Friday, April 27, 2007


RUNTIME: 182 min.

ALEXANDER might just be what I would say the best worst movie ever. I always believe that the best way to judge a work is not what you think it should be but what its creator wanted it to be. ALEXANDER could have been a sweeping war movie about a complex king who was not just a shrewd war strategist but also had a unique vision about the world much in the mould of a LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or a PATTON. But Stone, I guess, goes for the hard way and fails miserably. His ALEXANDER is one of the most ambitious movies I have ever come across. It intends to encompass every thing about the great leader and it achieves nothing.
ALEXANDER is the story of the great king told from the viewpoint of Ptolemy (Sir Anthony Hopkins). In fact much of the story is told by means of a voice-over by Sir Hopkins. It starts off with young Alexander watching the turmoil between his father Philip (Val Kilmer) and his mother Olympia (Angelina Jolie). Olympia maintains that Alexander is actually the son of Zeus and is actually a descendant of the mythical Greek war hero Achilles. Young Alexander’s favorite hero is in fact Achilles. When Philip plans to marry the young princess of Macedonia and have a son of his own. There happens to be a standoff between father and son and Alexander and his mother are banished from the kingdom. We learn from Ptolemy that Philip was murdered and young Alexander was crowned king. The movie is then all about the eight years during which Alexander went on his great ambition to conquer and free the people of the known world.
The biggest problem with ALEXANDER is its lack of clarity and vision. The only thing I understood from the movie about this great man was that he had a unique vision not shared by many during his time. And it was his unique vision that took him to great heights as well as brought his downfall. Rest of everything is a big blur to me. Stone tries to do so much in so little a time that he leaves everything in a mess. That is what ALEXANDER is, a big pile of mess. Strangely, for a Stone film, there is no real conviction in the movie. I don’t think so that ALEXANDER is a movie that Stone made from his heart.
What is the whole point of making a biopic? Isn’t it to understand the person in question? The problem with ALEXANDER is that it itself never understands its protagonist. Everything, every single thing about him is ambiguous.
Look at another biopic that has been released this year- Martin Scorsese’s THE AVIATOR. It was too about this complex character with his own set of problems. But Martin Scorsese so brilliantly portrays how Hughes overcame those problems to become the great aviator he was. The movie has a vision and it follows it.
I couldn’t understand half of the elements that were present in the movie. For instance, I just didn’t get the point behind the whole angle of Olympia being a sorceress and her influence on him. And why were there snakes all over the place.
ALEXANDER unfortunately is a big bore. I mean there are sequences where you would ask yourself, why the hell am I still sitting through this. After all what do we look for in a movie? It is connection. The movie on some level has to connect with us so that we understand what it is trying to say. But ALEXANDER never does that. It is so much engulfed in its own set of problems that we as audiences are left out of the game. Normally I am a very patient viewer and often tend to pay attention even in bad movies. I never like talking during a movie. But here I couldn’t help myself from doing that. I had to will myself to pay attention what it was trying to say. And every time I managed to put my concentration together, one of those court scenes would come and blast all of that to pieces.
The dialogues in the movie are so plastic and clich├ęd. And the screenplay should have paid more attention to Alexander the person rather than what happened around Alexander. I guess what Stone was trying to make was something more on the lines of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. If it is true then he couldn’t have failed more miserably.
The direction by Stone is surprisingly inert during most of the movie. His are movies are the ones with which we associate a lot of energy. Anyone who has seen NATURAL BORN KILLERS, PLATOON, WALLSTREET and JFK will know what to expect. There were a couple of incidents in Alexander’s life which brought goose bumps in me as a kid. I used to read them again and again because secretly I wanted to be like him- as every kid my age did. His conquering the wild horse is one that has been imprinted in our minds forever. But that was one of the most disappointing moments during the film. There was absolutely no inspiration during that.
And what was the whole point behind showing Alexander’s sexual life? I mean does it really matter as whether he was a homosexual or a heterosexual or as the movies portrays him as a bi. It would have been good if there was just a slight reference on that. But if you make a whole movie centered on inconsequential topics like that and Olympia it would be talking beside the point. If I ask even a 2nd grade kid as to who was Alexander pat would come the reply-“He was this great leader who fought many wars and won the known world.” If I ask a more learnt person he would say that Alexander was this brilliant war strategist who was a fantastically inspirational king as well, a king loved dearly by his subjects.
The movie gives absolutely no credit to Alexander the war strategist. His brilliant tactical brain is shown just during a war sequence involving the one against Babylon. In fact I felt greatly offended by the movie’s depiction of Alexander who is in his own self doubt and needs the help of an eagle to guide him through. The movie is trying to tell us that he was a king who was driven by magical powers rather than by his own inner abilities.
Again I didn’t get the point behind showing the troubled relationship between Alexander and his Babylonian wife.
One thing, why did the Babylonian stutter before Alexander? Alexander never spoke English. And Babylonians never spoke Greek. So for all my money there would have been no way but by means of an interpreter and that would have been just too cumbersome. So why did he show her stutter?
I was expecting the movie to show Alexander’s role in developing the tax systems and other form of government systems. He gave the known world more than just war. But the movie does none of that. Instead it decided to show the great king in a light he of all people doesn’t deserve to be shown.
One of the weakest scenes in the movie is where Philip is murdered and Alexander is pronounced king. I am not at all convinced
It is not that the movie is without its strengths. The war sequences, albeit only a couple of them, are dynamite. The bird’s eye view is a fantastically creative touch from Stone. The movie very brilliantly shows the gradual demoralization of Alexander’s troops. One of the few things I liked about ALEXANDER is the way the speech before the war technique is used. The thing started with BRAVEHEART and has been used innumerable number of times in the movies since then. But here it isn’t just for the purpose of showing how inspirational a leader Alexander was. In a brilliant scene later in the movie, before the war against Indians, Alexander again tries to inspire his troops to war. But his troops are going to have none of it.
The performances are pathetic. I couldn’t help but question as to what was he thinking when he cast Angelina Jolie as Olympia. Her inconsistent accent made me squirm in my seat. I mean I have no words for how bad that performance from Jolie is.
I am no great director but I wish to advice Oliver Stone that for a character like this the last person you would choose is Colin Farrell. I would have gone forward with Christian Bale. Colin Farrell has this urban chip about him that doesn’t seem fit in here. His performance is not as worse as most people are saying. But the whole movie is so confused by its central character that Farrell himself can do nothing about it. He is not a great actor by any stretch of the imagination. He is one of those actors who are only as good as the movie is. And here he does nothing to justify Stone’s selection. He appears confused throughout the movie, except for some battle sequences. This movie here is one of the major disappointments of recent times, a serious misfire. Although Stone might have reasons for his approach, the movie never justifies them. If this was supposed to be a factually correct, there’s no way in this world that Alexander was capable of conquering the world, for ALEXANDER shows him as weak, indecisive and consumed by self doubt. ALEXANDER THE GREAT deserves a great deal more than this.

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