Retro Review: Alexander

Who was the legendary Alexander? Were his exploits merely myth? Why was he so great?

The true story of the legendary Macedonian King Alexander the Great is still debated today by historians and experts on the conqueror. One such interpretation, carved and refined by Hollywood director Oliver Stone, is coming to a multiplex near you.

In Stone’s recreation of Alexander’s life we begin with the would-be king’s birth and then eventually his witnessing the rape of his mother by his drunken father. Then on the eve of his 20th birthday, Alexander (Colin Farrell) has a long discussion with his abused, neglected and scheming mother, Olympias (Angelina Jolie) about the world he is about to enter as a man.

Eventually Alexander has a falling out with his father King Phillip (Val Kilmer) and it nearly costs him the throne as he tries to defend his mother’s honor against a sea of drunken kinsmen.

After Phillip’s death and Alexander assumes the throne, his obsession with conquering Persia consumes him as he tackles unbelievable odds to bring down the biggest empire in the known world. Before his obsession weans, Alexander will have left his warlord mark on 90% of the known world of that era before the age of 33.

Stone’s uncovering of shocking facts and creating debate is nothing new. He unleashed a sea of controversy when he released his overwhelming film, JFK which poked all sorts of holes in a lot of theories pertaining to the assassination of the US president John F. Kennedy.

Stone’s films thrive on controversy and a lot of his films exist just because Stone wants to make people think and analyze the stories and tales they think they know about a subject. Every one of Stone’s more high-profile and successful films have ignited a debate somewhere. This is also true about his Greek epic, “Alexander”.

One of the stronger themes in “Alexander” is the discussion if Alexander was in fact a “bi-sexual”. When telling Alexander’s story I am not sure if his sexuality is what should be a primary focus? Does it really matter or is Stone just trying to stir up more trouble?

In some ways I wished that Stone would have focused more evenly on all the elements he did discuss in this telling. There is a lot of heavy aimed dialogue and impassioned screaming scenes about empire, growth and glory. We have seen all this before. I wanted more from Stone on who Alexander was. Except I am not sure the film answered any of those questions but instead just created more.

There is a lot of dialogue, shouting matches and a carnivorous love scene in the middle portion of the film but little is really said or resolved. I really wished there was another war sequence in the middle of the film. There needed to be more action to liven up the drama.

I really enjoyed the film’s production design. I also thoroughly enjoyed the film’s first epic battle sequence but felt we needed more of that awe and gruesomeness to show who and what a conqueror strives for. The film also never held back in its battle sequences which allowed for total immersion into the utter chaos that was warfare of that time.

I liked Colin Farrell as Alexander. I am not a huge fan of Farrell as an actor but for some reason he holds the film together. I also really loved the venomous portrayal of Angelina Jolie and the cantankerous and drunken performance by Val Kilmer. Angelina Jolie’s performance of Olympias is amazing if you can forgive the accent she chose for her character. I loved the character and Jolie’s edginess just brings out a desperation and desire that is unmistakable.

However Jolie isn’t the only bad accent in the film and it is one of the obvious flaws of the film. From Jared Leto’s Irish pretty boy accent to Rosario Dawson’s over-acted broken English accent, the cast really missed the boat to what their characters should sound like. The film’s dialect coaches should have at least found a common thread. It is strange that Leto sounds more Irish than Farrell when Farrell is actually Irish.

For the film’s length and its countless scenes of endless dialogue, I found that the film lacked a real desire in itself. Stone surely opened up some new questions and gave us a peak at the man but never really fleshed out the conqueror. I wish Stone was more about the story of the man than delivering yet again another controversy.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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