DCGreeks.com @ The Movies Presents
Alexander (The Grating)
December 10, 2004
It would have been easy to miss Alexander altogether with it opening on a busy Thanksgiving weekend to less than stellar reviews. Blame a lazy Saturday afternoon with no Greek events this weekend for the pain you will endure in reading this review. We officially took one for the team by dropping two matinee tickets on this Macedonut.
In Alexander, Oliver Stone fails on the most basic level to do what every other Hollywood movie on a Greek or Greek-American theme in the past three years since we've started this site has done. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Troy, and even that Big Fat Greek Piece of Giadouroskato managed to make us feel some pride or at least identify enough with one character, one aspect of out heritage or history, something, that would make you want to go out and buy it on DVD or at least stop to watch it for five minutes on cable. Not only were we begging for Alexander to end, we and everyone else in the sparse theater were cheering when the Indians and their elephants started stomping on Macedonians. The Greek Government should purchase a copy of this movie when it comes out on DVD and send it to the government of FYROM and force them to watch it. Based on Oliver Stone’s portrayal, the government of FYROM would probably quickly change its name to the Republic of Are We Sure We Really Want to Be Associated with These Idiots than adopt the name of Macedonia.
Never in one movie has a man been bafflingly portrayed as having both an Oedipus and an Elektra complex. Angelina Jolie's stab at playing Alexander's mother, Olympias, incidentally the only character in this flick with anything resembling an Eastern European accent puts the grate in Alexander. Never have we wished a Greek female character to be on the business end of an anapodi sflaria, as much as this manipulative, possessed, Transylvanian power monger. In fact there were no likeable or believable female characters in this film. (Not sure if Stone did this on purpose to justify Alexander's "leanings.")
Many feared that too much would be made of Alexander's "preferences" which if true would have made him different even in the seemingly anything-goes ancient Greek world. (You could tell that this wasn't normal in other cultures by the uncomfortable looks on everyone else's faces.) While there wasn't anything graphically controversial in this movie, the innuendo defined Alexander the Great in the movie, reducing him to the ancient world's Troy McClure from The Simpsons. (Anyone who remembers the episode of The Simpsons where Troy McClure marries one of Marge's sisters, Selma, and tries to have a baby with her for the sake of bettering his image and dispelling rumors about him. knows what we're taking about. In fact, the Troy-Selma love scene was less awkward than Alexander's encounter with Roxanna.)
Two battle scenes aren’t enough to distract you from the mindless drama of Alexander's life that Stone likes to focus on in this film. We're cheated out of any grand strategy, any geo-political intrigue, or even a glimpse into Alexander's true ambition. Stone makes the Macedonian conquest of the then known world seem like the half-baked machinations of a group of Westerners who conquer the Middle East and Central Asia in the hopes of freeing these “barbarians” from their oppressors and replacing it with the benevolent rule of Western thought and culture. Alexander seems to have no plan on winning the peace and also an obsessed desire to hunt down and destroy all insurgents by chasing them into the mountains of Central Asia. This portrayal exhibits the problems inherent in trying to piece together a historically based film from accounts from the Ancient World – it gives filmmakers license to fill in the gaps with the politics of the 21st Century.
What’s scarier is that within the next two years we will be subjected to yet another Alexander the Great movie by a director best known for his remake of Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman and Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio, which he’ll be teaming on this movie. Colin Farrell may have a good compromise between the strength and thoughtfulness it took to be Alexander and he wasn’t all that great in the role, so we’re more than understandably nervous by DiCaprio’s upcoming shot at it. But then again maybe Baz Luhrmann will surprise us with his film. It can’t be any worse that what Oliver Stone did.