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Alexander

Oliver Stone's new film Alexander is epic in nearly all of its facets. It is the retelling of the life of Alexander the Great, a larger than life legend. The story spans three decades and thousands of miles, and has a nearly three hour running time to match. The impressive cast consists of heavyweights Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Anthony Hopkins, and includes appearances by Christopher Plummer, Jared Leto, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. And it is an epic failure on the part of Stone. Although Stone undoubtedly tried as hard as he could, there are too many things going against the film that doom it. The primary downfall of Alexander is its structure. Stone (Commandante, Any Given Sunday) decided to tell the entire life story of Alexander, rather than focusing on some key years, as other biopics sometimes do. This forces him to cram a lot of information (the film states that by 25, Alexander conquered most of the known world) into a small amount of time.

Ptolemy (Hopkins, The Human Stain, Red Dragon) narrates the film, which disjoints the film further. Instead of watching many things happen, Stone has Hopkins explain what happened. There are some magnificent battle scenes, but they take so long and happen so often that they blur into one. It is hard to imagine how so much bloodshed and violence could be dull, but Stone manages to do this. Stone wrote the movie with Christopher Kyle (K-19, The Weight of Water) and Laeta Kalogridis, and decided to focus more on the quieter moments. Between long boring battles comes the quieter moments between Alexander (Farrell, A Home at the End of the World, Intermission) and his confidantes, notably his parents, Philip (Kilmer, Stateside, Spartan) and Olympius (Jolie, Sky Captain, Shark Tale), and his lover Hephaiston (Leto, Panic Room, Highway). Another amazing thing that comes out of this is that after watching the film, the most people can say about Alexander is that he was bisexual (back when sexuality mattered little) and he had serious mommy and daddy problems (amusingly enough, Jolie is only one year older than Farrell).

It is extremely difficult to see how and why Alexander did so much given Farrell's performance (he first appears over half an hour into the film) and the script. He is driven by a desire to outperform his father, and frequently comes off as whiny. However, it is this determination that pushes him forward, but the charisma and leadership he should have is absent. And while Farrell does give a decent if uninspired performance, many of his lines devolve into nothing more than a reading of names ("Isn't that right, Cleitus? What say you Philotas? And you, Parmenion? On Dasher, on Dancer!"). So Farrell is good with Greek names. So what? There are so many advisors with so few lines that by the end of the film, only a few register. Kilmer, Jolie, and Rosario Dawson (The Rundown, Shattered Glass) are much worse off. Stone calls on them to scream maniacally at more than one point in time, but the flipside is that Jolie gets to play with a bunch of snakes.

And this film just goes on forever. If a film needs to be three hours long, it better be good. The last similar one to come close was the Thai film The Legend of Suriyothai, but that one had better elephant battles. Yes, elephants, camels and horses do battle alongside Greeks, Macedonians, Persians, Bactrians, and Indians. The structure of the film goes narration, short exposition, long battle, short exposition, then repeat, along with frequently smoldering glances between Farrell and various men. Stone seems more concerned with doing everything he can to show Alexander's attraction towards men without showing it forthright rather than focus on his accomplishments. During preproduction, Stone was racing against Baz Luhrmann, who was planning a competing film on Alexander starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Luhrmann's film was delayed, but he still plans to make it. Whether or not people will want to see more of Alexander remains to be seen.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
2 hours, 56 minutes, Rated R for violence and some sexuality/nudity.

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