By: The Dweeb
Oliver Stone’s latest film is a big one, the historical epic biopic Alexander, an ambitious film in scope that was widely panned here in the United States by filmgoers and critics alike. With that kind of publicity, it would be hard to start watching the film without some kind of bias going in. I will admit this, but in retrospect the film is decent, but there were some sticking points that I just could not get past. Overall, I did walk away a satisfied viewer, a 167 minutes later. Thats a lot of film to take in one session, tedious even.
I love history, especially anything on Romans, Egyptians or Greeks and I can tolerate some inaccuracies in films dealing with this topic. But, a film on someones life story does not have to be so boring! That is my main beef with Alexander, a film that was more like a Shakespearian drama and not a compelling look into someones life. Too much talking, blah blah blah. In order to ram home some point Oliver decides to edit in flashbacks showing earlier chapters of his life. Not sure all of that was really necessary, especially the long scene with his father in the cave going over Mythology class. Oh sure, he was drawing comparisons to the myths with his real life, but I’m not sure the average movie goer will understand all this information. Its already a lot to take in without all the extra info skipping around and I think people can figure these things out themselves.
Supposedly this is the improved version on DVD, I did not see the theatrical cut in comparison. After sitting through other recent mediocre movies on ancient history like Troy, one can see a familiar track shaping up which will make this film seem more formulaic in return. The battle sequences we have all seen before ad nauseum. The build up before the big charge, the flowing music, the rousing speech of the commander, its all old news. Actually, for the largest charge on horseback it was quite boring I thought. Maybe Lord of The Rings ruined it for me and now I expect more, but whatever. Just get it over with and start with the slugfest!
When this film was to come out in theatres, there was a huge uproar about the portrayal of Alexander as a bi-sexual. Meh, get over it. Acutually its not that graphic as has been asserted and is more implied through editing and far off camera composition. Oliver Stone does stay true to historical fact and at least he had the balls (pardon the pun) to show us this side of the story. It may make some squemish at the thought, but that was perfectly normal back then. I don’t understand why people got their panties in such a bunch over nothing.
What disturbed me more was the acting and the choice for some of the roles. I didn’t think Val Kilmer as King Phillip or Angelina Jolie as Olympias his mother worked at all in this movie. I just couldn’t help but think thats Val kilmer under that eye patch thing and Angelina is way too young looking to be his mom. Couldn’t they have used some kind of ageing makeup and whats with all those missing eyes anyway? I didn’t understand the choice for her accent either, what is she a vampire? She does have a thing for snakes though, symbolic and sexy.
And yes I know Colin Ferrel is Irish, but could they have dispensed with the Irish accents? I felt like I was watching Braveheart again, wait this pretty much was Braveheart but with domineering mother to boot. Speaking of Colin, as Alexander he did a decent job of it. But more whiny than Luke Skywalker trying to get to Tashi Station to waste time with his friends. Hey I fit in a Star Wars reference cool! His portrayal came across as a son who had a major inferiority complex with his father and mother. So instead he decided to take over the world, isn’t that what happens with most of histories conquerers? Blame it on the parents.
One thing about these movies that a is sure hit usually is the cinematography. The film has some gorgeous shots in it thanks to Rodrigo Prieto and the CGI inserts for Babylon and other ancient citiescapes are flawless. The sound is also equally matched, with an excellent soaring film score by Vangelis of Blade Runner fame. At first impression, it doesn’t look like there is much on the second disc in terms of bonus material, but that is decieving. The documentaries are, like the film, long, but interesting to watch. Usually you get a cleaned up well produced version, but here the footage is raw and uncensored. Sometimes its hard to hear what they are saying, but you become immersed in the making of this film. A gargantuan task for sure, and you get a small glimpse. Not your typical glowing piece of marketing material, refreshing in a way.
OK, so maybe some different casting, cutting out some of the fillers and losing the whole Anthony Hopkins narration bit might have turned an average movie into something better. A keeper perhaps. This was a monumental project that could have been a complete failure, but it saves enough face to be just good enough.