Director's Ego Mars Epic
Wouldn’t you think a director like Oliver Stone, who’s made eight films, been nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won three Oscars, could make a story work within the two-hour timeframe of most films? Stone’s Alexander, crossing the line at three hours -- mostly because of the 10 -15 minute fight scenes -- is an acceptable movie that could have been far better with some good editing.
Alexander the Great was a phenomenal man who upon his death at 33 (in 323 B.C.) had led the armies of three countries 22,000 miles, conquered 17 countries and impacted the social and psychological culture of the inhabitants of those countries. So it stands to reason Stone had much ground to cover. Yet sometimes less is more, and if by the second hour of the film people are leaving for walks or rest room breaks, yawning and titling their heads in their seats, then there’s a problem.
Colin Farrell certainly put in his homework to play Alexander, including attending an Alexander boot camp and doing most of his own stunts; and for the most part, he does a good job. From Alexander’s frustration of trying to please his father and understand his mother to figuring out if he likes men or women, Farrell taps into the warrior, peacemaker and lover in the heroic figure. However, the range of his responsibilities is just too extensive to cover well, which puts Farrell at a disadvantage. The blonde wig doesn’t add to the enjoyment of his performance either.
Nevertheless, two actors really stand out in their roles. Val Kilmer plays Alexander’s father, King Philip II of Macedonia. Estranged from his wife Olympias (Angelina Jolie), King Philip is a loose cannon. He’s disfigured from his own war battles, unsure of his next political moves and terribly saddened that Alexander is a mommy’s boy. Kilmer’s loud, drunken scenes never let the viewer underestimate the power of this man for a minute.
And Jared Leto is marvelous as Alexander’s true friend Hephaistion. While the film raises obvious questions concerning his and other male companions’ sexual relations with Alexander, Leto emerges as a magnet that draws the audience into the convoluted story.
Because Angelina Jolie is so beautiful on screen, perhaps the best we’ve ever seen her, one can almost forgive her annoying character. She’s bathed in snakes, a snarling but ineffective pawn to King Phillip, and although her world revolves around Alexander, she manages to alienate him as well.
Stone certainly gets accolades for his all-out visual look of the era and locations. The Gods themselves could not have built such opulent and magnificent sets, which keep the interest going while traveling from country to country and watching Alexander and the men fight for power again and again.
Learning about Alexander is part of the attraction of the film. Anthony Hopkins plays Ptolemy, who bounces in and out of the story to fill in the gaps of history. This is another waste of great talent, and many endless moments of story-telling that quickly become dull.
If the thought of a three-hour film, endless fight scenes and erratic accents aren’t enough to dissuade you from a movie, then you might enjoy Alexander. I, however, found the musical score by famed Greek composer Vangelis the best element of the film.
(Released by Warner Bros. and rated “R” for violence and some sexuality/nudity.)