Published Jan 9 2005, 22:16 GMT | By Daniel Saney
Alexander has been slated by American critics and audiences alike with accusations of being too long and historically inaccurate in parts. The good thing about expecting to see an awful movie is that you’re pleasantly surprised when it’s not actually all that bad.
Admittedly, some parts of the story - or at least the way that it’s handled - are silly. Take for example the moment where the young Alexander tames an apparently uncontrollable horse by engaging in a one-way conversation with it about why it shouldn’t be afraid of its own shadow. The horse then trusts and serves him for life, and, as touching as this may be, it does have an element of the farce about it considering the fact that we’re watching an "historical" movie.
One element of the movie that is a little bewildering is the use of accents. Angelina Jolie, who plays Alexander’s mother Olympias, seems to think she’s one of Dracula’s brides whilst the young Alexander and his classmates have obvious Irish accents. By the time Colin Farrell takes over the role, the leader’s accent seems to have got less broad, presumably after realising that he is in fact Macedonian. Alexander’s father Philip (Val Kilmer) and lover Hephaistion (Jared Leto) join in with the inexplicable Irish twang. Other Macedonians seem to come from England and Scotland.
The acting itself is good in the main, but there are certainly exceptions. Jolie’s acting is either ridiculous or very good as she portrays the very strange character of Olympias, but it’s hard to say which. Despite claims that Farrell is out of his depth he is good at times, though it’s hard for him to prove his worth as much of his time is spent shouting the obligatory rousing speeches and so on – his character is a lot less engaging than he ought to have been.
Depending on what you want out of a movie, Alexander is better than the Americans seem to think, although that’s not saying much. If you want entertainment then it’s more than passable. However, if you expect to leave the cinema with any more of a cursory knowledge of who Alexander was, what made him tick and what he actually did (which wouldn’t seem unreasonable after sitting through three hours of the film) then the experience may prove a little disappointing. Oliver Stone’s decision to cover the man’s 33-year life in three hours backfires in the sense that the events of his life that are actually covered seem disjointed. It takes a lot of effort to work out who is who and what they want much of the time. It was only by a process of elimination that I finally worked out that people were talking about Jolie when they mentioned Olympias. A prime example is when a scene of Alexander and his men wandering around an Indian jungle then switches to them partying with wine flowing. How they got from one place to another is anybody’s guess.
The arguably controversial issue of Alexander’s bisexuality - the issue Stone believes caused problems with its popularity in much of America - is handled with great skill and sentiment. On the other hand, there is an amount of confusion in terms of storyline because of the decision to handle events seemingly at random and sometimes not even in a logical order.
In summary, Alexander is far from the unmitigated boring drivel that a lot of reviews make it out to be. The battle scenes are gripping and the storyline holds your attention if only because you’re struggling not to be left behind.