Alexander: Director's Cut
I was daunted by this movie from the beginning, Oliver Stone never panders to the audience and always presents his own vision, something I truly admire, but that can make his films somewhat inaccessible and hard going. In this case I had already been through all the hype and news of the cinema cut receiving very bad press from around the world, and the film being critically as well as box office slammed. I didn't hold out a lot of hope.
Interestingly the first time I tried to watch it I had to switch it off after twenty minutes or so. I was definitely not in the right frame of mind and hearing the confusing appearance of the Irish accents and some epic, or some might say over, acting was just not where I was. So I put the film aside and waited for a time when I was ready for it.
To be honest, I'm not sure what that wait achieved.
The film feels very long, and although the story continues and we feel the epic scale of the man, his drive and his huge ambition for his people, there's still that feeling of "how long have I got to go?", and that's not a very good sign and it's not helped by a three hour runtime.
Despite the Director's Cut, I still found the tale to be somewhat disjointed. It's interesting that the story does travel between times and events, but when viewing it for the first time you are often unclear why this is happening. It's something, as with a lot of the problems I found with the movie, was explained during the Director's audio commentary, and that raises an interesting point, shouldn't the film manage to do that without the Director explaining it to you?
One sad thing about this cut is that some of the key character changes have really been made through outside pressure. The bisexuality of Alexander and the people of that time has been heavily criticised, and it's obvious from Stone's words during the audio commentary that he's made these cuts against his will, so this isn't truly a Director's Cut since so many of the changes have been made to accommodate those who were outspoken about the original film.
Stone has indeed outdone himself on the filming of this epic tale, it looks absolutely wonderful on screen. Rich, lavish costumes and sets, amazingly visualised battle scenes which put to shame all that have gone before, and some stunning CGI effects that tie seamlessly with actual filming. You just have to watch the battle against the Indian Elephants to realise how amazing this work is, for those are real Elephants.
The talent listed on this film is superb and reflects the epic proportions of the tale, and here is where you might expect a big but to come into play and for me to say something like the talent didn't come through onscreen. That's where you would be wrong, the acting is superb. The cast is very wide and well rounded, with actors from so many different countries giving a multi ethnic feel.
Despite my praise for the acting, Colin Farrell did seem to overplay some moments, the appeal to his men when they all want to return home shows just that. At other times he shows us why he can pull off such a large role and that he can let his talent come through.
Presented: 2.35:1 Widescreen
Wonderfully shot. Sharp. Great colours and depth throughout with amazing epic shots coming one after the other. If this film does nothing else it shows that Stone is a stunning Director and has an amazing eye for bringing such wonderfully rich and active visuals to the big screen.
Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1
The 5.1 soundtrack is used well and gives fantastically strong audio which is particularly noticeable during the battle sequences, bringing them to life and pulling you right into the thick of things.
ExtrasPresented: Audio Commentary with Oliver Stone I was stunned at how in depth this audio commentary, not only that but how interesting and educational it was. Stone shows that he's got a great deal of background knowledge on Alexander and the history of the times, something that combined with the movie is fascinating to listen to.
However, and I've said this earlier, the film appears slightly confusing and seems to leap about in timeline without totally understanding it. There's also the problem of not understanding why Alexander is Irish (apart from Farrell not being able to do any other accent perhaps), and all the other niggling little issues with the movie. When you come to hearing the audio commentary and Stone talking about the movie, through his words and explanations you understand the movie a lot more and these choices and issues that you previously felt about the film get cleared up through his words.
That really shouldn't be the case though, you should have these all sorted out during the film and understand the story fully before coming to the Director's commentary, and to me that tells me that the film still needs another cut. Perhaps when the hysteria has died down over the characters sexuality, and Stone has had some more distance to the movie can we find a fuller, more explanatory cut.
As a complete package this film certainly does much better than the original cut, although to be fair I've only read the reviews and heard the controversy. The movie is a true epic, and with the history of such epics they tend to bloom only after time. Added to this epic movie is the excellent and informative commentary by Stone himself, which is well worth a listen.
The cinematography is stunning, and the battle scenes are second to none both visually and through the audio track. Acting is also strong with a huge, epic cast providing very strong and varied performances.
Stone has again lived up to his reputation, but I feel has been unfairly hit by critics and with this Director's cut he's listened too closely to them.
Simply for the historical elements both in terms of the tale of Alexander and in the tale of this film itself, I'd recommend watching this. It's not yet a great film, but I think that may come with time and another less critically pandering cut.