Movie Of The Day: Alexander (2004)

Back in 1964, the huge financial failure of The Fall Of The Roman Empire pretty much single-handedly buried the big-budget peplum genre, and it wasn’t until forty years later that new attempts at grand American sword and sandal epics were made. Indeed Gladiator‘s success back in 2000 slowly revived interest in the genre, which led to the release of no less than three such films in 2004: King Arthur, Troy and Alexander.

Existing in three (very) different cuts, the film is obviously based on the life of Alexander The Great and follows the Macedonian king through his childhood, youth and tenure as king, his loves, conquests and relationships with friends and family. Directed by Oliver Stone (W.), who co-wrote the film with Laeta Kalogridis (Pathfinder) and Christopher Kyle (K-19: The Widowmaker).

Alexander stars Colin Farrell (Pride And Glory), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Val Kilmer (Felon), Anthony Hopkins (Fracture), Jared Leto (Chapter 27), Rosario Dawson (Eagle Eye), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Children Of Huang Shi) and Christopher Plummer (Closing The Ring) among others. Trailer and review after the jump.

As I stated above, three versions of Alexander exist, all available on DVD, the original theatrical cut, the Director’s Cut and a second director’s cut dubbed Revisited: The Final Cut. The theatrical cut was very poorly received by critics and moviegoers alike, and barely made its budget back at the worldwide box-office. Indeed the ambitious Alexander, though well-intentiond, was a huge mess…It looked good, but was much too laborious, and its focus on the homosexual penchant of the men at the time, though historically accurate, was handled awkwardly and thus stood out more than it should have.

Thus people generally found Alexander to not contain what they expected from such an epic film, and if the battle scenes were praised, they were deemed insufficient and the flick ended up being best remembered (and ridiculed) as “that gay Colin Farrell movie”. The Director’s Cut is actually shorter, with Oliver Stone removing 17 minutes from the film and adding in 9 others. In addition, the director changed the story’s narrative, which was fairly straightforward at first, to constantly jumping backwards and forwards in time, thus drawing parallels between Alexander’s childhood and his reign.

Having not seen the Director’s Cut, I can’t comment, but The Final Cut takes the same idea of constant flashbacks/flashforwards, with Stone (who stated himself that this was his definitive, preferred version) not removing anything this time, but rather putting all the footage he had in, making this version longer than the theatrical cut by 34 minutes. And what can I say, Stone finally did it. Alexander still isn’t an incredibly great film, but this final edit is miles better than the version seen in cinemas, and actually makes for a very good film, one which deserves a watch even by those who saw another version and disliked it.

There’s still only two big action scenes (though they’ve been extended), but the film flows much more smoothly through all the added scenes and the time-jumping storytelling. Similarly, all the homosexuality is still present, but now feels much more normal and natural. The character of Alexander gains significantly more depth, in no small part thanks to his relationship with his parents, which is explored here with greater detail. Yes, Angelina Jolie still speaks with a weird Russian accent, but Alexander is magnificient to look at, boasts a grand score by Vangelis (Blade Runner), has great acting (accents aside), and is finally appropriately epic.

Verdict: While originally an awkward mess and a huge disappointment, The Final Cut definitely deserves a watch. All three versions of Alexander commonly hold a 5.4/10 on IMDB and a 16% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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