Before I go much further, I must say that I found the film to be good on the whole. I would probably grade it overall a 'B'; the acting for the most part would be a little less than this, and the effects a bit more (particularly the battle scenes, which for computer-generation, were very well done, especially the battle at Gaugamela, and the battle near the Ganges). The music, done by Vangelis (think 'Chariots of Fire'), was superb. As entertainment, the film was a good evening's outing, and I didn't find myself squirming in my seat as much as I thought I might at the prospect of a three-hour film. The computer-generated scenes in Babylon, and the on-location settings of Morocco and Thailand were glorious cinematography.
The character of Alexander in history is one of mythology, one that was so powerful that it inspired the Roman leaders from Julius Caesar forward to global conquest (an irony of history is that the Roman Empire, which supposedly covered the 'known world', didn't cover half of Alexander's empire). Colin Farrell's performance here was not one that is inspiring; his speeches to the troops lack the kind of power that an Olivier or Brannagh might have in a performance of Henry V -- yet this is precisely what was needed. Alexander is a man who inspired tens of thousands of men to follow him beyond the ends of the known world, but that doesn't quite come across on the film. We don't get the power of Alexander's personality either at Gaugamela or at the Ganges.
Angelina Jolie is lovely as ever, but her part as an abused woman who uses quasi-supernatural sorcery to bring about her ends (Alexander's rise to the throne) is melodramatic -- one gets the sense that this might have been the writing or directing as much as it was Jolie's own performance. As Olympias, Alexander's mother, she seems a bit too young (Jolie is probably better cast as Farrell's love interest, rather than his matron figure). The other women in Alexander's life are portrayed as rather flat characters too, even the high-spirited Asian tribeswoman he takes as a wife.
There's lots of innuendo, but not much sexual content here. Philip of Macedon, Alexander's father (played by a barely recognisable Val Kilmer), has an almost-rape scene with Olympias, while the boy Alexander watches from behind the bedding; Alexander almost repeats this scene at one point, and has an interesting wedding night with his Asian bride, but nothing ever really seems consummated; Alexander's affections for many of his male friends is a bit overplayed in some respects, and greatly wanting in others. Again there is a lack of satisfaction all around.
This is a very different film for Oliver Stone. Perhaps one constant theme (given that Alexander's decision to stop going forward toward the East comes after a terrible battle in which his force loses) Stone seems to work into everything is that there is no way to win a war in Southeast Asia, even back in Alexander's time. There are hints at a political agenda here as well -- Alexander is constantly praised, and constantly praising himself, for not asking others to do in battle what he himself wouldn't do. Is this an indirect slap at the current administration? With Oliver Stone, one never knows.
There are a few interesting cameos -- Christopher Plummer plays the philosopher Aristotle, recruited to teach the young Alexander, and who despite being on screen but a few minutes at the beginning of the tale is referred to again and again. Brian Blessed has an even smaller role, essentially just to walk on and separate two wrestlers, telling the child Alexander that he must win on his own merits. For this thirty-second scene, Blessed received a primary credit in the film! Good work if you can get it.
Costuming was great, very appropriate to the time, and resisting temptation to add modernisations to all the outfits. The choreography for the battle scenes, both computer-generated and real-life stunts, were well played. The battle against the Persian king Darius was in real-life the last battle in which the chariot played a major offensive function, due to tactics developed by Philip and Alexander's Greek armies which are displayed in the goings on here.
Thus, this is a hard film to categorise. Good in parts, and not so hot in others, it is still well worth seeing. The history doesn't deviate too far from the known path to be too distracting, and the film, while not quite living up to its larger-than-life subject, does provide some entertainment. Some judicious editing might make it a bit more palatable. I'd give it three-and-a-half stars, were such permitted. As it is, I'll round up to four.
Another thing I liked was how Alexander's mother Olympias puts her own strength and ambition into him. In her intense love for him, as well as her horrible manipulativeness the movie shows (whether Oliver Stone intended to or not) what can happen to the energies of a strong woman in a society where she has no outlet for her ambitions except through her son. I liked too how Alexander's relationship with Hephaistion provides him with a balancing factor to his obsessive need for achievement. Hephaistion reminds him that love is important too. He is very supportive of Alexander, but provides a balancing perspective. Theirs is as close to an equal relationship as a king at that time could have, a spiritual-sexual friendship of the kind approved in the movie by their teacher Aristotle. I like a lot of things about this movie but I'll only mention one more. I liked the way the symbolism of the eagle appears throughout the movie and underlines the major themes.
I give the Theatrical Release version five stars.
I give the new Director's Cut only four stars because of excessive flashbacks that interrupt the flow and shape of the story, and some things taken out that I think should have been left in.
Seriously...it's that bad.
i mean it.....
Je lui donne 4 1/2 étoiles sur 5! Oui, j'ai beaucoup aimé ce film. Read more