Alexander

Run, do not walk, in the other direction.
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2004
Director: 
Oliver Stone
Starring: 
Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins
The Setup: 
Looking to LOSE any interest you might have had in the life of Alexander the Great?
Discussion: 

I am frankly STUNNED by the amount of positive, or even mediocre, reviews this film is getting from online users [not pro critics], because it is just so all-round terrible. Now, I like bad movies, and was looking forward to some historical inaccuracy/gay glowering/Oedipal follies-type action, but NO! This movie is not bad in any kind of entertaining way (nor is it good in any kind of entertaining way) it is just flat-out BORING. Which can be accepted when you're looking at 90 minutes, but not 3 hours.

The movie just never comes to life. I left with the impression that there's just too much in Alexander's life to do justice to in a 3hr Hollywood film. It begins with (what seems like) 5 minutes of narration from Anthony 'I'll-act-in-anything-yes-ANYTHING' Hopkins, (actually the non-excitement is already somehow apparent even during the opening credits), which sort of lulls you out before anything even starts. I think these long-distant cultures are so hard for a moviegoer to relate to anyway—and more so when there's so many aspects that can so easily merge into silliness. This film misses its first steps and never recovers.

It just never gets going, and then you find you're an hour in, and it still doesn't seem like it's going yet. Then you find out Alexander is already king, and already fought some major battles, and you're like “What? How 'bout we see some of that stuff?!?” But fear not, because near the conclusion, when you're repeating this mantra to yourself: “PleaseEndPleaseEndPleaseEndPleaseEndPleaseEndPleaseEnd” the movie will flash BACK 8 years, and that is when your compulsive hair-pulling and self-mutilation will begin. But that part explains what happened in between. As for why Stone decided to arrange it this way, that is just one of the several questions you will have about his directorial and writerly intentions, because none of them seem to work.

I didn't find the performances as off-note as many others, though I also agree that none of them ever quite gel into a character you have any kind of emotional response to. It's a little bit like my reaction to Attack of the Clones: “Look, there's a bunch of people on screen, running around doing things, but I have no idea what they're doing and I don't care.” Except you have to keep in mind that the actors in Attack of the Clones were mostly reacting to a tennis ball on a stick. I don't know what the excuse here is. You will find yourself looking forward to Angelina Jolie's appearances just because she's obviously out to eat up the screen, and that gives her a lot more motivation than anyone else, who mostly seem to want to act really seriously, you know, like really, really serious actors. Angelina also looks great, but I guess when you're only 2 years older than your son, that happens!

The first battle in the desert is a one of the few meager highlights, but I had the sense, arising from titles that read 'Macedonian left' and 'Macedonian center,' etc., that an attempt was being made to help us understand some of the brilliant military strategy Alexander was supposedly known for, but it fails to such an extent that I have to believe that crucial bits of footage were inadvertently destroyed.

This battle also marks the second time in the same month [November 2004] that the theme from the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service has been ripped off wholesale for a film. This theme was also ripped off as the main theme from The Incredibles, but at least they had the decency to announce their intentions by using the actual music in the trailer, before writing a sound-alike for the movie. While we're at it, let's turn our attention to the score. This is another head-shaking choice. Vangelis' (remember him?) score is all-synth, and as such, it is ALL-Cheese. It also seems to be present in EVERY SECOND of the film. If you ask me, the only film in which Vangelis' music was appropriate was Blade Runner. Anyway, the guy also rips off his own Chariots of Fire score for the end credits.

Anyway, so while we're watching another of those generic, two-huge-armies-facing-each-other-across-a-big-field, spears all up in the air, getting all rallied up, you will find yourself CURSING BRAVEHEART for ever starting all this ridiculous madness! Make it stop! We have seen enough of these battles, okay? They are BORING. And Braveheart also seemed to usher in the notion that any film in which one of these lame-o generic battles occurs MUST be 3 hours long, because if not, how else would we know that this is an IMPORTANT film?

You could seriously chop one full hour out of this film without the sense of having lost anything. But make it two while you're at it.

Oh by the way, if you do see it, I hope you don't miss the SUBTLE animal symbolism.

You find yourself shaking your head, looking at all the money and time utterly wasted.

Okay, now to all things homo. It's been interesting reading going through the IMDb reviews about this film, to see where the average moviegoer is in terms of his or her thinking about this, but I guess we did just have an election [November 2004 aqain!] in which half the country indicated that it doesn't care if their sons and daughters die overseas so long as two guys don't make out on their street, right? I'm gay, and from my perspective, the 'gay thing' was barely noticeable in the film. To me it looked like those two were just really, REALLY good friends. So it's a surprise to read others say that to them the gayness is just ALL OVER the film. My two favorite comments from the IMDb are 'WHY did they HAVE to make him gay?' (Uh, well, because that's part of history? Maybe?) The other comment, and this takes the CAKE, is 'When he wasn't being totally gay, he was thinking about being gay the next chance he gets.' I love the whole concept that when I DON'T have a cock in my mouth, I'm no longer gay! Ah, dear. Anyway, from my perspective this film soft-pedaled the whole thing, but I guess for some people any homosexuality is way, WAYYYY too much homosexuality.

I've pretty much said everything. If you're thinking, for some reason, it might be fun bad, or it might be a hoot to watch Angelina vamp it up, or whatever, YOU ARE WRONG. Do not go FOR ANY REASON. It's a shame this turned out to be such a bummer, especially when you read that this is the film Oliver Stone wanted to make for like 30 years. THIS is the film you wanted to make? It's also a shame because I can pretty much guarantee that anyone who was remotely interested in learning about Alexander's life will NO LONGER be interested after watching this movie, and NO ONE will pick up a book on him, or want ANY further involvement with him, after watching this movie. Perhaps Oliver Stone's dream of 30 years was to destroy any nascent interest in Alexander for now and all time. If that was it, he has succeeded beautifully.

Should you watch it: 

No!