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At first, I didn't feel much of a need to comment on the film, since so
many others have written and have said so many things. But I think
there are some really important points to made, and I haven't seen
anyone make them. So here I am writing.
In my opinion, almost everyone misunderstood the relationship between Hephaistion and Alexander. In the modern world, especially in the West, two men are either very close to each other, sleep together, and have sex, or they keep a good comfortable distance from each other and, if they're friendly, might punch each other on the arm. In this film, we see a relationship that is hard for most people today to understand, namely a passionate love relationship between two men in which sex is not very important and possibly even absent.
Aristotle essentially explained the whole film near the beginning when he told the young couple something like the following, as best I can remember it, "When two men lie together in lust, it is over indulgence. But when two men lie together in purity, they can perform wonders." Or something like that. Given what I know of that culture, I am sure that "in purity" means no sex, or at least very little. That's why we never see them kiss. In the film, as in many older films, kissing is a metaphor for sex. Even when Alexander kisses his mother, it refers to the idea of sex. That's why Alexander kisses Bagoas, but not Hephaistion.
Now I'm not sure if the real historical Aristotle would have made that remark. That's not exactly what he says about homosexuality in the Nicomachean Ethics. But the remark is plausible enough since Alexander could easily have heard such an idea during his youth. Plato (before Aristotle) expressed that idea, and Zeno of Citium (after Aristotle) did too. So even if Aristotle never said this to Alexander, it is plausible enough that the idea was in the air and that Alexander heard it from someone or other.
Some have complained that the "homosexuality" (assuming that A's relationship with Heph. should even be called that) was thrown in their faces too much. But it's crucial to the plot. Stone is hypothesizing that Hephaistion was essential for what Alexander did. Further, it's a standard Hollywood convention to juxtapose a love story with some great political, military, or otherwise grand event. There are tons of examples. Titanic, Enemy at the Gates, Gone with the Wind, ... the list could go on forever. It really is homophobic to complain about Stone continually going back to this theme, because he has a perfectly good artistic reason to do it.
A few more details: Alexander's hair. I think that Stone was trying to make Alexander look like Martin Potter in Satyricon -- a nod to Fellini.
Alexander's accent and soft appearance. Another nod to a great director passed on, this time Stanley Kubrick. Farrel really looks a lot like Ryan O'Neil in Barry Lyndon. In fact, he really looks like a Ryan O'Neill / Martin Potter coalescence. I think it's deliberate.
The softness of Alexander's personality. In a lot of scenes it made sense. He was gentle enough to know how to approach Bucephalus and tame him without scaring him. He was open minded enough to adopt a lot of Persian culture and encourage intermarriage, while the other more "he-man" folks around him were less comfortable with the idea.
Yes, if you haven't figured it out by now, I do like the film. People's hatred of the film is hard for me to understand.
The audience is not being able to understand the difference between ancient and modern morals, but to be honest I don't care about the wider audience. Why should Oliver have to sugarcoat and alter his work simply because the 'MTV generation' and mass TV watchers of the United States don't know their history? I say he shouldn't. Their ignorance is *their* problem, not Oliver's. In a long shot, Oliver Stone chose to create a historically accurate film around the life of a man, both fact and fiction, who created the gateway for humanity's future path. Many will not appreciate this film, because their minds are too stuffed with current calamity to realize where their freedoms and dreams of equality originated from. This is a brilliant film, which was portrayed correctly, from a personable point of view, to create the character of Alexander in the manner in which he lived; uninhibited by other influences save those whom he loved and knew were trustworthy. This movie is about the origins not only of the Western mind and intellect, but also plan larger into the scheme of the man who saw and dreamt of the future- a world which accepted each other and lived together in diversity in harmony. This man was Alexander-- our Western father. Like it, hate it; it doesn't really matter. The fact is, Oliver Stone brought to his team of experts internationally respected historians to make this film as accurate historically as possible. This should not go without notice. Colin Farrell, a known Irish- now Hollywood loverboy, does indeed display the heart and integrity of a natural born leader. He has lead this cast in an epic performance, well past his personal years and experience. He is worthy of praise in his portrayal of Alexander. The movie is fantastic; Well done, Olivier, Colin, etc... Well done.
