By Jaime Burnet
With Hollywood’s tendency to adapt material into socially acceptable movies catering to audiences, it’s confusing and slightly startling to see a film valuing history over conventions of entertainment. Oliver Stone’s Alexander may not be an exact replica of the past, as a certain level of fiction in the interpretation is inevitable, but his commitment to a truthful recreation of the original story of Alexander puts it in a different category than your typical action packed epic.
Hollywood movies based on history exist because people want to be amazed by intricately choreographed fight scenes, watching warriors gracefully battle one on one for several minutes in the midst of a raging war and whipping out successive video game combos until one of them delivers a fatal blow on ballestra. In reality, it is unlikely combat was so elaborate, so Stone doesn’t present it as such. He recreates the infamous organization of Alexander’s army, the confusion in battle, and the run and chop/stab/spear mentality. The overly testosteroned of audiences may be disappointed, expecting another Gladiator. This is a movie about a great conqueror, so the fight scenes are few. Stone only recreates two battles, Alexander’s battle against the Persians and the Indians, leaving Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) to narrate the rest. It’s disappointing to have such key events conveyed like a history lesson and Stone makes strange choices in continuity splicing doesn’t help as it slows the pace and proves distracting. His focus on the portrayal of the psychological aspects of Alexander’s conquests is interesting, but also overpowering, leaving viewers with an impression of “all talk, no action”.
Another aspect of the movie more faithful to history than one might expect is the relationship between Alexander (Colin Farrell) and Hephaestion (Jared Leto). With the way male affection is portrayed in another recent Greek epic, audiences might be surprised to see deep love and friendship displayed between two men, without excuse or disguise. In the movie Troy, Achilles’ (Brad Pitt) love for Patroklos is made acceptable to audiences by Patroklos’ magical Hollywood transformation from lover to cousin. But the intense affection and understanding between Alexander and his best friend is not explained away by some fabricated family connection. This could cause some uneasiness amongst viewers unprepared for homoerotica in an action film. Don’t fret, though as Stone includes Rosario Dawson’s naked boobs to make amends.
Farrell’s role deviation from archetypal bad boy to the fiercely ambitious, bisexual Greek legend is commendable. But even as a Macedonian king, Farrell can’t seem to shake his trademark Irish accent. But his Macedonian soldiers have Irish accents too, so problem solved! Still, where does Angelina Jolie’s accent come from? As Olympias, Alexander’s mother, she comes from Epirus, but with such a wide variety of “Greek” accents in the film, she can speak however she wants.
Alexander was an epic character and his story translates into an epic movie, with epic music and lasting for three epic hours. If you don’t have issues with lengthy discussions, homosexual suggestions, inconsistent accents, and Lord of the Rings style “fade to black so you think it’s the end, but really it’s not” cinematography, you will be able to appreciate the breathtaking set design, staggering battle reenactments and passionate acting in the compelling tale of an authentic legend.