Alexander (2004)

Once in a great while, you come across a movie that is so breathtakingly, awesomely, stupendously bad, you must do everything you can to warn others away from it.

Enter Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone. Okay, so I knew it wasn’t going to be Rashomon after seeing the trailers for it, but I held out hope that Ollie would do right by me and the countless other history geeks out there. Stone’s work, though at times inaccurate when dealing with matters of long ago, usually holds that indefinable something that grabs you and won’t let go and allows you to forget his little historical indiscretions. JFK, Platoon, Natural Born Killers… need I go on?  So, I made the leap and, thanks to Ollie, I landed in a huge pile of shit. Please note that this review applies to the director’s cut, which is inexplicably 8 minutes shorter than the theatrical release.

The Script

For a movie about one of the greatest conquerors ever born, rarely do you ever see Alexander actually win a battle. Most of the time is spent away from the field, which is odd when you realize that Alexander was really only the sum of his conquests. The imagery is hokey to the extreme, with the recurring themes of birds and Titans and a dead father that haunts his victories and defeats. Places are identified by their ancient names, like Bactria, which gives you no context for the scope of his travels. I mean, who the hell knows the geographic significance of Bactria? The chronology is also seriously screwed, jumping back and forth in time so much that you’re never really sure when and where you are. This becomes severely anti-climactic, as you see the results of a long ago feud/event/relationship before you see the scene in which it began. And at over 2 hours in length, you just want him to die, already, and put us all out of our misery.

The Effects

The battles consist of gallons of blood and the now-ubiquitous gladiator-style shaky/strobe camera work, which only served to make me queasy. The use of color is truly offensive; opening and closing sequences are done in blue, and made to look like water with stuff in it. Blah. When Alexander is speared through the chest, his vision turns red, but it’s an electric sort of red, and becomes the colour de shot for everything, even events that he wasn’t witnessing. And the birds shimmer with a yellow halo. Duh, purity?  Whack me over the head a little harder, why don’t you?

The Actors

Colin Farrell as Alexander?  Gimme a break. Unnaturally blond and displaying an annoying habit of whining about “freeing the people of the world,” he just doesn’t ring true. Alexander was a mean sonofabitch intent on world domination, and Farrell portrays him as a new-age kind of guy who just wants to be liked. Not to mention his disturbing tendency to revert to his native Irish accent. What?  Huh?  I’ve seen him do some good work in the past, but I’m not sure he’ll ever recover from this one.

Angelina Jolie as Olympias, Alexander’s mother, is atrocious. Speaking her lines in a deep Russian accent (yeah, ya got me there, I can’t even begin to figure that one out), she’s the archetypal smothering mother who’s got a major jones on for her son and for power. Weird, and not in a good way.

Val Kilmer as Philip, Alexander’s father, spends the movie with a prosthetic scar over one eye, drinking, whoring and wandering around in dank dungeons muttering about the treachery of the Gods. It was slightly comical, but more so embarrassing. You’re better than that, Val. At least I hope so.

Jared Leto shares top billing as Hephaistion, Alexander’s great love, but is hardly in the picture and has no backstory or presence whatsoever. Much is made in the film about it being “natural and good for two men to lie together,” but when it comes down to their sexual relationship, all they ever do is hug. And they both seem slightly uncomfortable with doing even that. Come on, guys.

Rosario Dawson rounds out the headliners as oxane, Alexander’s barbarian bride from Persia. She does a pretty cool dance, but that’s about the extent of her involvement beyond looking exotic and slightly disgusted by Alexander’s behavior. And it’s worth mentioning that although she has even less screen time than Leto, she gets fully naked with Farrell at the get go. So, to sum up: Dawson’s breasts okay, men kissing not. Got it. Next?

That’s all you basically need to know. Hopefully it’s enough that you’ll know to avoid it at all costs. Note that I didn’t include a section about plot or story; there is none. There’s really not. If you still think it might be worth a look, read my ultra-condensed version (as condensed as I could make it, anyway) below, which should dispel any lingering doubts. And if you still insist on seeing it, and god forbid, like it, I have only four words for you: you’re dead to me. And now, the horror that is Alexander, as seen through the eyes of The Bruce, a true warrior…


Anthony Hopkins: I know I’m covered in liver spots and wearing a toga, but take me seriously, please.

Cadmos the Scribe: (writes and looks attentive)

Anthony Hopkins: I’m ptolemy, and I fought with alexander. He was the greatest man ever.

(image of a bird)

12-year-old Alexander: Damn, Hephaistion, you’re a good wrestler. But you won’t beat me again.

12-year-old Hephaistion: (smirks)

Anthony Hopkins voice-over: It was said that Alexander never lost a battle, except between Hephaistion’s thighs.*

(image of a bird)

Angelina Jolie in a Russian accent: Come pet my snake and lie in bed with me.

6-year-old Alexander:  Sure thing, mom.

Val Kilmer: Whore!  Barbarian!  Sorceress!  Bitch!  Bring me more wine!

(image of bird)

Christopher Plummer: I’m Aristotle. Look on me as a surrogate father. I will teach you everything you need to know. The earth is round, and it’s awesome to sleep with another guy.

12-year-old Hephaistion: (smirks)

12-year-old Alexander: Cool.

(image of a bird)

12-year-old Alexander:  Dad, I’m gonna be so damn famous.

Val Kilmer: Sure, but watch out for the Gods. They put a major hurt on people for no reason.

12 year old Alexander: Sure thing, dad.

(image of a bird)

Colin Farrell: I’m 20 now, and avenging my father’s death. Die, Persians!

(image of a bird)

Jared Leto: Don’t let my flowing chestnut hair and warm doe-like eyes distract you, Alexander. I’m a warrior too. A warrior who loves you.

(Alexander and Hephaistion hug)

Colin Farrell: You’re the love of my life.

Rosario Dawson in a ?????? accent: You luff heem?!?

(Hephaistion looks soulfully at Alexander and leaves)

Colin Farrell: There are many ways to love.* Now let’s get naked and procreate.

(image of a bird)

Alexander’s Troops: It’s been seven years, dude. We’re tired of India. And although we’re warriors and hardened men who have sired countless numbers of illegitimate children on this march, we really love our wives and children at home and we just want to return to them.

Colin Farrell going crazy: Cowards!  Arrest them!  Kill them all!

Alexander’s Troops: Hey!  What the hell?!?

Colin Farrell: I know I have long curly blond hair, but you must follow me anyway.

Alexander’s Troops: Sure thing, Alexander.

(image of a bird)

Colin Farrell: I’m here to free the people of India!  Die, Indians!

(Alexander gets speared)

Colin Farrell: Damn, that hurts. Let’s go home.

(image of a bird)

Jared Leto:  I’m dying of a strange disease from India.

(Alexander and Hephaistion hug)

Colin Farrell: You are the love of my life.

(Hepaistion dies)

Colin Farrell going crazy: Conspirators!  Arrest them!  Kill them all!

(image of a bird)

Colin Farrell: Damn, I’m dying of the same strange disease from India.

Roxane: I don’t know why I’m upset, because we’ve hardly ever spoken, but don’t die!

Colin Farrell reaching towards image of a bird: Afterlife, here I come.

(Alexander dies)

(image of a bird)

Anthony Hopkins: Yes, he was a Titan. We killed him, because he was a dreamer.*

Cadmos the Scribe: (writes and looks attentive)

Anthony Hopkins: Sorry. Kinda.

(image of a bird)


*actual lines from film. I shit you not.

Grade for artistic value: F-
Grade for the inclusion of warriors with warm doe-like eyes: C+

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