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Movie Review: Alexander

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Earlier this year, I remember reading about a pair of competing Alexander films. One was set to star Leonardo Dicaprio and be directed by Baz Luhrman, and the other one is the one that got made, and this review is about. It is my understanding that the Luhrman project has been halted, I think it would have been interesting to see how that one may have turned out after the mess the other one is.

I went in really hoping to like it. Oliver Stone is a very talented director, taking a topic and putting his vision to it and generally giving us entertaining films. On top of that, there are a number of good actors, including Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, and Anthony Hopkins, It’s a shame that the end result is so underwhelming.

Greek history and the background of Alexander the Great are not subjects of which I know much about, and after watching Alexander, I still don’t. We never get a real clear focus on any of the primary players or motivations, just quick overviews, which last a combined 3 hours. We never get to see the characters grow and develop, and I fault the way the story is structured for that.

The story is told in a semi-flashback style, through the perspective of Ptolemy (the older version portrayed by Anthony Hopkins). This provides a problem for the story. For one thing, we generally only get information to which he was privy. This provides a problem in that we do not get a real sense for what Alexander is like outside of his speeches and some battles. Another problem is that there are many scenes and moments which Ptolemy was not present, rendering the flashbock style more or less useless.

As sad as it is to say, this movie is terribly dull. Some of the actors turn up the cheese scale, which helps bring some entetainment to the exercise in tedium. Many of the speeches and voice overs are filled with locations and names which I was unable to completely understand, much less absorb. I found myself at many points just tuning out to the dialogue, there was nothing really behind it, just so much blathering.

What I gather is that ALexander wished to unite the known world under his rule, but the film never really takes a stand on his desires. It does tend to linger a bit much on the supposed bisexuality of Alexander, his relationship with Hephaistion (Jared Leto). The battles are instense and bloody, but they are cut together so poorly, I have no idea what exactly is happening.

Bottomline. This was just a continuation of Troy from earlier this year, The movie just results in a boring conglomeration of speeches, hugging, and disjointed battles. I really wanted to enjoy it, but I just found it to be long, dull and not really worth the time.

Not Recommended.

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  • I can relate to some of the things you said, but I ended up enjoying the movie. I think Oliver Stone was trying to do a lot with Alexander… maybe too much.

    Perhaps as a mini-series or a docudrama it would’ve worked better, but if that were the case it wouldn’t have had the massive budget.

    I did know a smidgeon of Greek history, maybe that’s part of why I enjoyed it. Plus, I watched it on DVD and listened to the commentary, so I was let in many of the mysteries in the story.

    Colin Farrell’s acting was great, going from the naive but fiery young man to the old-before-his-time 33-year old. Yes, it was over the top, but historically, that’s who Alexander was.

    The ambiguity, too, was deliberate on Oliver Stone’s part. He wanted us to make our own conclusion as to whether Alexander was a great guy or a despot. I think everyone would come to the conclusion that he had a bit of both in him.