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Updated: Dec 15, 2023

By Jay Li Dec. 14, 2023

We all know that one person with a “Napoleon complex”: that pathetic, stumpy and unstable man with a fragile ego trying to compensate for their physical shortcomings with overly aggressive behavior. “Napoleon” puts the epitome of those men onto the big screen with a surprisingly comedic humiliation and deconstruction of the life of the famed French emperor.

Instead of emphasizing the French general’s military and political achievements, “Napoleon” tells Bonaparte’s story through the lens of his relationship with his wife Josephine, replacing the image of an invincible conqueror with that of an uptight manchild. Jabbing at Bonaparte’s insecurity and height, “Napoleon” brings an unexpectedly humorous element to interpersonal scenes that had otherwise plain dialogue.

However, by far the most entertaining parts of “Napoleon” are Director Ridley Scott’s awe-inspiring recreations of Napoleonic battles; from the iconic cavalry charge at Waterloo to the icy invasion of Austerlitz to the onslaughts of his Egypt campaign, “Napoleon’s” grand military set pieces are both massive in scale and viscerally gruesome in detail, making them thrilling to watch.

Yet, much like Bonaparte himself, “Napoleon” is far from perfect: the galloping cavalry charge pace maintained during battle sequences often abruptly slows to a trot when exploring the emperor’s personal life with uninteresting dialogue. This creates an inconsistent pace throughout the movie that becomes most evident when the French general’s famous conquest of Italy is glossed over in a brief voiceover to make room for political drama—which proves far less engaging. Moreover, because it attempts to cover Bonaparte’s three-decade-long military career in a constricting three-hour runtime, the movie’s pacing feels incredibly rushed. Those unfamiliar with Bonaparte’s history—as I myself was—may find it difficult to follow.

While “Napoleon” remains a visual spectacle thanks to Scott's signature epic battle scenes, the film is held back by its uneven pacing and lackluster dialogue. It ultimately left me disappointed with the narrative but looking forward to Scott’s four-hour director’s cut, which I hope will allow the story to unfold with the depth it deserves.


About the Contributors

Jay Li

Opinions editor

Jay Li is a junior at Leland High school and the Opinions Page Editor for the Charger Account. During his free time, he enjoys playing game pigeon and hanging out with his friends and family.

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