movie film review | chris tookey
death by raspberry
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  Alexander (2005)
© Warner Bros - all rights reserved

Farrell plays all this as if he means it, but he seems slight in the role and without great physical presence. In a scene in which Alexander is roaring at his troops to rouse them to battle, he sounds like Mighty Mouse pretending to be Superman.
(Jack Mathews, New York Daily News)
This movie is an act of hubris so huge that, in Alexander's time, it would draw lightning bolts from contemptuous gods. Today it will get sniggers from stunned critics and a collective yawn from a public unlikely to share Stone's egomania.
(Lawrence Toppman, Charlotte Observer)
Alexander makes Troy look like Gone with the Wind. It is beyond bad, well into drinking game bad. I'm talking hugely, monstrously, comically bad. This must be what Hell is like, by Hades!
(Mark Ramsey, MovieJuice)
Stone’s Alexander comes across as the first politically correct tyrant in history. Much is made of his bisexuality and his new-man tendency to blub at the drop of a toga. He is also a confirmed multiculturalist who had great respect for the ethos of the people he conquers - so why conquer them in the first place? Colin Farrell is woefully miscast as Alexander: with his blond hair and mascara, he looks like he stumbled out of a boyband. The battle sequences are the usual giant spectacles, all sound and fury, and utterly stale. This film will go down as the Showgirls of sword-and-sandal films.
(Cosmo Landesman, Sunday Times)
Was your Christmas turkey over-sized, overcooked , dry and hard to swallow? If so, you’ll feel at home watching Oliver Stone’s Alexander, a terrible monument to one man’s megolamania – and it isn’t Alexander the Great’s.
Even at the end of this three-hour ordeal, it’s hard to see what attracted Oliver Stone to this subject-matter, beyond a kind of suicidal death-wish. Stone made his name making anti-war pictures, notably Platoon; and you might think that few careers illustrate the futility of global conquest more than Alexander the Great’s. No sooner did he conquer most of Asia after a 22,000-mile march, than he returned with the remnants of his army to his base in Babylon and died at the age of 32, whereupon his entire empire fell apart.
Yet Stone seems determined, against his own anti-imperialistic, anti-violence instincts, to turn Alexander into a superhero. Stone has always glorified strong men, a theme of his ever since his very first Nietschian fantasy, Conan the Barbarian, 24 years ago, and for much of Alexander he seems happy to grovel at the sandalled feet of his warrior king and illustrate the maxim that “Fortune favours the bold” as gorily as possible.
A major part of Anthony Hopkins’s role, as the narrator Ptolemy, is to act as Alexander’s posthumous PR man and persuade us at every available moment of his greatness. The man was, according to him, a “colossus” and a “force of nature,” and “his failures towered over other men’s successes.”
The diminutive Colin Farrell undermines this by portraying Alexander as a snivelling hysteric who doesn’t get on with his parents. He’s not so much impressively imperial as pointlessly petulant, like Elton John throwing a series of hissy fits.
Early on, Stone seems to be attempting to find some contemporary relevance in Alexander’s empire-building, drawing a parallel between Macedonian imperialism and American responsibilities in the 21st century, bringing the uncivilised world something called “freedom”.
According to the press notes, Alexander’s achievement was that he “temporarily united East and West, spreading Hellenistic thought and culture throughout the Eastern world with lasting effect”. It’s a pity that none of this comes through in the movie.
All we see are battles (two of them, admittedly, very well shot), followed by banquets at which the victors watch defeated peoples dance in very little clothing for their, and our, voyeuristic delectation. And Stone’s notion of “freedom” is, let’s just say, hazy - since it clearly involves such non-libertarian practices as slavery and treating conquered women as confiscated property.
Stone has been quick to blame the enormity of his film’s failure at the US box office on the fact that he dares to portray Alexander as a homosexual. Actually, it’s hard to know what to make of Alexander’s emotional life, and even more difficult to care.
His one steady relationship seems to be with his warrior chum, Hephaistion (Jared Leto), possibly because they share the same dubious taste in eye-liner and leather mini-skirts; but this doesn’t stop Al’s eye from roving to various other young men, and to the feline Rosario Dawson as an indubitably female Asian princess, Roxane.
But beyond one bedroom scene where Roxane seems to confuse foreplay with knife-play, she remains a shadowy figure. We get little more than a hint of a love triangle, with Roxane a bad-tempered Princess Di to Alexander’s Prince Charles, and Hephaistion lurking in the background like a hunkier version of Camilla Parker-Bowles. Stone seems as bored by Alexander’s love life as we are.
Alexander’s uncertain sexuality is, in fact, the least of this movie’s problems. Its principal defects are incoherent story-telling, an inability to make us care about the characters, and a total failure to make us grasp the historical issues involved.
Seldom can so many long speeches have been delivered, to so little dramatic effect. Seldom can so much time and money have been lavished on a script that never deserved to be made.
The screenplay – which can be blamed on Stone himself, Christopher Kyle (K19: The Widowmaker) and Laeta Kalogridis (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) - has the windiness of a lecture by Neil Kinnock, the clarity of a parliamentary reply by John Prescott, and the vivaciousness of a speech by Sir Geoffrey Howe.
Denis Healey once said after being attacked in debate by Sir Geoffrey that it was like being savaged by a dead sheep. Enduring the entirety of Alexander is like being rolled on repeatedly by an elephant that has long since lost the will to live.
The acting is some of the worst I’ve seen, even in a Hollywood epic. Richard Burton was hammy in Robert Rossen’s 1956 Alexander the Great, but at least he had that voice. Colin Farrell roaring his head off strikes as ludicrous a figure as Kylie Minogue essaying the role of Margaret Thatcher.
Farrell is many things, but a blond he ain’t, His eyebrows stand throughout the picture as a mousy rebuke to the series of tousled, golden fright-wigs perched precariously above them.
Cast equally hilariously as Alexander’s mum, Angelina Jolie looks, at the most, two years older than him. She adopts a mysterious Mediterranean accent and a kind of absent-minded haughtiness among the Irish-accented Macedonians, rather like Nancy Dell’ Olio put out to find herself in a room full of National Hunt jockeys. She amuses herself, if not us, by throwing tantrums and caressing a multitude of snakes in a suggestive fashion. The unintended effect is to make us aware all the more that we are watching a load of old cobras.
As King Philip of Macedonia, here portrayed as a crazed, drunken, one-eyed rapist, Val Kilmer gives us a curious mixture of Brendan Behan on a very bad day, and Long John Silver.
Philip appears puzzlingly schizophrenic towards his son, cuddling him one moment, banishing him the next. Kilmer seems to have decided that, since the script doesn’t give much of a clue how to accommodate these two extremes, he may as well play the movie as though he’s too drunk to care.
Last but not least reprehensible is Anthony Hopkins, delivering the kind of interminable voice-over narration that suggests severe panic in post-production. Hopkins spends the picture telling us things that we should already know, ordering us to feel emotions that we most certainly don’t, and filling us in on important narrative events that Stone has forgotten to shoot. His Ptolemy is inptolerable.
Don’t get me started on the supporting actors. Any film has problems when one of the more subtle, understated performances is given by Brian Blessed.
“Excess in all things is the undoing of man,” warns Aristotle (Christopher Plummer) early on in the movie. It’s advice that Stone has chosen to disregard, with predictably demented consequences.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)

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