Poor acting, sensationalized romance makes ‘Alexander’ an epic letdown

14 years ago Comments Off on Poor acting, sensationalized romance makes ‘Alexander’ an epic letdown

Two and one-half out of four stars (Rated R for violence and some sexuality/nudity) Running time: 173 minutes.

What profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? Such is the conundrum of Alexander the Great, one of the world’s great conquerors and subject of Oliver Stone’s film “Alexander.”

Alexander (Colin Farrell) is the son of Macedonian king Philip (Val Kilmer), a hedonistic ruler obsessed with his own legacy. His mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) is a shadowy Lady Macbeth, filling the boy with delusions of grandeur and plotting behind Philip’s back. Alexander is torn between loyalties to his father, a strict pragmatist who sees suffering as the reward for greatness, and his mother, who sees him destined to rule the world.

With war looming against the Persian Empire, Philip is assassinated and Alexander assumes control of the kingdom. He goes to war with Persia, conquering a superior force on the fields of Gaugamela and taking the city of Babylon as his prize. Not content with the spoils of war, he pursues the Persian king Darius into the wilderness with his army, including childhood friend turned sexual interest Hephaestion (Jared Leto). As Alexander conquers more lands to the east, his power and legend grows. However, turmoil among the ranks of his soldiers who fear they will never return home along with foolish political movies such as marrying Roxane (Rosario Dawson), the daughter of a “savage” chieftain, strain his power to the breaking point. As Alexander becomes obsessed with bringing order to the known world, that same world seems ready to consume him at every turn.

“Alexander” has all the trappings of a great historical epic, but somehow it never comes together. The editing is disjoined, the narrative clumsily jumps back and forth between different eras, and the narration by Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) seems in place to explain the shoddy scene transitions to the audience rather than give insight into the characters. The gay aspects of Alexander’s life are sensationalized and not treated with much realism. This isn’t an epic; it’s a monstrosity whose parts are greater than the whole.

To be fair, director Stone gives it his best shot. The movie certainly looks great, and the two battle scenes are handled with expert precision. But Stone can’t keep his art house flourishes out of the movie. He insists on having close-ups of the eyes of wild animals, screws around with the film exposure and color tint and loads the film with enough of his trademark conspiracy theories to make five films.

Farrell gives a good performance, but he’s still not right for the part here. The role of Alexander demands someone with more power, and Farrell plays the character with too many flaws to be believable as one of history’s greatest leaders. That may be more the fault of Stone however, who co-wrote the screenplay.

Jolie and Kilmer are more interesting as Alexander’s parents, but their presence amounts to little more than extended cameos. Leto has nothing to do except provide emotion support and fawn over Alexander. Dawson comes the closest to making an impact, but her character is sadly designated to the sidelines in favor of sequences of women dancing suggestively and gradual breakdown of moral among the men.

If even a quarter of this film is true, then Alexander the Great was truly a progressive idealist for his time, envisioning a kingdom of equal citizens of all races. However, the message in Stone’s film “Alexander” comes off as too anachronistic and politically correct for the er”Troy,” the movie is an all-star special effects laden event on a quest for a better plot.