As is true of his other films, there is much to be said about Oliver Stones ALEXANDER. Unfortunately, in this case, little of it is good. This is not so much a film as an amorphous blob that has suffocated the idea of a film somewhere within its vast and gooey structure. There is a clue right off the bat that there is something amiss when the opening shot is a sort of homage to the opening of CITIZEN KANE. Instead of a snow globe falling from the hand of the dying titular character (Colin Farrell), its a big shiny ring. Instead of a newspaper reporter trying to uncover the real story behind the headlines and unfolding the narrative, its Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy, one of Alexanders generals, the one who was awarded Egypt for his efforts. In his golden years, Ptolemy is living the good life as Pharoah in the land of the Nile and, those years being a time of reflection, hes dictating his memoirs to a scribe. Its a device that will recur throughout the film and one that has the feeling of having been tacked on after someone saw a rough cut of the film and went uh-oh.
Uh oh is the operative phrase here. Leaping and bounding through the high points of Alexanders life as his army cuts a wide swath through the known word, it has an epics budget and a B-movies spirit. The requisite heroic music swells in all the right places underscoring dialogue that studded with such classically bilious B-movie gems as By the Gods. This is a jumbled mess with a disjointed story line, a klunky flashback, and pedestrian editing with a dab of sex tossed in every so often in an attempt to keep the audiences interest. Even there, with a captured harem breaking into a spontaneous belly dance or Alexanders wedding night with an Asian bride (Rosario Dawson) that begins with a slap fight worthy of a kindergarten playground squabble, its a tactic that fizzles. Its also sloppy. A recurring motif of an eagle leading Alexander along on his voyage of conquest is dangled without the explanation that the bird is a symbol of Zeus, king of the gods and putatively Alexanders real father. At least according to some of the many ravings by Alexander’s mother, Olympias. All things considered, perhaps a turkey would have been a more appropriate symbol for Al to follow. By the time Stone pulls himself together and throws in some of the visual fireworks for which he is justly famous, the effect is one of parody rather than artistry.
Farrell spends his screen time looking either wild-eyed, confused, or sometimes both. It makes for an interesting study in physiognomy, and yet, one that doesnt quite jibe with the idea of someone who conquered the world by the time he was 32. Then again, the motive Stone gives him for achieving that is a burning desire to get as far away from his mother, the snake-wrapped Olympias, as he can. Undoubtedly a formidable woman in real life, Angelina Jolies overwrought histrionics never manage to make her more than a vicious nudge with a peculiar accent that seems to have a stranglehold on her larynx. As for Alexanders father, King Phillip of Macedonia, Val Kilmer reprises his role as Jim Morrison as played in his earlier collaboration with Stone in THE DOORS
The fact of Alexanders preference for his general and life-long friend, Hephestion (a wan and fragile-looking Jared Leto), and men in general, is handled with such delicacy that it seems all concerned were more than a little embarrassed to have to deal with it at all.
An issue handled more decisively, and not without a deliberate whiff of contemporary commentary, concerns the beginning of Alexanders career as a world conqueror. Hes standing on the border of Persia, the forces of King Darius arrayed before him, and the pep talk Alexander gives his men before occupying the country is that they will be setting the inhabitants free and prevent them from further mischief in Macedonia. Its vintage Stone. Unfortunately, this moment that might have spawned a film that is flawed but intriguing goes nowhere, though not without Alexander mouthing a great deal about uniting the world and the equality of all humankind, generally before engaging in slaughter of some sort. One longs for focus of some sort and one is disappointed at every turn.
Despite the fact that arrows fly, camels charge, and blood flows with reckless abandon, it all comes across as a particularly dry history text. ALEXANDER takes as its subject one of the most colorful, larger-than-life people to have ever walked the planet and turned him into a petulant child with shockingly pedestrian family issues and a bad haircut.