I read the negative reviews just like everyone else, and I went to see
it with slightly lower expectations than I had about a month ago.
Having said that, however, I still loved the movie. I didn't find it
boring in the least, and I was truly engrossed in every scene. The two
battles featured in this movie carry more tension than anything "Troy"
could have ever hoped to show. The performances in this movie are all
right on the money. Colin Farrell has a scene in the film shortly
before the second battle where he argues with Crateros that is just
amazing. Also, a quick word about Val Kilmer, he has a wonderful human
moment in the scene where Alexander tames the horse where he demands to
be able to buy the horse half price if Alexander can tame it. Here is a
man who is willing to risk his son's life, and then use it to get a
The time structure didn't really bother me at all. It may not have been completely necessary, but it didn't confuse me at all. Since I could still follow the narrative fine, I let it go. Some critics say a flashback to Philip's murder is unnecessary, and they should have handled that in the flashback at the beginning of the story, but I thought it placed an extra amount of importance on Cleitus, after seeing him murdered. Also, the scene where Alexander confronts Olympias concerning the murder of Philip was, in my opinion, very emotionally powerful, and it would have been ill advised to have that scene so early in the film, since it carried so much weight.
Several people criticized the scenes with Anthony Hopkins, saying the grinded the film to a hault. What everyone seems to be missing, in those observations, is that Hopkins still plays the role as perfectly as it could be played. Can't we just sit back and enjoy watching this great actor perform admirably, even if the scenes aren't the most exciting in the world? Look into his eyes during his final speech in the film, where he weighs his responsibility in Alexander's death, and, now, tell me the film would have been better off without him.
Stone has, in my humble opinion, crafted a great film that will be appreciated by those with an open mind and patience. I have always had a high tolerance for long movies, and I think many films would be better if they were willing to add another half-hour. Is the movie boring??? Yes. But you know what, pacing is over-rated. Pacing is important to people who have trouble keeping awake at the movies. If you have the ability to remain focused on one thing for three hours, than you just might love "Alexander". "2001" is a poorly-paced, boring movie, but it's still one of the greatest films ever made.
It's a great film for those who will let it be.
Last night I saw the movie a second time, with my 20 year old son. The
audience was of an entirely different demographic than the first
viewing (which was an advance screening). The average age of the
audience was about 35-45, with not too many teens in there. And guess
what? Besides the fact that the entire theatre was PACKED, there was
absolutely not a sound from the audience...like they were breathless.
No snickering at blond hair, eyeliner, sultry looks from Bagoas, or any
of the things that drew slight laughs when I saw it for the first time.
It bolstered my hope that as time goes on and more people see it, there
will be a more favorable opinion of it.
I myself liked the movie a whole lot more the second time around. I watched different things this time...paid more attention to the sets and the other characters behind and around whoever was the primary action of the moment. I listened to the narration more closely, and enjoyed the film much more this time.
Response from my 20 year old son, who wasn't just trying to be nice to his old mom, was very positive. He even thought that the assassination scene was fine where it was because it related better to what was going on in Alexander's head at the time.
I highly recommend a second (at least) viewing at a theatre with a very good sound system. I realized I had missed some of the dialogue and narration because the 1st theatre's sound system was horrible.
P.S. Kudos to Mr. Stone for his lifetime achievement award in Sweden. They don't give those out to just anyone, you know?
I was saddened when Alexander the movie received criticism for
featuring homosexuality. Besides being a neanderthalic prejudice, it
distracted from the many valid reasons for criticism. This is a strong
contender for worst movie ever made.
I will say first that this film has a marvelous cast. But it really doesn't help. Really.
It's almost totally ahistorical, but that's standard practice. It's irritating if you know something about Alexander's life and deeds (I studied him college), but the people I feel sorry for are the ones who walk away thinking they've been exposed to an educational experience. There is a small book in explaining how wrong this assumption is. It'd write it, but it would involve watching the movie again. But the rather liberal interpretation of the available information is a side issue in explaining why this is a strong contender for worst movie ever made.
