenes are lame, five minutes is dedicated to the Jacobin/Montagnard’s brutal reign, it’s riddled with inaccuracies, his court, his marshals, the old guard, the intrigue around it all, is practically non-existent. Napoleon is depicted as a sniveling, weak-willed, fretless nobody who, instead of picking up the crown from the gutter, happened to be in the right place when it fell from a tree and onto his head. Joaquin Phoenix, who is about as magnetic as plastic, is far too old, Vanessa Kirby far too young. Don’t even get me started on the sex scenes, I wish I could get my time back. That is why I write this review dear reader, so that you don’t have to view this miserable, over-produced, under-directed anti-historical monument to a late retirement.

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