Napoleon trailer Joaquin Phoenix

The Napoleon trailer just released introduces Joaquin Phoenix as the fiery French emperor who lover Josephine (Vanessa Kirby) taunts as a “a tiny little brute that is nothing without me.” That assessment is just the start of the brutality in a trailer that promises a sweeping Ridley Scott epic filled with explosions, traps, and blood on and under the ice.

Napoleon has a storied place in cinematic history, from the sweep of the 1927 silent-film epic named for the emperor, by Abel Grace, to the mockable tyrant of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Night at the Museum. He was the white whale of Stanley Kurbrick, who famously spent decades trying to make a Napoleon biography, without success.

The Napoleon trailer.

Steven Spielberg, meanwhile, plans his own Napoleon project, a seven-part HBO series, based on Kubrick’s unrealized plans.

Napoleon: ‘Destined for Greatness’

At 85, Ridley Scott now seeks to make the definitive Napoleon film, starring the Oscar-winning Phoenix as a man who — judging from the trailer — presents himself as very confident in his abilities, despite the undercutting whisperings of his lady love.

“I am destined for greatness,” Phoenix says at one point. “Though those in power see me only as a sword.”

“He came from nothing. He conquered everything,” goes the film’s slogan, illustrated by clips of the French military leader surveying locations as far afield as the Sphinx, in Egypt. He expands to Russia in an ill-fated campaign that involves all that blood and snow and was previously the general subject of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the basis of numerous cinematic adaptations.

Can Ridley Scott Conquer Best Director Oscar at 85?

The trailer sets up Scott as just the director to conquer the Napoleon story by listing, with explosive quickness, his succession of acclaimed films, from Alien to Blade Runner to Gladiator. He remains as prolific as ever, in 2021 releasing both the thoughtful but commercially unsuccessful The Last Duel and the successful House of Gucci, a bombastic delight.

Napoleon reunites him with Phoenix, who earned a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for 2000’s Gladiator, the only Ridley Scott film to win Best Picture. Remarkably, he has never won Best Director, despite his phenomenal run of films.

Napoleon will be released on November 22 by Sony Pictures before streaming on Apple TV+. He is currently filming Gladiator 2 with Paul Mescal, Denzel Washington, and Pedro Pascal.

Main image: Joaquin Phoenix in the title role as you know who.