The script is dreadful. Mind-bendingly dreadful. It's deficiencies take several forms. I shall enumerate them;
1) The dialogue is actually a series of monologues. Every-one is apparently reciting excerpts from their autobiographies, or treatises on whatever is at hand, letters to whomever they are talking to, letters to the editor, political speeches, self-help manuals... It's certainly not conversation.
2) It's portentous. I sometimes like portentousness, it can lend atmosphere. Here, it lends to the tedium. The tedium doesn't need adding to, it's already oversubscribed.
3) It never knows when to stop. Anthony Hopkins has a monologue at the end that goes on for several minutes. You keep thinking it'll end, hoping, praying it will end (this Anthony Hopkins! He could probably read the ingredients of soap and make it sound interesting), and it does, eventually, but by then you slipped even further into a coma and are in no fit condition to cheer. Colin Farrell seems to spend half the movie looking off into space and holding forth at length on, oh, whatever, but always passionately.
4) It's badly written. It's a bad series of portentous monologues that never know when to stop.
Aside from the script (perhaps) the film features other flaws that inhibit it from greatness. Such as?
Pointless time jumps. I have nothing against time jumps. Highlander, Once upon a time in America, Godfather part two, Once upon a time in the West, For a few dollars more, and probably other films that weren't by Sergio Leone... Many great films feature them. But usually they follow a rationale. Usually they aren't apparently random and unconnected. Here, it's like they put a couple of reels in the wrong order.
Sins of omission. While I said that the lack of adherence to historical accuracy was a side issue, not mentioning almost any episode that might actually have been exciting or interesting seems a dubious policy. Alexander, as the posters implied, was the stuff of legend made real. (I make no moral judgement here). Does it mention the phalanx? Any the innovative ways that he overcame apparently unassailable fortresses by looking at the problems from another angle? The political methodology whereby he kept a grip on all of the peoples behind him? The Gordian Knot? Does it hell. It does feature a couple of battle scenes, the second of which is shot in a vivid and pretty colour scheme, and both of which illustrate that he fought at forefront of his army. So that's something.
The most laughable sex scene ever committed to film. Alexander wins over his bride by making kitty-cat claws gestures and noises. There's more, but that's definitely the stand-out feature.
I could go on, but this film has already eaten enough of my life. The only thing epic here is the ineptitude. It actually made me feel nauseous.
Oliver Stone consulted Robin Lane Foxe, Oxford historian and the premier Alexander expert, before making this film. It shows. The film certainly ranks as one of the closest-to-the-real-story Hollywood historical mega-films. To viewers with any background in Aristotelian drama and the Greek epic, it will immediately become clear that Stone has tried hard to emulate the epic form while integrating the culture of the Greek tragedy into his film. There is plenty of fear and pity here and there are plenty of tragic elements. The aging Ptolemy as narrator even takes on some of the functions of the chorus/choir. Tragic destiny in a larger-than-life man plagued by doubts over his own decisions, his consuming passions, is the universal here; the gripping story of Alexander the historical incidental, as it were. Not surprisingly, characterization and character interaction must loom large. Which explains the numerous and lengthy monologues and dialogues. Bravo, Mr Stone. Those who can appreciate will. But I fear that hoi polloi will not appreciate. They will simply fail to understand. Postscript: If there were any episodes in Alexander's life I missed and would have liked included (at the risk of making this film even longer) it would have been the Gordian Knot and the Oasis of Siwa.
The US reviews have been really terrible and the IMDb user rating is
lower than KING ARTHUR, so I'm wondering if Europe has got a different
cut, because the film I saw was excellent. Problems, yes, like Anthony
Hopkins and Val Kilmer hamming away and Angeline doing a very odd
accent. Farrell's not bad even though he doesn't have enough small
moments to work with to shade the role: after Clive Owen's
disgracefully bad performance in KING ARTHUR it's amazing that it's
Farrell the critics are laughing at.
You don't get involved in the characters as much as you should, but its an amazing flick, a real movie. It feels like it's been done for real not by a computer by someone as mad and vainglorious as Alexander himself. Not a total success, but the 80% that hits the target is really intelligent and ambitious and is worth more than a lot of pictures that work better, if you know what I mean.
