Just as Oscar season comes to a close and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln starts to fade out of the cultural collective unconscious for three seconds, over the weekend we’ve come to learn about his latest historical undertaking. Yes, it seems that the director has opted to ressurect Stanley Kubrick’s unmade dream film Napoleon—as a miniseries.
Spielberg tells French Canal+, "I’ve been developing Stanley Kubrick’s screenplay—for a miniseries not for a motion picture—about the life of Napoleon. Kubrick wrote the script in 1961, a long time ago.” Cool, cool.
Well no offense, Spielberg, but you’re not Kubrick. Not to discredit anything, but you’re simply a totally and completely different filmmaker, in just about every way from tone and texture to aesthetics and pulse. The A.I. you made is not the A.I. Kubrick would have made, and although I didn’t particularly hate it, and I know you were Kubrick’s first choice on the job, I wonder what he would have had to say. And frankly, whatever Napoleon television show you make is in no way going to be what Kubrick, this painstaking perfectionist genius, spent years amassing boxes of research for.
This was his dream project, his passion. He read just about every word written about the emperor, had "about 15,000 location scouting photos, a database of 17,000 Napoleonic images," and was planning to make a film on a massive scale that only someone with his epic sense of scope could have promised. So reviving his work like this just seems wrong—pawing through all of his research and chopping his dream into television segments? Oy. How about we just watch an hour of Barry Lyndon every Sunday for a couple months? That would make more sense to me.
Or maybe I just don’t feel like seeing another Spielberg historical drama. I mean, if someone had to take this on I would love nothing more than to see it be P.T. Anderson. But hey, we can all fantasize.