Oliver Stone’s Alexander is a disappointing missed opportunity that should have been a much more exhilarating epic. But instead is more of a tedious soap-opera-in-togas that merely skims over some of his greatest achievements with very little build up or emotional connection with the audience.The film opens with an aging Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) reminiscing about the life and times of Alexander the Great, forty years after his demise. Through his narration we learn of a turbulent relationship between his parents, Philip of Macedonia (Val Kilmer) and Queen Olympias (Angelina Jolie), both competing against each other to influence the future leader. Ptolemy quickly tells of his life growing up from childhood to adulthood and then to King leaving huge gaps that had me searching history websites hungry for details that this movie has missed.
The main portion of Alexander (Colin Farrell) is set during his ambitious expedition to rule the known world. A journey which sees his army defeat the mighty Persian empire before conquering all in their path – across Persia, through to Egypt and as far west as India. But rather than focus on his many conquests and motivations behind them, Stone seems more interested in his relationships and in particular his homosexual union with Hephaistion (Jared Leto). There is far too much screen time dedicated to the two, their scenes are slow and seem like they have been scripted by a Days of Our Lives writer with long pauses between lines as they gaze into each others eyes. There is also a an argument leading to a love scene between his Bactrian wife, Roxane (Rosario Dawson) that has them snarling like tigers at each other, a scene which was meant to have been taken seriously but resulted in laughter from the audience. Alexander the Great crossed vast lands and battled many armies, who cares what he got up to in the bedroom? It should certainly not take up precious screen time when there is only 3 hours to tell the story of his many adventures.
There are a number of factors that make some of the main characters unconvincing. One of these is that Alexander and a number of his entourage have Irish accents (there’s a Scotsman in there too) – was Farrell unable to come up with anything else and the rest of the cast had to adapt to his native tongue? Then there is the casting of Jolie as Alexander’s mother who actually looks younger than Farrell in all of their scenes and is merely one year older than Farrell in real life. Her Transylvanian come Russian accent is a little hard to swallow too. It is not all bad though as the scenery Alexander and his army travel through is breathtaking and is beautifully presented by the cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto. The battle scenes are bloody and spectacular putting the audience right in amongst the action. But unfortunately these clashes are all too infrequent, which is a let down considering how many conflicts he faced in his plunder across the globe.Movies that rack up running times of nearly three hours are a big ask of any audience and with a story of one of the world’s most adventurous and legendary rulers, there should have been a lot more action and a lot less fluff.