You’re Never Going To See Ridley Scott’s Napoleon Director’s Cut

By Robert Scucci | Published

Fans of Ridley Scott’s Napoleon have been eagerly waiting for the lengthy director’s cut of the film that was announced this past August. Despite the anticipation, Apple – who produced and financed the film – has announced that the over-four-hour version of the Joaquin Phoenix-starring film won’t be seeing the light of day anytime soon.

Only Napoleon Theatrical Cut

This is not to say that the updated version of the film will not get a proper release, but for the foreseeable future, we’ll probably only be able to stream the 158-minute theatrical cut on Apple TV+.

Though Ridley Scott asserts that his director’s cut of Napoleon is nothing short of fantastic, the film’s writer, David Scarpa, is happy with the theatrical cut.

Only A Series Is Worthy?

joaquin phoenix

He suggested that the theatrical cut of Napoleon already tells the concise story that viewers are interested in. Scarpa has good reason to believe that the only way to explore Napoleon Bonaparte’s life and times thoroughly would be through a long-running series, not a feature-length film.

According to Scarpa, even if such a series existed, the narrative would still feel incomplete, given how much historical context needs to be covered.

Wildly Different Tone?

joaquin phoenix napoleon Ridley Scott Napoleon

During a recent interview with IndieWire, Scarpa speculated that Ridley Scott’s extended version of Napoleon would probably have a wildly different narrative tone compared to the theatrical cut that we’re familiar with.

During the same interview, Scarpa mentioned that most films, including Napoleon, are better served by a shorter run-time, and that the historical epic “gained a lot through the editing.” But still, with so much extra footage known to exist, it’d be a shame if the director’s cut gets shelved indefinitely.

Napoleon At The Box Office

Ridley Scott Napoleon

As for why Apple decided to not move forward with distributing Ridley Scott’s cut of Napoleon, the film’s box office numbers could very well be one of the contributing factors.

Napoleon had a reported production budget of $200 million, and earned only $221 million. Once you factor in the cost of promotion and distribution, Napoleon would have had to pull in close to $600 million at the box office in order for the title to break even and turn a profit.

In other words, distributing Ridley Scott’s much longer version of Napoleon will come with a cost that won’t necessarily yield a favorable return, financially speaking.

Just Average Reviews

Ridley Scott Napoleon

Ridley Scott’s Napoleon was also met with average reviews upon its theatrical release, garnering a 58 percent critical score against a 59 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Among both the positive and negative reviews, the film’s already robust 158 run-times was called into question, with one reviewer stating that Napoleon already felt like a three-and-a-half-hour film because of its dense storytelling and world-building.

By the same token, there are a healthy amount of negative reviews saying that the theatrical cut felt disjointed, and attributed the lackluster storytelling and lack of dramatic progression to its shortened run time.

Improving On Theatrical Cut?

Ridley Scott Napoleon

Critics debate whether Ridley Scott’s unabridged version of Napoleon will improve on its theatrical cut.

However, until we see it, we cannot know for certain if Napoleon’s story, as portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in the film, will benefit from a lengthier runtime. If only we could get the chance at some point.

Source: World of Reel