Alexander (2004)

I had just finishes reading the biography of Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox that Oliver Stone mined for source material when doing the movie, so it felt natural to see how well Stone managed to transfer the epic of Alexander to the big screen. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s as much a gigantic clusterfuck as people have claimed it to be.  Everything from the casting to the use of narration delivered by Hopkins (let’s not even get started with that one) to justify jumping over several significant events, such as Alexander’s conquest of Egypt, were atrocious. For a movie that is nearly three hours long, it’s a miraculous feat to make Alexander’s amazing life seem so… superfluous and insignificant. It really does take a great director to make something this bad. This did require skill and vision to get it so wrong.

Colin Farrel as Alexander was, shall we say, a bold choice. Not exactly the most genius casting done in the history of cinema ever seen, but I can kinda see why he was cast. Maybe. He does manage to carry certain scenes very well and even appear regal when he’s suppose to be an older Alexander, but it is rare.  It doesn’t help that there are more than a few flashbacks where Farrell’s suppose to be Alexander age fifteen or so years old, and has on this hilarious awful looking  blond bowl cut and acts all boyish and immature. Any vague immersion I might have had was ruined completely upon such visage. No man can keep a straight face in those scenes, it’s impossible. Ultimately, Farrel is entirely unconvincing as Alexander. Especially as Alexander, the mythic figure, though that in particular seems to have been a deliberate choice by Stone.  He appears to have wanted to strip down the myths surrounding Alexander and portray him as a mortal, normal man as much as possible, which I personally think was  mistake.

As for other players in this farce, we have Jared Leto as Hephaistion. God, I don’t even know where to begin with him. The whole relationship between Alexander and Hephaistion was so laughably bad. It was so… Fruity. It’s the only word coming even close to describing it, and I mean it with a negative connotation where it does the homosexual subtext between the two entirely wrong. The delivery is so horrible and it comes off as very cringe worthy rather than sexy, loyal and to a degree, erotic bond between two brothers in arms. They’re suppose to share this incredibly strong, a bit (period appropriate) homoerotic  bond and instead we get… this almost syrupy and awful  presentation where they look like awkward teenagers and it just doesn’t work. On any level. It’s a completely wrong approach to make it work.

I can understand, and even agree with the logic for certain decisions, but it does not justify how badly the entire movie was handled. Most of Alexander’s war campaign (one would think this would be a fruitful area for a giant movie epic, but apparently not) is barely touched on the surface and the big emphasis is instead put on Alexander’s relationship to his mother and father, without actually really managing to say or do anything, apart from showing Val Kilmer to be a very convincing mean drunk and Angelina Jolie’s is terrible with faking an accent.  It’s as if Stone wanted to do an in depth deep, psychological examination of Alexander, but had sold the idea of a blockbuster epic to the studio, and this was the bastard child of the compromise between the two. With the scale and scope of the movie, trying to do two different types of movies just created a fatal cognitive dissonance that ultimately satisfies nobody. I can’t really tell whether I am more mad or disappointed. Perhaps sad is more accurate.  Perhaps this would have been easier to swallow as an unsatisfying movie had I not been so intimately aware of Alexander’s life when I watched this movie. As they say, ignorance is bliss

 

 

 

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