Wednesday, 10 February 2010



Dir: Oliver Stone (Platoon, JFK, The Doors, W.)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto, Anthony Hopkins, Rosario Dawson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Christopher Plummer
Germany/USA/The Netherlands/France/UK/Italy, 2004

Seen: February 9, 2010

Reason to Watch & Review: For the Sword & Sandal Marathon*

I remember when Alexander came out back in 2004, and how we had both it and Troy in 2004 and how it was interesting that they both came just a few years after Gladiator. I did see Troy in the theatre but this is a first viewing for me of Alexander, after hearing that it wasn't so hot. But, I'm going completist with the Sword & Sandal Marathon so I can't not watch it.

Sometimes being a completist doesn't rock. I hate to admit that for the majority of the time, I had no clue what was going on in this film. There were in battle... somewhere... with whom? Who knows. But, worst that that, even after 2 hours 47 minutes I still didn't have a strong idea of Alexander or his defining characteristics. Who was he? What was his motivation? Why would people follow his lead? No idea. The only thing I was certain of was that he cared deeply for Hephaistion, played by Jared Leto who gives us a compelling and restrained performance. I got that. But that was about it.

The storytelling style doesn't help us at all, flipping back and forth between different time periods in his life but without giving the audience a consistent indicator of the time line. In a way I think it was a daring choice to play with the structure and use tension in a way we aren't used to seeing but I found the result to be anticlimactic. With all the different time lines going on, in the end I had to guesstimate when we were by using the length of Alexander's hair as a gauge.

Another red flags that came up in the film was the use of intermittent narration. This always makes me leery. Narration can keep the audience in the loop, and I often love it at the beginning of the film but when used throughout it feels like they are filling us in on what happened between scenes. It's a film - show us, don't tell us! I understood that there is a connection to the story about storytelling, which worked on a meta level but still didn't work for me.

In terms of a sword & sandals film, it feels a lot different that then other ones I've seen so far. It's really a biopic and personal journey and although there is some fighting, it's not the focus here and what is show is rather bloody, brutal and looks like a lot of CGI with the larger scenes. I did enjoy seeing the perspective of it being a time where Greek Mythology was taught, but not believed by all which sets up an interesting division of believe systems. I wish that element of the film was explored a little deeper.

Overall, I enjoyed the great performances here particularly Angelina Jolie as Alexander's devoted and ruthless mother Olympia and Jared Leto as Hephaistion. But beyond that most of the time I was left confused or mystified. Perhaps being more familiar with the history it would be a more enjoyable watch, but I'm a firm believer that with film it should tell you all you need to know.

Shannon's Overall View:
I didn't love it
I own it, but it's doubtful I'll watch it
I'd recommend it as

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© Shannon Ridler, 2010

* The Sword & Sandal Marathon is a 13 week marathon exploring sword & sandal films in anticipation of the 2010 release of Clash of the Titans (2010)


Univarn said...

Yeah this movie is incredibly meh. I think the only way I made it through was watching it at home, and having the pause button handy.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

"Incredibly meh" is a beautiful description of the film :)

Ryan McNeil said...

How is it that you own it, but you didn't dig it?

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

$5 at HMV and someone I know liked it.

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