"Napoleon," has made a triumphant debut at the French box office, despite facing harsh criticism from some of France's most prominent critics. This unexpected box office success, reported by Comscore France, saw the film garner an impressive €868,000 (approximately $946,000) from its widespread release across approximately 120,000 screens on its opening day, Wednesday, 22 November.
"Napoleon," directed by the acclaimed 85-year-old filmmaker known for "Gladiator," features Joaquin Phoenix in a captivating portrayal of the 19th-century French emperor. The film delves into the gripping true story of Napoleon Bonaparte's meteoric rise to power and his intense relationship with Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, played by Vanessa Kirby.
Polarized Critical Reception
However, the film's reception has been polarizing. Some critics have praised it as a "masterpiece" for its historical depiction, while others have criticized its accuracy. This divisiveness peaked when Scott, known for his outspoken nature, reacted sharply to negative reviews from notable French publications like Le Figaro, Le Point, and GQ France.
In particular, GQ France's critique labeled the film as "clumsy" and "unintentionally funny," especially for scenes where French soldiers yell "Vive La France" in American accents. In a recent interview with BBC News, Scott's response to these critiques was candid, stating, "The French don’t even like themselves," although clarifying that this comment was not directed towards all French individuals.
He noted that a Paris audience had greatly appreciated the film. Adding to the controversy, historian Dan Snow highlighted perceived historical inaccuracies in a viral TikTok video. He pointed out discrepancies such as the portrayal of Napoleon's background and inaccuracies surrounding his actions at the Battle of the Pyramids and Marie-Antoinette's depiction.
Joaquin Phoenix, in an interview with Empire, described "Napoleon" as an "experience told through Ridley’s eyes," suggesting that those seeking historical precision might need to conduct their own research. Interestingly, Scott has indicated that the theatrical version of "Napoleon" is not the final cut.
Echoing his approach with the 2005 epic "Kingdom of Heaven," starring Orlando Bloom, Scott has prepared an extended cut that will add an additional 110 minutes to the already 158-minute film. Currently showing in cinemas, "Napoleon" is set for a subsequent release on Apple TV+ following its theatrical run, offering audiences a chance to witness this controversial yet captivating depiction of one of history's most renowned figures.