Napoleon - Apple Original Films Columbia Pictures
Napoleon – Apple Original Films Columbia Pictures

Napoleon Bonaparte famously once said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”. . . but someone should have interfered with Ridley Scott’s  casting of Joaquin Phoenix as the French Emperor and Vanessa Kirby as Josephine. 

Now playing in theaters, big-budgeted “Napoleon” is an epic bore. 

Because of his brilliant military strategy – from 1798 to 1815 – the “Corsican thug” scored victories at the Battle of the Pyramids, Battle of Marengo, Battle of Trafalgar, Battle of Austerlitz, Battle of Jena-Auerstadt, Battle of Rolica, Battle of Borodino, and Battle of Ligny, having seized power, crowning himself Emperor in the chaos that occurred after the French Revolution.

In the boudoir, however, diminutive Napoleon was more of a cuckold than a conqueror, since his wife Josephine had many lovers. 

Working from David Scarpa’s history-heavy script, director Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”) spends two hours, 38 minutes alternating between brutality on the battlefield and violence in the bedroom, succeeding more in the former than the latter – since he used 11 cameras, filming simultaneously for the frontline carnage.

In the titular role, Joaquin Phoenix is almost as quirky and creepy as he was as Arthur Fleck in “Joker.” He whines, sneers and – almost comically – habitually covers his ears after ordering the cannons to fire. What he lacks is charisma.

As supposedly sexually insatiable Josephine, Vanessa Kirby, despite her alluring décolletage, lacks the requisite sensuality.

Eventually, as history tells us, Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo by an Anglo-Allied Army under the Duke of Wellington (Rupert Everett) with Prussian reinforcements. He was exiled to the islands of Elba, then St. Helena.

Too bad nothing is mentioned about the European effects of the secular Napoleonic Code which eliminated traditional noble and clerical privileges and ignited changes to civil administration and law.

FYI: Two classic films – both called “Napoleon” – were made by Abel Gance (1927) and Sacha Guitry (1955). Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a film about Napoleon with Jack Nicholson & Audrey Hepburn after “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but that never came to pass. And, eventually, Apple TV+ will stream Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut which runs four-hours.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Napoleon” is a foggy 4 – what a Waterloo-ser!

The Marvels - Picture Marvel
The Marvels – Picture Marvel

In 2019, when Brie Larson first assumed the title role in “Captain Marvel,”
the sci-fi fantasy racked up a $153.4 million opening, yet – back in November – when its sequel “The Marvels” opened, it garnered only $46.1 million, making it the most disappointing opening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s history.

Shortly afterward, Marvel and Disney announced they’d scaled back the number of superhero movies scheduled for release in 2024 from three to one: “Deadpool 3,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

So what went wrong with this new female-powered action saga? It’s simply silly. Brie Larson reprises her role as the bland amnesiac U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. She’s joined by Teyonah Parris as astronaut Monica Rambeau from “WandaVision” and Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan from Disney+’s “Ms. Marvel.”

Their muddled story of interplanetary dependence begins as villainous Dar-Benn (Zarwe Ashton), Supremor of the Kree people, finds half an armlet called the Quantum Band that’s infused with a powerful energy. 

Suddenly, we’re transported to Jersey City, where teenage Kamala Khan is wearing the magical bangle as she bonds with Monica and Carol, who has vowed to end the genocidal 30-year war between the Kree and Skrulls.

Apparently this armlet allows the insipid trio to randomly swap places. These leaps are called “jump points” which are part of a teleportation network in outer space. 

There’s a planet called Aladna whose inhabitants sing instead of talk, and Capt. Marvel’s golden cat – named Goose – has a mouthful of yards-long tentacles that allow it to swallow creatures many times its own size and spit them back out intact. 

Working with techno-babbling co-screenwriters Elissa Karasik & Megan McDonnell, Nia DaCosta (“Candyman”) is not only Marvel’s youngest writer/director ever but also the first Black woman to helm a MCU franchise film. 

Plus this is the first Marvel film with a Muslim superheroine and, mercifully, it’s also the shortest MCU movie, clocking in at an hour and 45 minutes. 

FYI: Today’s teenagers were toddlers when Marvel first seized the zeitgeist. What generation wants to dig the same stuff as their parents? All this is explored in a new book called “The Reign of Marvel Studios” by Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales and Gavin Edwards.

On the Granger Gauge, “The Marvels” is an inconsistent, interminable 3, playing in theaters.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.