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
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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