Friday, November 26, 2004

film: Alexander

Alexander 4/5

Yet another sword and sandal film, and one which references the hero Achilles several times. Troy and Gladiator seem succinct in comparison to this three hour story about Alexander the Great, a well-known historical figure who is famous but whose story is not as well known as his fame would suggest. But, at the same time, those two films seem almost pedestrian compared to the complexities of Alexander. Such subtleties either resonate with viewers or they don’t. They did for me.

The child of a broken marriage, that Alexander(Colin Farell) amounted to anything is a bit of a surprise, according to how the film portrays his father, King Phillip (Val Kilmer)and his mother, Olypias (Angelina Jolie). Phillip, king of the Macedonians, is a crude, womanizing drunkard, while Olympias is a creepy, snake-loving follower of Dionysous. She actually initiates the young Alexander into holding snakes so as to lose his fear, and teach the lesson of fearing nothing. Phillip teaches Alexander not to trust women, while his mother so hated Phillip that she was suspected as playing a role in his assignation.

Phillip did insist on his son learning from the finest mind in the land. Aristotle, played by Christopher Plummer, explains how the far reaches of the known earth were unnavigated, but promised a water route encompassed all of the land. Whoever could take advantage of such a route would surely be a great ruler.

In one of the first battles, Alexander plans a way to defeat a much larger army, who were gathering in the area. It’s risky, but he’s completely convinced that it will work. It’s also one of the most intelligent battles on film. I’m actually watching a documentary right now on the Discovery channel that is discussing this one particular battle.

Battle after battle, they press on towards the east. It’s a grueling, multi-year campaign. Along the way, they topple tyrant kings and gain the affection of the people. Look for the spectacular scenes in Babylon.

In one scene, he goes into a fit with his key advisors, not because they disagree with his perspective, but because he’s angry that they refuse to try understand a world unknown to them.

You can’t watch this film and not comment on the scenes that either hint at or overtly portray his homosexuality and his love for one of his childhood companions. He and a man-servant character are very doe-eyed, having not scrimped on the eye liner. His affection for these characters is never done in a gratuitous fashion. You’ll wonder if his upbringing contributed to his disinterest in females.

The acting is fine throughout. The costumes and sets are a tribute to detail. Oliver Stone’s direction is without grave error. Alexander is a spectacular film. It doesn’t tell a story that can be as easily fit into a neat little package, like most films of this ilk. For that reason, it’s receiving bad reviews. I would say that if you are at all interested in seeing this film, see it and you be the judge.

And it didn’t seem overly long to me and I would be happy to see it again.

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