Alexander (2004), or The Ministry Of Silly Accents

11 02 2009
Why isnt anybody looking at each other? Was there a falling-out?

Why isn't anybody looking at each other? Was there a falling-out?

Hello, everyone! Today we take a look at the historical epic. The sweeping romance! The breathtaking vistas! A cast of thousands! A cost of millions! One of the costliest and riskiest stories to put up on screen, these titans of the industry have two things going wrong for them right off the bat. Firstly, the fact that most people (i.e. the lowest common denominator of human being, the General Populace of Moviegoers; the dreaded GPM) hate having to learn things, especially musty dusty history. ‘It’s old, they’re dead, and nobody cares about it, so go give me two tickets to see Transformers, please!’ The second thing people that is dangerous about these movies is their long running time. Some people cannot sit in a theater for 3 hours. These people have better things to do. They have to go home on the couch and sit for eight hours there. They’re busy people, damnit, and they cannot sit around all day hearing about the lamentations of the ancient dead! So these things constantly work against these types of films, which are already prone to disaster simply because of their inflated budgets. But sometimes, despite all this, a historical epic can come out the gate and make millions of people satisfied: 300 and Gladiator are two films recently that have definitely made their mark on cinematic history. Our film today is not one of those movies. Our film barely eked out a profit and became synonomous with star-power chicanery and extreme mismarketing. Our film today is 2004’s Alexander, and it is certainly an oddity.

So, I believe we’re all aware of the basic plot, which is the life of the legendary historical figure Alexander the Great. He was born the son of King Philip of Macedonia during the 4’th century B.C.E. and rose to kingship at age twenty, where he, during his life, would come to conquer most of the known world. The film juggles between his personal and political life, showing not only the rough and tumble military man who led his armies personally out to the battlefield, but the man in private who held his wife close but his friend Hephaestion closer. It is an entire life, 33 years, and it is quite a spectacle.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. I can run with the pack and say that this movie is horrible, that this movie’s the devil, that this movie’s going to kill my momma. But here’s the thing. It’s not that bad. Is it good? No, not too much. But the worst movie of all time? PLEASE! I do not want to hear one more word about how this movie was a ‘travesty’, an ‘abortion’, and ‘the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life’. There are so many worse films out there, and it’s a detriment to really awful films to put this anywhere near the “Worst Of All Time” list.

Well, let’s get the bad things right out in the open. The main cast is worthless. Utterly worthless. Colin Farrell is no more heroic than I am a fucking Martian, and he scores the titular role. He does not exude nearly the amount of confidence someone playing Alexander the Great should. Even when his actions are sure, his face and his body language always say otherwise. It is very off-putting for me. And don’t even get me started on Angelina Jolie… What is it with her and these insipid accents she trots out? As Olympia, Alexander’s mother, she sounds like a Russian impersonating an Albanian impersonating Angelina Jolie. It is mind-boggling, and I will no longer have anyone telling me that she is a good actress without proof (there is none, so it is never really brought up). And besides the cast, it seems that this movie suffers from the same problems as one of our earlier films, The Duchess, in that the marketing department really dropped the ball on this one. Admittedly, however, this time it may have been intentional. Because despite all the action sequences that are purported to exist in this film, there are really only a few. And that is fine with me, but it is very alienating when you are expecting one thing and receive another. This is more of an ancient political drama than it is a balls-to-the-wall action movie, which was what they made it seem like. It was quite bizarre.

And something about director Oliver Stone… I can’t put my finger on it, but it seems he really can’t put the camera where it needs to go. As far as directing the rest of the crew it must have been a Herculean (HA!) task to accomplish and that deserves some credit. But I felt that the shots were just not there. I wanted to see more ancient wonder, more sights, more locales, and on that I felt cheated. Too many interior shots for a time that has so many vistas to offer.

But there are some good things about it. While the historocity is often flawed (Persians, much like in 300, are rabid animals rather than an organized army), they do hit a lot of things on the mark. And in that, it is interesting to watch such a spectacle of history unfold. This is a fun historical movie to watch if you are into that sort of thing (yes, I am; guilty as charged). And also I felt that the supporting cast was great. Jared Leto as Alexander’s friend Hephaestion is, and I can’t believe after years of dogging him I’m actually going to say this, not bad. He performs amiably, which is more than I can say about most of his career on and off the screen (oooh, burn!). Val Kilmer rises from the Land of The Dead Careers to play King Philip, and he is a spiky, mean son-of-a-bitch. I liked watching him blow up. It is great. And Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy is, needless to say, great. The special effects, if you are into that sort of thing, are great for the time. The ancient world is lovingly rendered. I loved the attention to detail. And also if you are into political dramas, as I mentioned earlier, this movie is that in spades. With all the real life intrigue Alexander went through, it was shooting fish in a barrel for the writers, but it is worth mentioning that simply because if Oliver Stone can pull off one thing, it’s political drama.

All put together, it’s not that great. But it surely isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen. Not even close. And let me be very clear; I have only seen the “Director’s Cut” of this, so I may not be getting the full experience. There is a newer DVD called “Alexander: The Final Cut” that is 3 1/2 hours long and adds quite a bit of footage. This version might be better, so keep an eye out for an update. I will definitely be watching that to make sure I took all of Oliver Stone’s vision in. But, as of right now, I give Alexander 6 Russian-Albanian-Angelina-Jolie-impersonators out of 10. If you are in the GPM, this is not the movie for you, and hey, while I have your attention GET OFF MY SITE!

See you tomorrow for my review of Hamlet 2!