I’ve started watching the Oliver Stone epic Alexander. I say ‘started’ because the version I have (the Alexander Revisisted’ version which, strangely is the Director’s revision of his own ‘Director’s Cut’) is over 3 and a half hours long. I don’t have time to watch a four hour film. So I’t more of a mini-series here. Anyway, the film’s problems have been documented at length. Indeed, ‘at length’ summing up one of the film’s main problems: it’s not just the overall length, it’s the sheer tedium of some of the speeches. And every speech gives you VERY IMPORTANT HISTORICAL FACTS. If people could speak ‘underlined’ this film would be full of it.
There is also the problem of casting. Colin Farrell just doesn’t cut it as Alexander. He’s fine as your average irish rogue, but as the greatest ruler of the western world, it’s a bit of a leap. I can imagine him inspiring the pub football team; inspiring the Macedonian army is a different matter. Val Kilmer doesn’t so much chew the scenery as gulp it down whole. And which idiot thought that anyone would believe Angelina Jolie – an actress who in real life is just one year older than Farrell – would be convincing as his mother?
Anyway, what is good about this film is that it contains some of the best depictions of ancient battles I’ve ever seen; brutal, confusing, bloody, frightening. It’s not for the squeamish, but if you want to get a feel about warfare in Bible and Classical times, this is a good place to start. Also, the depiction of Babylon is stunning. (I haven’t got there yet in the film, but I’ve sneaked ahead.) This gives the full impression of the city; sure it’s probably cleaner than it was in reality, but the magnificence of it, the sheer scale. Alexander saw it as a conqueror; imagine what it was like being led into this as a conquered people. The feeling of powerlessness must have been overwhelming. Here are a few screencaps.