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'Napoleon' is a hit with the box office, but not so much with critics

Image Credit: Apple

Ridley Scott and David Scarpa's "Napoleon" for Apple TV+ has been praised as a masterpiece and mocked as a joke, but its early Thanksgiving opening saw it beat "Killers of the Flower Moon" at the box office.

"Napoleon" has just begun its theatrical run and according to Deadline has done well. For the Thanksgiving preview screenings, "Napoleon" took in $3 million, ahead of the $2.6 million that "Flower Moon" got.

With screenings beginning at 3 p.m. local time in selected theaters across the country, "Napoleon" easily beat Disney's "Wish," which earned $2.3 million.

However, "Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" beat all other comers with a November 21, 2023, preview earning $6.5M. That's actually a 24% increase on its screenings for November 20, 2023.

Box office vs critical success

"Napoleon" is not doing so well with critics — except when it is. The Guardian newspaper, for instance, awarded it five stars and said it was a "thrilling biopic." Except separately, the same publication says its inaccuracies mean the film is a travesty.

And another reviewer in The Guardian, Wendy Ide, says the film "only fully comes alive on the battlefield." Praising the performances and the spectacle, she gives the film three stars.

Currently RottenTomatoes shows the film having a 65% approval rating, based on 132 reviews.

It could well be French reviews that are pulling it down. As first collated by BBC News, French critics have thoroughly taken against the film, its characters, and it's cavalier attitude to historical accuracy.

Le Figaro, for instance, says the film should be renamed "Barbie and Ken under the Empire." French GQ said it was "deeply clumsy, unnatural and unintentionally funny" to see French soldiers in 1793 shouting "Vive La France" with American accents.

Then a Napoleon biographer hasn't just disagree with its accuracy, Patrice Gueniffey says that it is a "very anti-French and very pro-British" movie.

Ridley Scott's response to criticism

Director Ridley Scott, though, has been at best sanguine about France's response, and at worst has sworn at critics.

"The French don't even like themselves" Scott said in one of his more polite moments. "The audience that I showed it to in Paris, they loved it."

Elsewhere, Scott has countered criticism of historical accuracy by asking if the accuser was there in 1793, and telling them to shut up, then.

Apple has not announced a streaming date for the film. However, Ridley Scott has said that he hopes Apple TV+ will stream an extended version.