Monday, December 06, 2004

Alexander - a Stone's throw from perfection

It would be easy to slam Alexander on so many counts. Every actor has a different accent -- in fact, at one point, I fully expected a young Tony Curtis to enter, saying "Yondah lies da castle of my faddah." The politics read like a soap opera. But I don't want to slide into easy slams.

Instead, let's look at "Alexander" from the standpoint of what Oliver Stone was trying to achieve. I'm not reading his notes at this point, but it's fairly easy to guess what his goals were. (1) Show Alexander the bisexual; (2) Alexander is the product of a dysfunctional family which fueled his rise to power; (3) His attempts to meld all the world's tribes into one were noble but misunderstood.

Number One is dealt with poorly. We see the furtive glances, an occasional hug, but not one kiss with Jared Leto, who played a pretty but not wimpy boyfriend.

The dysfunctional family theme is the soap opera. Angelina Jolie, his mother, and a aging and career-on-hold Val Kilmer, his kingly father, literally fight their way through scenes together. Mother is a queen without power, reduced to plotting through her son to achieve anything at all. (Pity her son is gone exploring and plundering through his entire adult life.) Father is the icon Alexander cannot equal, or please. Unfortunately, director Stone doesn't explain to us exactly how this drama creates a king who pushes on against incredible odds to conquer the entire known world.

Alexander's efforts to bring his conquered into an equality with his fellow Macedonians and Greeks were met with derision in this tale, and to press forward with this theme, he marries a Persian queen. It seems ludicrous that Stone finds the time to include a drawn-out seduction scene on their wedding night, yet can't include a single kiss from his alledged lover.

The fight scenes are incredibly detailed and are one good reason to watch this film. Stone employs a blurring effect, an effect which may irritate some, but I found it an interesting way of showing us what war may truly be like -- quick, stutter-step, dangerous and frightening moments. In these fight scenes, we catch a glimpse of what may have made Alexander a superior leader: a knowledge of his men, the ability to praise them for their heroic traits and spur them on in spite of years spent away from home.

But these are fleeting glimpses. Mostly we see not the giant we know as Alexander, but rather a smallish man who is not particularly skillful at managing his people, a general who is out of touch with his army. This is not the Alexander who lights up the history books. While it would be easy to pick on the clownish parts of this film, the worst part of this movie is that we never get to know why this Alexander overcomes his weaknesses to conquer the world.

Thumbs down for "Alexander."


Post a Comment

<< Home