Alexander has received a bit of a panning in the US of A, its been out here for around a week now, and so far a lot of critics seem to agree with the reception it got across the Atlantic. I don’t.
I’ll admit I am a bit of a Colin Farrell fan. I don’t really think he is good-looking, but he has an on-screen personality or charisma that makes him very watchable (even in utter crap like SWAT). Despite the hair I actually thought Farrell did quite a good job, but the character of Alexander that was written here is not just a hero out for glory. He is trying to escape his childhood (Jolie and Kilmer are great as the scheming mother and the drunken father), and fight his fears. Much of the film shows his weakness, his great ideas and dreams contrasted with what he makes his armies endure.
The film is overlong. In this day and age three hours isn’t really a long film, but it does drag in places. Too much speechifying from Anthony Hopkins’ Ptolemy perhaps. Maybe it is the way he tries to explain the reasons behind Alexander’s actions. The final scene especially helps the film to lose impact. Then again it does make a good point about how history is often false. We hear as Ptolemy tells his scribes what really happened, then he turns around and rewrites the past.
I think part of the reason the film doesn’t work is that it tries a little too hard to deal with the “big issues”, perhaps more characterisation and plot work would have paid off more.
One of the big talking points about this film was the question of Alexander’s sexuality. I found it refreshing to actually see emotions between men on screen. I felt that the lack of that sort of a relationship between Achilles and Patrocles in Troy was a big let down. Yet, despite the fact that Alexander clearly loves Hephaestion there is never anything more physical between them onscreen than a hug. So I suppose if that really bothers you, you can always pretend they were just very close friends (or cousins as Troy had it).
The one thing that is stand-out fantastic in Alexander are the battle scenes. Blood and guts yes, but even more so than that they show the confusion of war. Also, by using an eagle’s pov we are able to catch a glimpse of the overall battle scenes. To see the phlanxes as boxes moving.
It did also make me wonder if generals typically changed horses between galloping up and down giving speeches and charging the enemy. ;) The battle scene in India was, imo, fantastic. I loved that image from the trailer of Alexander on his rearing horse facing the elephant. And in the film it really does have impact, as does the following surreal use of colour.
To paraphrase Dunphy, this isn’t a great film, but it is a good one.