Grade: B-
Year: 2004
Director: Oliver Stone
Writers: Oliver Stone, Christopher Kyle & Laeta Kalogridis
Genre: Adventure/Drama
Rated: R
By Scott (Editor)

Oliver Stone's "Alexander" is the third major biopic film of the year, following Wolfgang Peterson's Troy and Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur. Troy was lackluster and received a C+ from me, I liked King Arthur for the most part and gave it a respectable B, and I placed "Alexander" between the two with a B- grade.

None of the above mentioned films has faired well with critics nor moviegoers, as reviews were mostly negative and box-office returns proved disappointing. Rotten Tomatoes, which collects sentiments from hundreds of movie critics and considers movies fresh at 60%, awards Alexander 15%, King Arthur 32% and Troy 56%.

Not everyone will appreciate "Alexander's" three-hour running length, and neither did I. But Stone wanted to include as much detail about every battle and the politics in-between as he could - from the taking of Persia (which would have been the climactic battle in most films) to the slaughter in India.

The story of Alexander (Colin Farrell) is narrated by the historian, Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins), whose voice comes in to fill in the details that weren't filmed. But the chronology of events is told by Aristotle (Christopher Plummer) who once knew the great leader and has returned to Greece to scribe Alexander's biography.

Alexander set out to conquer the known world. His ambition quickly took him to where the known world ended, and when he discovered there was more to the world than what was known, he kept on going, and going and going. Cue pink bunny. From age 16 to 32 Alexander never ceased to move his troops until the final great battle in India, a beautifully shot scene that blows the pants off anything Troy tried to accomplish.

Alexander came from a troubled family. His father, King Philip of Macedonia (Val Kilmer), was a drunk and beats his disliked wife, Queen Olympias (Angelina Jolie), who insisted that Alexander seize the throne before his father would get the opportunity to choose a different successor. As a child the young Alexander (Connor Paolo) gained temporary respect from his father when he becomes the first and only person to tame a wild horse, but was eventually banished along with his mother from the kingdom. King Philip was later murdered, and Alexander became the new king of Macedonia.

Conquering the world has opened the door for Alexander to many new opportunities. He takes an Asian bride named Roxane (Rosario Dawson), despite strong protest from his advisors insisting that he take a Macedonian queen.

During Alexander's eight-year campaign, we hardly get the sense he loved Roxane, but instead preferred the company of his lifelong friend, Hephaistion (Jared Leto), a faithful companion who to no one's surprise never took a female lover.

Alexander eventually ends up in India, and when the will no longer exists to move forward, he gathers his troops (whoever is still alive) for the long journey home. No one disputes the fact that Alexander accomplished more in his time than any great leader before him.

The biggest problem with the film is that it lacks clarity and focus, and that is most apparent late in the film when it resorts to a flashback that feels like the present. If one thing about Troy is better than this film, it is that Peterson's film had direction.

Stone is always injecting political drama into his movies, and perhaps it became too overwhelming for this type of movie. That is why some have complained it is too long. Others say the character relationships are fuzzy, such as the homosexual tension between Alexander and Hephaistion that is never completely nor honestly explored. Here "Alexander" suffers and is bested by Troy.

But the battle scenes in "Alexander" are far superior to the digi-fest that is Peterson's movie. Here the soldiers look life-like and unique, instead of one character digitally pasted throughout the frame to show thousands of people.

Like the main character himself, the movie is ambitious and I value it for its craftsmanship. When it's all over I believe "Alexander" will flop and have a hard time coming close to its massive $155 million budget in revenues. It's a movie I recommend only to those who have an easy time liking war epics such as Troy and King Arthur.

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