Anthony Hopkins serves to narrate Alexander and fill in parts of Alexanders life Stone chose not to act out on the screen. After Hopkins opening narrative sets up Alexanders backstory, were introduced to Alexander as a young boy. We quickly learn Alexanders mom, Olympias, has a thing for snakes and has taught her boy hes the son of a God. We see Alexanders dad, King Philip, past his prime and disconnected from his only heir. Its not until Alexander wows his father by taming a wild horse that Philip even acknowledges Alexanders rightful place at his side. The first phase of the three hour film also sets up Alexanders close relationship with Hephaistion and a small group of companions who will fight by Alexanders side throughout his reign.
Colin Farrell enters the picture as Alexander at the age of 19. From that point on, Alexander transitions to a deeper, psychological examination of the man who led his armies over 22,000 miles defeating and then uniting countries until he ruled 90% of the known world.
Alexanders sexual relationship with his lifelong companion Hephaistion (Jared Leto) is teased throughout the film, as is Alexanders attraction to eunuchs. Despite all the hoopla over Stones depiction of Alexander as bisexual, the only sexual encounter that takes place on screen is between Farrell and Rosario Dawson as Alexanders wife, Roxane. Their wedding night coupling is rough and raw like a showdown between two wild beasts, and more about dominance and power than about sex. The scene gives the audience a look at Dawsons fantastic body, which should please the male sector of the audience who, until that point, may have been left uncomfortable by the films decidedly homosexual overtones.
While the fight scenes are magnificent, and Stones fierce desire to bring as much realism as possible to carefully staged sequences works to a better degree in this film than most historic epics, they are too few and far between. Considering Alexander the Great was known for his conquests on the battle field, surprisingly little time is dedicated to actually showing any of his battles. With so many to choose from, Stone really concentrates on only two Alexander's rousing defeat of the Persian army at Gaugamela, and a vicious battle between Alexanders army and Indian troops on elephants.
Its understood Oliver Stone was interested in not just showing Alexander as a great military leader, but also as a tormented man who carried a great weight. But some of the lengthy dialogue scenes are guilty of covering areas of Alexanders personality the audience has already grasped. Stones desire to show Alexander as a man who was raised by a deranged mother and an abusive, drunkard of a father does nothing to help us Alexander neophytes understand why men followed him to the ends of the earth. Full of self-doubt and obsessed with a desire to conquer lands all the way to the edge of the continent, Stone's Alexander shows only brief flashes of the greatness and heroism that earned him a distinguished place in history.
As for the cast, Farrells at his best when hes addressing his men or showing his vulnerability. In battle, hes a little slight of build and the blonde wig didnt do much to make him an imposing figure. But he can say more with his eyes than most actors can convey with pages of dialogue, so I can understand why Stone saw him as Alexander.
Angelina Jolie takes it close to over the top, but pulls her performance back enough to make watching her quite fun. As the protective mother, shes a lioness wholl strike dead any potential predator who may cause harm to the love of her life. And Val Kilmers easily the best of the supporting cast. He chews the screen like theres no tomorrow and you love him for tearing it to bits.
One of the big questions, at least for me, was why did Stone choose to use so many different accents? If youve watched the trailers and had your doubts, then yes, they are as distracting in the full length feature film as they are in the commercials. Not being a history buff, I have no idea whether Alexander the Great and his Macedonian cohorts spoke with an Irish accent. However in the film, the fact they do seems strangely out of place. And Angelina Jolies indescribable accent seems to be a take off on Natasha from "Rocky & Bullwinkle." Even at the end of three hours, the accents still never stopped being an annoyance.
Overall, Alexanders not a bad film, but its also not a great one. There are flashes of brilliance interspersed with long periods of dead weight. Unevenly paced, Alexander is frustrating as Stone revs things up only to slam on the brakes once hes got us engaged.