I think the reason Hollywood is so dumbed down now is when someone tries to do something different on a big scale like Alexander, HEAVEN'S GATE, REDS, ONCE UPON A TIME IN America, THE RIGHT STUFF or films like that is that the American critics who are always complaining about dumb audiences and filmmakers can't get them and tear them a new *beep*hole killing them off at the box-office. Certainly seems to be the case with Alexander. Not the most successful flick I've seen this year but easily one of the best.
I'm giving this film one star for the reason that it has absolutely no
excuse whatsoever for its wretchedness. With a cast like it has, a
budget ample enough for three good films, and a legend-centered plot
sure to pique the viewer's interest well before the movie is even seen,
it delivers a seriously despicable, laughable fiasco.
Of course it's set in ancient Greece. What's interesting is that Alexander sounds straight out of Dublin. And his mother? Why, it's Angelina Jolie, and she's...straight out of Prince Vlad of Tepes' castle in Transylvania. That's right, Vlad of the Dracul. I suppose miss Jolie spent some time watching Gary Oldman deliver his line, "Leesten to Dem! Di tcheeldren ov da nyyaat; vhat sveet muzik dai mike..." or "Alexander, Oi know vat veemen vi-ll do in yore loif..." Yes, it is that bad. So far no good.
As for Alexander's supposedly legendary tactical genius and indomitable character, here instead the viewer gets to watch the boy from Dublin with painfully obvious bleached streaks in his hair and freshly tinted eyebrows look at Jared Leto countless times with a facial expression that's half "Mommy can I have another cookie?" and half irritable bowel syndrome. Leto reciprocates, and captivates movie-goers with a luxurious dark mane of Paul Mitchell's finest work and eyes that make Dakota Fanning look Chinese.
Kilmer is wasted here, as is Hopkins. I didn't give a damn about either of their characters. Watch it yourself to see if you do.
As a boy I was fascinated by Greek mythology, Greek Tragedy and Comedy. I jump at any chance I can get to tack on extra elements of wonder to my understanding of these subjects. At least I learned something new by watching Alexander. His mother was a vampire wanna-be snake temptress and Alexander's horse had more charisma than he did. Yup, Alexander's horse gets my nomination for best actor.
If there have been five films in my life that left the most indelible impression on me, holding me immobilized on my chair watching until the last credit has disappeared while everybody else is already leaving, talking to myself while going home, three of them were connected to Oliver Stone one way or another (Midnight Express being the first). Alexander is the latest one. Why Alexander is Great? Because it was made by a visionary about another visionary, because it is true to itself, to the legacy, to history, because it doesn't sell off, because it is not your typical popcorn blockbuster, and most of all because, steering away from creating a cartoon-like, hollow and fake "Super-Man" (Troy's Achilles) it focuses on the Man Alexander. The Hu-Man Alexander. Without concessions to what's popular, what's expected, what's commercial, what's understandable. This is a director that doesn't mince words or films. You can tell I am still under the spell. People mention the sexual orientation thing, either to complain about too much or too little. Don't judge the Ancient World by today's or yesterday's standards. Men in Ancient Greece had Friendships (albeit not necessarily platonic ones), not Relationships. People mention the accents. Alexander was born in Ancient Macedonia (not to be confused with today's Balcan state of the same name, please) and therefore would have spoken heavily-accented Greek, Olympias was born from Epirus, Roxanne could muster very little Greek since she was a "barbarian" (meaning non-Greek back then) and Alexander's soldiers came from all over Southern Balkan, Minor Asia etc. I found the choice of Irish over British or American (reserved to Athenians for instance) accent, and the use in the film of many different accents a particularly clever one. People dismiss the eagle's overflight. Read about omens from the gods, they were very important for the Ancients. People want full visibility during the battles (why don't you see a John Wayne film then, all the dead are hidden from view and the heroes are never afraid or confused), people want more battles or events (and yet complain about how long the film is), people want their money back. I could go on and on here but there is no use. See the film again. Read a book. Open your eyes. Ask questions. Undefeated yet mortal, great yet flawed, larger-than-life yet human, Alexander has left a mark in the histories of so many peoples for a reason, and yet, the film has no more chances to be understood by his viewers than the king himself from his soldiers and childhood friends. Typical and sad.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When "Gladiator" stirred a latent interest in films about the ancient
world I was so hopeful we would finally be able to enjoy some exciting
cinema about my favorite time period. I have not been totally
disappointed. USA Television network has given us Attila, Caesar, and
Helen of Troy - not without flaws but solid efforts. Wolfgang
Peterson's "Troy" did not resemble the Iliad I had studied but I
appreciated the performances of Eric Bana and Brad Pitt. Brukheimer's
"King Arthur" could have used more experienced epic direction but was
loosely based on historical accounts of Sarmatian auxiliaries and their
commanders in late Roman Britain and I liked the grittier result to the
fairy tale legends of my childhood. Then I heard about Oliver Stone's
production of "Alexander" and I was sure we would have a film of the
caliber of "Ben Hur". Unfortunately, Stone managed to take what should
have been a ready-made screenplay and solid performances by Angelina
Jolie, Val Kilmer, and Colin Farrel and imparted as much insight into
the character and charisma of the world's most famous conqueror and
military genius as the images of shadowy figures thrashing about in the
blinding dust of Stone's Gaugamela.
