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Alexander /

Rated: R

Starring: Colin Farrell, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Produced by: Moritz Borman, Thomas Schuhly, Oliver Stone, Jon Kilik, Iain Smith
Written by: Christopher Kyle, Oliver Stone, Laeta Kalogridis
Distributor: Warner Bros.


Colin Farrell as Alexander in Warner Bros. Alexander
Angelina Jolie and Colin Farrell in Warner Bros. Alexander
King Philip ( Val Kilmer ) and Alexander ( Colin Farrell ) in Warner Bros. Alexander

     An old Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) dictates his knowledge of the life of Alexander the Great to a scribe (David Bedella) in Alexander, Oliver Stone’s latest experimental epic. Stone shows us much of the legacy of the powerful conqueror of many lands, but bridges important gaps in time with narration from Ptolemy. Even with nearly a three-hour running length, only the surface of Alexander the Great’s reign is scratched, in the movie. Ironically, much of what is spoken of in the voice-overs is far more interesting than some of the portions of the film that are acted out. With so much history to cover, Stone finds himself drowning in a sea of facts and events. His movie is ambitious, but rarely rises above its own setbacks.

     The movie opens to Alexander’s childhood, and spends about a half an hour explaining just how he came to power. These sequences almost seem ridiculous; not only does Angelina Jolie completely overact as the boy’s mother, but Stone’s style is reminiscent of countless History Channel documentaries on the same subject. However, once Alexander overcomes his own youth and gains control of an the Macedonian Empire, the mood of the film becomes more serious. Colin Farrell, in the lead role, portrays his widely-known character with the correct amount of oomph and originality. The movie is never boring, if only sporadically involving. I can’t say that I completely regret seeing it.

     Alexander also has many problems in its execution. The picture is amazingly uneven; the tone shifts an almost uncomfortable amount of times. At many points in the duration, I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what the characters were thinking or feeling. However, emotion is not dealt with in a complex way in the picture, but an incomprehensible one. In many ways, Alexander is the Primer of historical epics, equipped with a questionable structure and muddled narrative. In fact, there is one extended flashback in the movie which shows the death of Alexander’s father that, until five minutes into the scene, I thought was taking place in real time. The theatrical release of Alexander feels more like a rough cut than the final product.

     To its credit, Alexander has two amazing, sweeping battle scenes. The first of which occurs when Alexander and his men execute a plan to beat the Persian army and overthrow its leader, despite the fact that they are greatly outnumbered. The key to this sequence is that, in its length and gigantic scale, it makes the viewer think. The barbarian methods of fighting and interesting battle strategies draw recognizable parallels to other wars and periods in history. This is where the small amount of depth in Alexander can be found. The other major battle in the movie takes place near its end and, while not as engaging or insightful as the first one, it offers some tremendous visuals and trained-animal work.

     Stone wanted to make Alexander a riveting epic tale, but most of his material isn’t very intriguing. Strangely, though, it never really struck me as awful, when watching it. I suppose that the historical significance of its subject matter makes it a bit of an interesting failure. However, the only new ideas that are presented in this telling of Alexander the Great’s life are his alleged bisexuality and the somewhat revelatory conclusion to Ptolemy’s narration. Neither of which have been scientifically proven. In essence, Alexander was dead on arrival, and it delivers what it promises, if not a tad more. In a year, it’ll be playing on HBO regularly, and will make for some background noise that is more educational than, say, re-runs of “Fear Factor”. Then, at least, its jumbled plot won’t seem so goddamn lackluster.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (11.28.2004)

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