Think Oliver Stone, and you think of "Platoon". Think Oliver Stone, and you think of "The Doors". Think Oliver Stone, and you would not like to think "Alexander".
Sadly, the preparations for "Alexander" had been elaborate and true to style. Stone had employed the services of ex-Captain Dale Dye of the US Military Corps who has been his associate since "Platoon"; and under the guidance of Dye the actors, including the lead Colin Farrell, were made to go through the grill of becoming "soldiers". The army formations were well researched, the strategic and tactical maneuvers well studied. Armorer Richard Hooper was appointed to produce the weaponry for the various armies, and he did a commendable job. And yet on the whole the film failed to come off as a definitive portrayal of "Alexander The Great".
Stone blames the media for the failure of "Alexander" in box offices around the world. And while it is true that the media went overboard with the bisexual angle - Alexander's sexuality was perhaps the least most important subject in the treatment of the film -perhaps it is time Oliver Stone stood up and took stock of where his strengths lie. "Alexander" as a film fails the basic tests of the celluloid - Dramatization and Casting. Of course, there is quite a bit of drama throughout the film, but most of it culminates in the portrayal of an over zealous director rather than a seasoned veteran. The film as a whole lacks the exuberance of motives that form an integral part of any Oliver Stone classic. There are numerous snapshots of brilliance scattered throughout the film, but sadly they remain just that - scattered.
So far as casting goes, Colin Farrell is miserable in the role of one heralded as "The Great". He lacks the flair of "Braveheart" Mel Gibson, though his hair does remind one of the veteran actor at times; and in the scenes where he is called upon to express his internal conflict and turmoil, he comes across as an object of abject misery - no more, and no less. Again, as a leader he seems to be one thrust upon the role, rather than it being a matter of choice. While delivering the pre-battle speeches he fails to inspire confidence amongst the audience who are left praying for the fate of his soldiers. In short, having reportedly injured himself while enacting battle scenes, Farrell also managed to pave the way to injure his on screen persona with "Alexander".
One does not need to be so sarcastic of Angelina Jolie, though. If Oliver Stone chose to cast her as the mother who never ages, how can the "tomb raider" be expected to say no? And she does come off brilliant in at least one scene where she is confronted by Alexander post the death of King Philip. Unfortunately, her sensuality is a second skin; the viewers are too awed by "The" Angelina Jolie to try to make any sense of what she is trying to say.
Then there is history to be considered. "Alexander" is a veritable gold mine of inconsistencies with historical facts. For instance, history has it that after his defeat King Porus (of north western India ) was asked by Alexander as to the kind of treatment that he expected, to which Porus had replied' "as befits a King". Strangely, this entire conversation was filmed to be between Alexander and Roxanne (who says "as befits a princess" so as not to confuse genders!), rather than Alexander and Porus. Should one call this commercialization of history, or is it just a mix up of facts? Further, the film goes on to show Alexander as mortally wounded in battle in India, something which as any historian will tell you, is not true. Stone does try to paint this untruth as a speculative truth, stating in the end that the historians had lied about Alexander dying of fever. Probably. But one does expect a director of Stone's class to understand the basic tenet of making period films - that which calls upon the director to be true to what is accepted as history, unless there is reasonable evidence to cast doubts on the facts. That a period film is expected to be a portrayal of history and not of fantasy is something that seems to have been ignored by the master filmmaker.
In spite of the long list of errors and failures, the film does have its moments of magic. The sets have been very well done, and Dale Dye has trained the men well as soldiers. Both the battle scenes in the film have been superbly portrayed, especially the Battle of Gaugamela in which Alexander defeated Darius of Persia. The might of the phalanx (formation of soldiers in groups of 16 by 16) on flat land and its ineffectiveness in jungle terrains has been superbly depicted. The fact that Stone had used up to 1500 men in a single day for a single shot speaks volumes of his attention to detail. These snippets of brilliance provide the film with passing grades, but just fall short of making it an Oliver Stone film.