His opening sequence with Anthony Hopkins, as Ptolemy I, droning on about his memories of Alexander was more protracted than a prologue to a History Channel documentary. In fact, I heard a man behind me mutter something like "I came to watch a movie not the History Channel!"
Stone's next major error was to omit any scenes of Philip's military prowess. "The Lion of Macedon" was as much a military genius as his celebrated son but Stone leaves us with little more than an impression he was a drunken lout. The omission of the battle of Charonea was nothing short of a blunder since it epitomized the sharing of military experience between father and son with Philip masterminding the battle and Alexander, a mere 18-years old, leading the cavalry in a critical maneuver to assure the victory. Stone handles Alexander's tutelage by Aristotle clumsily as well. Instead of focusing on Alexander's insatiable curiosity about the world around him and how Aristotle nurtured his intellect, we see a brief scene where Aristotle is essentially defending Alexander's friendship with Hephaistion to a sneering Cassander. During Alexander's brief lifetime, Alexander maintained his relationship with his tutor for years, sending examples of plants and animals from the lands he conquered back to Aristotle for study.
Then to skip both the battles of the Granicus River and Issus totally left me aghast. I think the most damaging omission was the battle of Issus. It is at Issus that Alexander first confronts Darius himself and Darius flees from the Macedonian onslaught, leaving his wife and daughters to Alexander's mercy. When Stone depicts Darius running from Alexander at Gaugamela it is done in such a way that the audience doesn't perceive it to be a lack of personal courage but just an escape, especially without the knowledge that Darius had broken and run from Alexander before.
Furthermore, Gaugamela was not executed in a way that illuminated Alexander's strategy and daring. Stone should have watched "Alexander: The Art of War" produced by the Discovery Channel for better insight.
Stone treats us to only one last battle scene in India at the Hydapses River. Again, it looks more like a running jungle battle vis-a-vis Vietnam than a carefully strategized battle where Alexander had to execute a tenuous river crossing below the expected battle site to draw some of King Porus' forces away from the center and enable Alexander's infantry to be effective.
As for the near mortal wound, Alexander was wounded at the siege of Malia, a fortified town on the way back to the Indian Ocean. He dashed over the ramparts of the town before his main force could catch up to him and he wound up cut off and, with three other companions, cornered and fighting for his life. Two of his companions were killed and a severely wounded Alexander is protected by the last remaining companion bearing the shield Alexander had supposedly taken from the grave of Achilles at Troy - another missed cinematic opportunity!
As for Alexander's bisexuality, I objected to Stone's portrayal of Hephaistion as an eye-linered catamite walking around in billowing robes. Hephaistion was as skilled a warrior as Alexander and a successful commander in his own right. Maybe Stone could not bring himself to accept a deep relationship between two very masculine men.
Now, I can only hope that the vehicle starring Leonardo diCaprio is produced or HBO gives Alexander the treatment he deserves with a blockbuster miniseries like "Band of Brothers".
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