Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:
minor plot points revealed!
Wow! Reviewers have really turned against Oliver Stone. Every review for this film is basically just a personal attack on Stone and his directing. It's funny because Oliver Stone has had one of those careers where his skill and vision has been celebrated and then that same skill and vision is later in his life derided. During the 80's he was the stylistic director of his generation (Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the 4th of July.) During the 90's he was even more bold and his work started to become misunderstood and wrongly criticized (The Doors, JFK, Natural Born Killers.) The 90's work of Oliver stone is actually my favorite. (I don't care what Quentin Tarantino says, Natural Born Killers was one of the best films ever made.)
Now I don't think Alexander ranks up there with his best work, listed above, but it is a good film and seemed to be a fine, if abridged, version of the life of the conqueror. I would have liked to have seen a little more about his life both on and off the battlefield but at 3 hours, the film is already pushing the limits of what most people are willing to sit through. (Personally I hope the DVD has a few more hours added on.)
Alexander is a perfect "bookend" to Troy, released earlier this year. In fact, Alexander often speaks of Achilles in the movie and tries to model himself after him. Troy was also panned by the critics so if you want to see two good Greek historical epics, that I liked but critics hated, then Troy and Alexander are the way to go!
Alexander tells the story of the 32 years that the Macedonian warrior spent conquering the known (and at times unknown) world. We see his birth and childhood under the protection of his mother Olympias and their harsh treatment at the hands of his father King Philip. In boyhood Alexander meets his friend and future lover Hephaistion. After Philip is murdered Alexander becomes King and sets out to unite the world by conquering it all.
The film is narrated by Alexander's former General, Ptolemy, who now in old age is dictating his version of events before he expires. The chronology of the film jumps about from Alexander's childhood and teen years to his campaigns through Greece, Persia and India.
The scale of the film is huge, like Troy was, but the battles this time seemed less computer generated. The hordes of soldiers appeared to have all been played by live flesh and blood actors and the violence is a bit bloodier. It makes the carnage and outcome of war more personal. Throughout the film the characters become more weathered, aged, scarred and broken. This was a nice touch and quite different from the Brad Pitt version of Achilles in Troy who pretty much died as beautiful as he first appeared at the beginning of the film.
Besides the rumors of off screen love affairs among the cast and crew, the biggest scandal now that the film has been released seems to be that Oliver Stone, bowing to MPAA and conservative religion concerns, has toned down the homosexuality of Alexander. Every review seems to echo the last in saying that the film discounts and diminishes the amount of gay love that people were apparently expecting. I don't understand this criticism at all. This film was teeming with homosexuality. Alexander's love, both emotionally and physically for Hephaistion was obvious and well documented in the film. It is the single strongest bond in the movie and aside from the fact that the film did not include straight out homosexual penetration did not for me lessen the obvious bond between these two characters. And Hephaistion was not even the only homosexual encounter in the film. Alexander took another male lover that he found during his conquest of Persia and that boy stayed with him until the end as well. I think it's insane that reviewers have said the film wasn't "gay enough." What exactly were they expecting?
One part I thought was funny was when Alexander's armies first moved into India, they encountered monkeys for the first time and thought they were little hairy men. The soldiers, used to fighting everyone they encountered, started killing the monkeys and trying to conquer them as well.
The film had at least three quotes that were direct slams on the current American Presidential administration. The one I most remember went something like "Persia (think Iraq) is easy to conquer but difficult to rule." This seems to be another sticking point for some critics as they see Stone showing his current political opinions.
The actors all do a fine job although Colin Farrell was probably not the best choice for Alexander. His Irish accent, which he seems capable of hiding in other films (Minority Report, Phone Booth, etc.) popped up now and again during his speeches. Anthony Hopkins was fine as the narrator Ptolemy. Christopher Plummer had a brief cameo as Alexander's teacher, Aristotle. Jared Leto was stunning as Alexander's friend and love, Hephaistion. Rosario Dawson is super-sexy as Alexander's bride Roxane. Val Kilmer was fun as the the ruthless father of Alexander King Philip. And finally (the main reason I even saw this movie) Angelina Jolie continues to be the closest thing we have to a living Goddess walking the earth today. Every scene she's in is captivating and the weird Transylvania-type accent she uses in this film just makes her all the more alluring. She is, without a doubt, the most beautiful person in the world today.
Should you go see Alexander at the movie theatre? I don't know. The battles and grandeur of the film will be lost on even the biggest TV sets. But the three hours of mostly drama sprinkled with intense bloody action may not be for everyone's tastes. I liked it and was not disappointed but I'm a true blue Oliver Stone fan. As far as I'm concerned every movie he's ever made or will make is great.