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ALEXANDER (R) (2004)

Warner Brothers Pictures/Intermedia Films

Official Site

Director: Oliver Stone

Producers: Moritz Borman, Jon Kilik, Thomas Schuhly, Iain Smith, Oliver Stone

Written by: Oliver Stone, Christopher Kyle, Laeta Kalogridis

Cast: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Plummer


The new $150 million Hollywood epic, Alexander, a feature about the legendary ruler who conquered most of the known world and directed by the also-legendary Oliver Stone, is nothing more than a lugubrious exercise that fails miserably. This mess of a movie is under three hours but felt as long as the time years ago in which it actually happened. People who were annoyed by the length of The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King might want to stay away from Alexander.

Colin Farrell, in what is far from a breakthrough role, portrays Alexander, the Macedonian king whose empire spread over Europe and Asia before his death at the age of 32. The talent speaks many a metaphor between Alexander and Achilles and Hercules, along with Achilles and his lover, Patroclus (AN: a subplot which was amended in this year’s other sword and sandals epic, Troy, making the lovers “cousins” instead), represented in Alexander in the form of Hephaistion (Leto), Alexander’s most trusted friend (lover?). The Alexander of this movie is presented as a benevolent ruler, one who “frees” the people of the lands he “conquers” and inspires a new age of change and enlightenment throughout the eastern world. The Alexander of this film seemed more like a tortured artist in a clichéd biopic than a warrior, trying to achieve some grand vision in life. Of course there’s the dysfunctional family element in his one-eyed father, Philip (Kilmer) and his mother, Olympias (Jolie). Jolie once again tries and fails at using a foreign accent, which only serves in making her character more annoying and ridiculous.

What other nasty, awful things can I say? I must revel in it for a while. Just about everything in this movie is incoherent garbage. Characters don’t really act; they shout or stab each other to a point where you don’t even know what is going on. At the end of the scene all you can say is, “WTF, mates?” The more quiet, “character” scenes are dull and boring and make you feel like the movie was made for people battling insomnia. Christian Bale’s Trevor Reznik in The Machinist would probably be cured after watching Alexander.

There is so much talking in the movie—scenes of characters talking and talking, talking and yelling, yelling and scuffling, talking, more talking. Not that talking and heaping amounts of exposition are always bad… but in this case they are. Anthony Hopkins’ (the narrator of the story as the older Ptolemy) scenes in particular look dialed in and uninspired.

The few battle scenes depicted in the film manage to disappoint, frustrate, and downright blow. The battles plainly symbolize the movie—a giant, incoherent, pretentious mess. These scenes suffer from a lack of focus and general chaos, which I suppose one can argue reflects a real battle, but it is neither effective nor impressive here.

And what of the controversy over the movie’s delay being caused by dim studio executives who were distraught when they realized that Alexander The Great was BISEXUAL? Well, for all the talk of Colin Farrell being “eager” to play a bisexual role, and the rumors of Stone filming “aggressive gay love scenes” it’s an insignificant aspect of the movie. I don’t even know if Alexander and Hephaistion were lovers or merely close bosom buddies like Sam and Frodo. There is one scene in which Alexander smooches his chief eunuch (whom I must disappointingly say, does NOT resemble “Red Dwarf’s” Arnold Judas Rimmer). Aside from that and Farrell looking at some strapping young lads as if he wants to eat them like candy, the film just mostly implies Alexander’s preference for the same sex. You’ve got to remember folks (Warner Bros. execs., you too): Back in those times it wasn’t uncommon for people to be involved in same-sex relationships, have multiple spouses, what have you.

To take a few words from the Bard, the movie doesn’t drag—“it treads on the ground.” And it treads over the audience. In good conscience, I cannot recommend this movie for anyone, unless you really love Ollie Stone. For those expecting large amounts of epic, R-rated violence and gore, there is quite a bit of it, but sitting through the rest is not worth the price of admission. However, perhaps Rosario Dawson’s nudity as Alexander’s first wife, Queen Roxane, and for the gals what I can only assume was the bare end of a Farrell body double might be enough. There is nothing more I can say about Alexander other than that it is a perfectly awful movie.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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