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Oliver Stone's "Alexander" is based on the true story of one of history's most luminous and influential leaders – a man who had conquered 90% of the known world by the age of 25. The film chronicles Alexander's path to becoming a living legend, from a youth fuelled by dreams of myth, glory, and adventure, to his intense bonds with his closest companions, to his lonely death as a ruler of a vast empire.
For more about Alexander Revisited and the Alexander Revisited Blu-ray release, see Alexander Revisited Blu-ray Review published by Sir Terrence on January 18, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto, Anthony Hopkins, Rosario Dawson
Director: Oliver Stone
» See full cast & crew
Alexander Revisited Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Sir Terrence, January 18, 2009
I think when you have to tinker with something multiple times, and it still does not make that thing work, or easier to understand, you just need to walk away from it. This is exactly what I felt as I was watching "Alexander Revisited". You have a 175 minute theatrical cut, a 167 minute directors cut for DVD, and now this epic 214 minute "final" cut. All had either subtle or major changes, but none helped to make the narrative clearer or easier to understand. Stone mentions in the introduction the movie slows down tremendously if shown in a linear or time based fashion, as there is too much action at the beginning of the movie, and the movie just falls from there. When it came to the DVD release, he decided that the entire movie was best served by a secondary parallel chronology of the younger Alexander along with the older Alexander. This would allow the viewer to see how the past affected the future of Alexander. The movie vacillates between the present and the past to support Stones intent. I do not like to second guess a directors vision, or his reasoning for making changes to his movies. However when those changes just create more confusion, and convolutes the plot worse than it was before, then it becomes an open target for second guessing. Looking at Alexander Revisited is much like looking at a long piece of thin lumber stretch between to widely spaced saw horses. It is well supported on the ends (the great battle scenes), but bends down in the middle for lack of support, and weighed down further with even more issues than its previous incarnations. I had a terrible time keeping track of who was doing what to whom, and what repercussions these events had on the past/present/future. With so many things going on in this film, you really have to pay attention at all times. I found this rather difficult to do trying to figure out what the heck is going on, watching the individual and collective performances of the actors, looking at the picture quality, and listening to the sound as well. It's just too much to process from moment to moment so you have to pick which things to focus on or you either overload, or shut down partially or completely during the viewing.
Watching the directors cut on DVD, I always felt there was something missing, and nothing is played out for the viewer to latch on to. Here it feels like everything and the kitchen sink is thrown in, given plenty of breathing room, but crowds the mind with almost too much detail and information, which draws it out far too much for my taste. Following the storyline is not the only issue on this movie. The casting is a big problem for this epic flick. Colin Farrell as Alexander is about as big a miscast as one can get. He is not an actor of profound depth and skill. He does fine as the military leader, but utterly fails as a private emotional Alexander as he is never able to cover the full emotional dynamic. As Alexander the man deteriorates in the film as it progresses along, Farrell's acting chops deteriorates as well. While I think Angelina Jolie did very well as Alexander's mother, she looks too young in my opinion to be Alexander's mother, and that gets painfully obvious as the film progresses. Another thing I noticed (being an auditory person) is the wide array of very bad accents from those who are supposedly of the same group. I think King Philip is poorly portrayed here, without a mere mention of him being a great military leader in his own right, which clearly influences his son in real life.
No doubt, the $155 million budget of this epic movie made it on to the screen, unlike another high cost movie "Waterworld" of which $170 million was spent, and about half of that reached the screen. Alexander features visually stunning costumes, sets, and highly detailed set adornments. The battle scenes, set in India and in the desert of Gaugamela are excellent examples of expert camera work. It gets a little gory at times, but the excitement and emotion they generate allows you overlook all of the blood and gore. However I am afraid it takes more than a couple of really good battle scenes to make a great epic movie, let alone a good one. No matter which version of this movie I have seen, not one of them necessarily helps in making Alexander better, no matter how many times we are asked to "revisit" it. Stone mentions that either you will love or hate Alexander. I felt neither love nor hate of this movie. Neutral would best describe how I felt after viewing this butt flattening 214 minute flick.
This film tells the tale of Alexander the Great (356 BC- 323 BC) arguably one of the most well known, exhalted military leaders in the history of ancient Greece. It opens with a vision of Alexander's (Colin Farrell) daily life in the court of his father. Alexander grew up with his mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie), and was taught by his tutor Aristotle from whom he developed an interest in love, honor, music, exploration, poetry, and most importantly military combat. His relationship with his father is strained, and later destroyed by his marriage to Eurydice. We are often reminded of the battle between his two parents (almost too much so), as both have a profound mistrust of each others intents. After Philip is assassinated, Alexander ascends to the throne of Macedonia, and all of Greece. Via the narrative of Ptolemy, we learn about the razing of Thebes, the burning of Persopolis, get an overview of Alexander's west Persian campaign, his declaration as the son of Zeus by the Oracle of Amun, his great battle against Persian Emperor Darius III in the epic battle of Gaugamela, and his eight year campaign at Hydaspes against Porus. Also touched on is his private relationship with his childhood friend Hephaestion (Jared Leto) and later his wife Roxana (Rosario Dawson). Alexander suspects that Roxana poisoned Hephaestion, which causes him, in spite of her pregnancy, to distance himself from her. It is suggested that Hephaestion is closer to Alexander than his wife is. After conquering Babylon, Alexander admits that Hephaestion is his only real love. The jealousy between Roxana and Hephaestion was palpable, as you can see the various attempts to pit one against the other throughout the last part of the film. This story of Alexander follows Alexander's quest to expand his empire, his warfare tactics, and ideology which have shaped the mechanics of warfare from that period, to our current modern times.
