So last night I took myself off to my local cinema to watch Ridley Scott’s latest epic!
Now I’m going to look at this as objectively as I can and I would also suggest watching Mark Kermode’s review of the movie on You Tube.
First I shall try and look at this as a cinema goer with no knowledge whatsoever of Napoleon or his history.
On that count this is very much a story of his relationship with Josephine and perhaps that would have been a better title and focus. We learn little of Napoleon’s background and what makes him the way he is.
Scott focuses on the story that Napoleon was infatuated/ besotted with Josephine and is really a little spoilt brat. (. Another variant of the Emperor Commodus ) I think you either have to take it or leave it based upon based upon what you may know about his private life. It is touched upon of the strong bond he has with Talleyrand ( one of my favourite historical characters) but that could have been developed much better. Trying to cram the time line into just over two hours is difficult and we globe trot at a pretty frantic speed, epic images of his army in Egypt, Russia etc. and you have to listen carefully to understand why he is undertaking the wars - primarily to destroy British trade. This journey is punctuated by epic, grim, gory battles which to the uninformed will look spectacular. So as a movie to a cinema goer it was ok, but it left you feeling there were a lot of questions unanswered about Napoleon himself and why the French admired him so much - maybe the 4 hour directors cut ( to be shown on Apple TV at some point in the future) will resolve some of that!
Now form a wargamer, amateur historians point of view then I feel you will be disappointed/frustrated, the Uniforms are good in parts, I enjoyed the siege of Toulon. Even the invasion of Russia looked good but Napoleon leading a Cavalry charge at Borodino - please! But in the short time it was covered within the movie it is clear Scott puts the blame of the disaster firmly on Napoleons shoulders on his stubbornness to seek victory rather than retreat and sit out the Russian winter.
Austerlitz and camouflaging of the guns and ambushing the Allied army - it may be a good scenario to put on the Wargames table but it was pure fantasy.
Then we get to Waterloo - all done in around 10 minutes- two armies lined up the British and the French infantry deployed in slit trenches!!! Admittedly the French cavalry attack on the British squares I actually thought was better than the Waterloo film ( no anti war sentiment) although not as spectacular but it wasn’t Waterloo for sure and Napoleon leading another cavalry charge against the British as a last gamble as the Prussians arrive!! I could carry on pulling that battle to bits. From Scott’s point of view he would say he had the key elements, the rain, the march of the Prussians to the flank the need for the British to hold etc etc but Waterloo it wasn’t, and how long will it be before we see some gamers buy into Napoleonic gaming and start putting trenches on the battlefield.
So was it a waste of time? No I don’t think so, you very much have to leave everything you know on the shelf and as I said at the start I think this is more about Napoleon and his relationship with Josephine than anything else. If you’re going expecting to see another Waterloo/ War and Peace classic then you will be most frustrated.
I think the four hour version will be better but only in providing maybe some more story to Napoleon and his relationships the battles won’t get any better!
I know Robbie on Independant Wargamers Blog absolutely destroys the film but then he’s not as forgiving as me 🤪.
On a different note it’s my local Wargame show tomorrow ( Battleground at Stockton) a decent sized show, free entry and is a well organised event by Leon from Pendraken miniatures still under supported by Northern gamers for some reason which is a great pity.
Then I aim to give a hobby update and game report next week.