"Alexander" is the finally nail in the coffin for ancient epic films. "Gladiator" returned the genre to prosperity, but after this year's disappointing "Troy," "Alexander" proves to be even worse.
Earlier this year, "Troy" unleashed Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom upon theaters, seeking to repeat the success of "Gladiator." It failed, providing entertaining sequences without much content to back the action up. Movie-Source cited director Wolfgang Petersen for the film's failures; "Troy" was bland and without flavor.
As for "Alexander," directed by the great Oliver Stone, the complete opposite is the problem. Visually, "Alexander" is impressive. The visual effects and set design look much more realistic than what was executed in "Troy." The film is dark and gritty just the way a movie like this should be. Stone knows how to use a camera like he knows how to use his hands... Unfortunately, where there is visual flare there is nothing entertaining to compel audiences to sit through the three hour running time. "Alexander" is boring, boring, boring and... did I mention boring? There are only two battle scenes in the entire movie, only one of them of significant size. The rest is talking, talking and more talking, and if I sound like I'm whining, you may be right. Nevertheless, "Alexander" does not work as a three-hour dialogue drama, whether it be due to expectations of something more exciting or just because it is deeply flawed.
Stone should have put another forty minutes on the editing room floor. In fact, the entire screenplay should have been revised. The first thing every new screenwriter learns is that a movie should not begin with narration. Of course, a lot of good movies use narration, but what is used in "Alexander" is exactly the form of that should be avoided at all costs; Stone uses the narration to skip over parts of the story. Most tragic is that Anthony Hopkins is shoved to a pointless role as the narrator and the movie begins by looking at his character as he dictates Alexander's story to writers. Every Hopkins scene should have been removed from the movie. His scenes add nothing to the film and slow it down even further; it's not a good way to begin a movie. Within the first minute I knew I was in trouble, and there were still another three hours to go.
After Hopkin's horrible opening scene, the movie jumps back nearly fifty years to when Alexander is a child. We get to see the hatred that is brewing between his parents, King Philip (Val Kilmer) and Olympias (Angelina Jolie) and the effect this has on our young hero. Then Hopkins remarks that Philip has been murdered and we skip ahead to where Alexander, now played by Colin Farrell, is preparing to attack Persia. What commences is an excellent build-up to the battle (something "Troy" failed to do) and a really unique battle sequence, where Stone soars over the battle like an eagle. Oh, the battle scene is fun to watch - but it's the only major one in the entire damn movie!
After the battle, the movie rolls on at a tediously slow pace, skipping ahead months or years at a time with Hopkins filling in the gaps. I thought I went into the theater to watch a movie about Alexander the Great, but instead "Alexander" is about Alexander the Flawed. It is perfectly fine to have a flawed leader character (in fact, it's typically preferred), but Alexander's ludicrous quest to continue moving farther east makes no sense. As far as I know, not that much is known about Alexander the man, so at least some of his shortcomings must have been inserted for dramatic effect. It was a bad idea. By the end of the movie, I had been wanting Alexander to die for about an hour. I was so insanely bored I didn't care one bit about him, and he's the protagonist of the film! That's not a good sign.
To add insult to injury, the acting is shaky as well. Farrell, who apparently stole the wig from David Spade in "Joe Dirt," delivers his worst performance to date. I am a huge fan of Farrell and consider him to be one of the best actors out there, but in the movie I expected him to finally rise to greatness, but instead he takes a step back. His accent is shaky and at times his dialogue is laughable, but that can be blamed on the script more than anything else. There are some semi-powerful scenes, but there are also several funny scenes that weren't supposed to be funny. Jolie is okay as his mother and Kilmer is likable as his father, but Rosario Dawson is completely wasted (she was obviously chosen because she has big, naked breasts), as are several other actors. Every character has a different accent, whether it be Irish or American or some weird mix, but none are very convincing. There will be no Oscar nominations for the actors here.
In fact, there will be no Oscar nominations period for "Alexander." After "Troy" failed to inspire, I was at least expecting this one to be better, if not award worthy; instead, it is so dreadfully boring it deserves a place even lower down than "Troy," and that is not a good place to be. Stone obviously had a vision of his lead character, but when you make a three hour movie, you have to entertain the audience. The same story could have been told without narration and with a lot more action and everyone would have benefited from the end result. "Alexander" is not great.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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