Alexander Revisited Blu-ray, Video Quality
Alexander Revisited battles on to the Bluray format in a very good 1080p/VC-1 transfer, framed in a generous 2:40:1 aspect ratio. The source is almost blemish free, with only an occasional nick found throughout the entire film. Grain is well managed, always giving images a very film like quality, but never detracting from the viewing experience. Colors are vivid, very well saturated, utilize a very wide palette, and is a major example of eye candy. I could find no instance of bleeding, chroma noise, or any other color related artifacts that could dog the presentation. Contrast is spot on, with very solid whites that never look blown or bleached out. Black levels are just perfect, never succumbing to crush or harming shadow detail in any way. Even the darkest areas of images contain copious amounts of detail. The combination of perfect contrast and excellent blacks gives the film a tremendous visual dynamic range that I think everyone would appreciate. Detail and fine detail is astounding and extremely sharp, revealing the fine detail in clothing, individual hair, pores in skin, and present detail so far in the background, that it gives images that coveted 3D look that only the best high definition can deliver. Even the varying skin tones of the actors and extras are aptly revealed. I did find some compression issues, but they were not enough to ruin a fine visual experience. I found a few bursts of pixilation, some instances of reduced saturation, and some periods of unnatural flushing in the faces of actors. None of these problems where consistent, or lasted for long periods of time, perhaps about 20-30 seconds of the entire film. In spite of these issues, I found that overall this is an outstanding transfer, but not the best I have seen on the Bluray format.
Alexander Revisited Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner has thought to only include a lossy Dolby Digital track encoded at 640kbps, but is surprising solid overall. Starting with the basics, dialog is always intelligible, even in the presence of copious amounts of action in other channels in the mix. The different textures of the individual actor's voices are well delineated, and the entire dialog is very well mixed, floating seamlessly from the fronts to the rears in some cases, giving the dialog a very natural acoustical feel of a real life room full of people. This movie is full of sound effects which are extremely well recorded and rendered. Arrows, animals, and the voices of the warriors come from every direction in the 360 degree sound field, leaving me ducking in some instances from the precision of their panning and placement. During the scene with youthful Alexander and Aristotle, the sound of chirping birds could be heard emanating from every direction, just like you would hear in real life. Dynamic range is breath taking, with moments of quiescence complete free of recording noise, and ultra loud moments system threatening when played back at high levels. Imaging depth, width and height are very good but not always great. During dense passages of effects, music and dialog, the sound stage can sound a little dense and congested, but never enough to congeal elements together in an unnatural fashion. I found image width and depth a little constricted compared to the best soundtracks I have heard. LFE effects are particularly good, with the stomping elephants in the battle scenes in India especially effective. This is a very good well crafted mix, but the use of lossy Dolby Digital makes me believe that I am not hearing all I could from it.
Alexander Revisited Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This release is loaded full of extra content befitting of the epic this movie is. It includes all of the extra content from the films previous releases on DVD, with the exception of the commentaries for the theatrical and director's cuts of the film. This is no loss since we are dealing with the final cut of the film, and not the other two versions.
Introduction by Oliver Stone
Two Feature Length Commentaries featuring Oliver Stone on one commentary, and Alexander biographer/historian Robin Lane Fox on the other.
Fight Against Time: Oliver Stone's Alexander (SD 1:16:10)
Behind the Scenes with Sean Stone is a three part featurette broken down in the following way;
Part One: Resurrecting Alexander (SD 26:41)
Part Two: Perfect Is the Enemy of Good (SD 28:51)
Vangelis Scores Alexander (SD 4:29)
Teaser Trailer and Theatrical Trailer are trailers for the films original release, not for any release to home video.
Alexander Revisited Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I never saw the original theatrical version of this movie, but I have seen the directors cut on DVD. When I read about what Stone has done in terms of all the different re-works of this film, I cannot help but think he was throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Unfortunately everything has slid to the floor, with not much sticking to the wall, as the two versions I have seen are still dogged by the same issues. To his credit Stone admits that this is a flawed product, and that he did the best he could to at least make it a better product than the theatrical release. However no amount of editing can make up for poor casting and acting, so at some point you just have to let things be what they are. I would strongly suggest you rent this first before purchase. You may find that you are either able, or not able to over look this films drawbacks, because if you can, there is a very compelling story that is being told here.
Alexander: Other Editions
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