Not that I went into this movie with really high expectations, and it isn’t really that my expectations were let down—it’s more that I would never have anticipated the type of let down I received. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I saw this movie, and I’ll get to why I’m glad and what I really enjoyed. I’ll start with the bad, though.
First off, I should have paid more attention to the director. Why it slipped my mind, I don’t know. Perhaps I was so entranced by the idea of a movie about Alexander that I failed to notice the name “Oliver Stone” by the word “director.” Had I noticed that, I think I would have had a more aware mindset when I went into the movie. [For those of you reading this who are too young to recognize the name (he has been out of the limelight as director lately), Oliver Stone worked as director for films like JFK, Nixon, Born on the Fourth of July¸ and Platoon—all movies with blatant agendas.] Thus, I would have been expecting some agenda to filter. Frankly, although Stone is excellent at pushing actors to excellence in performance, he fails as a director because he misrepresents to truth to create the image he desires. In this movie, Stone obviously wishes to leave the impression that Alexander had, in some sense, a homosexual relationship with his friend, Hephaistion. What I find so angering about this isn’t really the suggestion of the homosexuality, it is Stone’s deliberate use of his knowledge of the modern American audience to create said suggestions. He knows full well that the deep nature of ancient friendships, forged in life and battle, is out of the experiential realm of most modern American. He also knows that modern American men do not generally profess their love for each other because our society, inundated with “gay” awareness, will assume hidden homosexuality. The fact is he created a beautiful picture of love other than Eros; a picture of true friendship forged by Alexander’s accountability to a friend who refused to just “let him win.” Stone, however, pushed that picture over the top, playing on his audience’s ignorance and tendency to equate “love” with romance and sex. That, to me, is inexcusable. A director has a responsibility to communicate to his audience. Stone, instead, fails to communicate to them, knowingly leaving them with a certain impression. Now, he does not ever forcibly state that impression, knowing that history will not back him up. In fact, in the movie Aristotle to decries homosexual relations as excess; a scene in which some Greek men are obviously taking advantage of a young man shows Alexander’s disgust with the homosexual act; and Alexander tells his wife when she asks if he loves Hephaistion that there are many types of love, a statement which proceeds the consummation of their marriage suggesting that his love for Hephaistion is not sexual. Unfortunately, it takes a logical, analytical movie-goer to see the discrepancy of fact in the movie from impression. Sadly, Stone, given the opportunity to portray true friend-love in the ancient—a love that should exist in our society today—falls victim to his agenda-forcing nature, and fails. For that, he gets an F.
Now, for the good. I enjoyed this movie because I felt that the actors truly portrayed characters of depth and motivation. Kilmer’s Philip is powerful and tortured by misunderstanding and Jolie’s manipulative and hateful Olympias. Watching Alexander pulled between the two of them is heartrending. Watching Alexander is intriguing and powerful. Colin Farrell plays Alexander masterfully. Watching him as he is pushed by his dreams of uniting nations under one equal empire is fascinating. He is truly a driven man. A man who’s dream is not even understood by the men who follow him into battle. They follow him because he is their king—an honourable motivation. He is brilliant in battle and in policy as he pursues conquering Persia and Asia, and then adopting them into the Greek fold. He even marries an Asian woman, Roxanne, against the protestations of his generals who want him to marry a Macedonian. The marriage, though, is an application of his belief in the equal status of the Asian tribes in his empire. But his dream is exhausting, as Ptolemy later admits, and he cannot survive it. He is eventually disillusioned and returns to Babylon from his pursuit of India. I watched him, amazed. He was, it almost seems, a man out of his proper time. God surely used him to presage a future idea—future governments and philosophies. The story of Alexander, his dream, his pursuit of fulfilling it excellently is worthy of studying. That part of the movie gets an A-. Thus the movie itself gets a C-. The beauty and valour of the epic tale is tremendous, but Stone’s betrayal of historical accuracy in his directing in order to implement his agenda is inexcusable. The movie is worth a watch for those interested in Ancient Greece and the world of Alexander; but for pure “yay, epic movie” goers, it isn’t a great watch.
Caveat: nudity/sex scene; bare bottom of Farrell; weird androgynous Persian guy.