Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto, Rosario
Dawson, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Oliver Stone
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Director’s Cut), Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 167 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 175 Minutes (Theatrical)
Release Date: August 2, 2005
YOUR FEAR…AND I PROMISE YOU WILL CONQUER DEATH!”
**** (Both Versions)
Alexander the Great
was a man of extreme contradiction. He had accomplished so much at such a young
age that the cause of his death at age 32 may have just as well been the overall
consumption of his pride, as well as other personal demons that plagued his
life. His story has been told before in films, on both the big and small screen,
but none has lavish and as exquisite as this.
For Oliver Stone,
who has long specialized in making films with high controversial subject matter,
tackling that of a historical epic maybe considered a break from the norm. At
the same time, Stone has succeeded in chronicling the lives of several
complicated real life figures like Richard Nixon and Jim Morrison, making him a
most ideal filmmaker to bring the story of Alexander to life.
Stone has said that
he has wanted to get this movie made for the longest time, and the passion of
his storytelling proves that case on screen. Alexander is a most glorious, visually stunning spectacle of a film.
Hollywood has certainly gone bonkers over bringing back the historical epic
genre, as illustrated by last year’s Troy
and this year’s Kingdom of Heaven.
Not only do I find Stone’s film to be the best recent epic film, but I also
happen to find it as one of the most outstanding ones since those of yesteryear.
Too bad critics and
audiences didn’t feel the same. More on that later…
The film is told
through the perspective of Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins), who at a younger age was
right there with Alexander during the crucial points of his life. It seemed
that, ever since his birth, that Alexander was in the midst of a horrendous
conflict between his mother, Olympias (Angelina Jolie) and his father, King
Phillip (Val Kilmer). She has tried to convince her son that Phillip, a gleeful
philanderer, is not really his father, but that he truly is the son of Zeus.
Following a period
of learning the teachings of Aristotle (Christopher Plummer), Alexander finds
himself destined to one day lead the throne and conquer as many areas of
territory that the Gods will allow him. As he grows into a young man, Alexander
(Colin Farrell) is still more torn apart than ever between the beliefs of the
mother and father. At this point, Phillip is unexpectedly assassinated, and
Alexander is quickly named as the new King of Macedonia.
The first big event
to take place once he was named king was the great battle of Persia, a battle
sequence that dares the viewer not to be awestruck. Alexander, believing that
the Persian king was the one that paid gold for Phillip’s murder, leads an
army of 40,000 men against a Persian army of 250,000. Though many of his own men are doubtful of the strategy he
lays out, it ends up a success. The King of Persia flees the battle Alexander
has had his first taste of victory.
He then takes his
men to the beautiful city of Babylon. It is there where he meets an exotic
dancer named Roxane (Rosario Dawson). Later, he announces to his men that he
will be marrying the woman. She happens to be of Asian descent, which doesn’t
sit too well with the men.
This also conflicts
his relationship with lifelong friend Hephaistion (Jared Leto), who has also
been a source of love and compassion. Alexander insists that although the
wedding will take place, nothing will stand in the way of the honesty and
support that Hephaistion has provided him since the day he first set foot on the
battle grounds. Roxane isn’t too pleased to learn that Alexander is involved
with Hephaistion, but the wedding proceeds anyway.
His conquering of
the world then leads to India, where Alexander leads his men, which at this
point is only at 16,000 up against an extremely vast Indian army. The men
resist, but the ruler insists them to fight and be remembered for their
conquering or not be remembered at all. His men get an ugly surprise when the
army of India charge with the help of mammoth-sized elephants with tusks ready
to impail. It’s a marvelously graphic sequence as only Stone could deliver.
Every year seems to
deliver numerous films that get their unfair pans and unfortunate box office
turnouts. Sadly, Alexander got the
worst of both. Critics united is bashing the movie, claiming it didn’t paint a
thorough portrait of Alexander, and also felt the need to slam Colin Farrell’s
performance. At no point in the film did I feel Farrell did a single sour job.
Clearly, those who bashed it didn’t see the same movie as I did.
In addition, I
don’t get all the bashing the film got, before its release, about the
depiction of Alexander’s sexuality. To set the record straight, there are no
gay love scenes, but people need to understand that this IS history. In the time
period depicted, it was common for men to have both male and female lovers.
Stone made the right choice in including the relationship between Alexander and
Hephaistion, and thus staying true to history in general.
And I had never
been more peeved at Roger Ebert Though I never expect for all critics to share
the same opinion as me, I simply couldn’t understand why he decided that this,
and Troy, should tie for the worst
movie of last year. For one thing, both Mr. Ebert and I know that there were
much worse films to be released last year, and the fact that he would place two
well made epic films as the worst films in a list that also included White Chicks, The Grudge and The
Whole Ten Yards is simply beyond me. In addition, Mr. Ebert only gave a **
rating to his top bad movie selection, while the many of the films below it were
rated much lower in his original reviews. What’s the deal, Roger E.?
Two versions of the
film are being released on DVD; an all new Director’s Cut which is actually
shortened by ten minutes, and the original, Theatrical version. Both versions
are superb, so I can’t really recommend one over the other. Which ever edition
you choose, you are in for something grand.
will gain respect on DVD. If those who stayed away from the film in theaters
because of the bad reviews will watch it with a clear perspective, hopefully
they can acknowledge the sheer value of its cinematic qualities and acknowledge
that it was indeed unfairly and unnecessarily bashed.
Despite the bad rep
it got, I am here to state that Alexander
is a most glorious achievement. Those who appreciate Oliver Stone’s level of
work shouldn’t hesitate at all to discover this amazing historical epic.
**** (Both Versions)
This is yet another
amazing looking disc provided by Warner Bros. Both versions are equally
outstanding. The clarity of the anamorphic picture is as visually amazing as you
can come across. The lush cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto results in numerous
moments of stunning visual grandeur that the presentation delivers dynamically
and flawlessly. Colors are astonishing, in addition. Absolutely one of the best
looking discs of the year, and you can rest to sure that it’s in the running
for this year’s DMC Awards.
NOTE: While the
theatrical version is only available in widescreen, the Director’s Cut is
available in widescreen and full screen. If you choose the Director’s Cut, you
owe it to yourself to experience it in its widescreen glory.
**** (Both Versions)
Movies of this kind
are expected to enthrall with their sound quality, and Alexander is no exception. The 5.1 mix is nothing short of
spectacular. From the sweeping poetic sound of the music score composed by
veteran Vangelis, to the rousing thunderous battle scenes, all the way down to
the exuberant set pieces, this audio presentation excels in dynamic range. The
result is one glorious presentation, for sure!
**** (Both Versions)
Warner strikes a
glorious blow with the 2-Disc release of Alexander.
There are only two things that differ between the two releases. The theatrical
edition is separated into two parts between Disc 1 and 2, with features spread
out between the discs. The second difference are the commentaries. On the
Director’s Cut release, there’s a commentary by Oliver Stone himself, while
the Theatrical version has a track with Stone and historian Robin Lane Fox.
include the intriguing documentaries, “Resurrecting Alexander”, “Perfect
is the Enemy of Good”, and “The Death of Alexander”, as well as the
featurette, “Vangelis Scores Alexander”. Lastly, there is a Theatrical
Trailer and Teaser for the film and additional DVD-Rom content.