Just a quick clarification on yesterday’s post regarding Alexander the Great.
No, I did not like Oliver Stone’s epic film Alexander. Stone may be a left-wing conspiracy nut who leaves me shaking my head sometimes, but I enthusiastically agree that he’s also one of cinema’s most brilliant filmmakers.
Just not with this movie.
Firstly, he chose the wrong actor to play Alexander. Colin Farrell is too reasonable, too much of ordinary scale, to be convincing as a conqueror. We need to sense a certain madness in a colossus. George C. Scott had it in Patton, Peter O’Toole had it in Lawrence of Arabia, Klaus Kinski in Fitzcarraldo, Willem Dafoe in Stone’s Platoon, but Farrell just didn’t seem inspirational enough to drive men to the ends of the world with his unbending will.
An actor was needed who had that certain strange fire in his eyes.
I know the history and influence of Alexander, but it seemed the film talked a lot about incorporating conquered peoples into the expanding empire but we don‘t see it happen. Their clothes, languages, foods and customs are embraced, we hear, but the movie spends more energy telling us this than showing us.
I’m a history junkie, but this missing element was important to me. It’s what made Alexander great.
Also, the movie’s battle scenes are impressive and even sometimes brilliant, but they never felt real. Alexander’s opponents looked like digital ants and had the human dimension of video-game figures. They attack, are vanquished, then replaced by new foes.
I also included a clip of Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy in yesterday‘s blog, not just because Alexander was inspired by Achilles, but because both films were released the same year. A comparison is necessary. Alexander far outreaches Troy in ambition, has more ideas than formulas, yet Troy told a better story. It had structure and clarity, and those are precisely the qualities that Alexander lacked.
Maybe the story of Alexander the Great is too big and challenging for a movie. It’s only been attempted twice. Richard Burton took a shot at playing him in 1956 and failed, and now Colin Farrell stumbles at his turn.
Oliver Stone was obviously fascinated by Alexander, had things he wanted to say about him, but the urgency of his ideas constantly outraced his narrative. The movie tried to say too much and yet left too much untold.