2004-12-17 / Columnists

‘Alexander’ – The Great Goes Down

The world’s greatest military leader is being defeated at the box office: Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” was number six in tickets sales ($13.5 million) on its opening weekend. Why?

An audience member at the Loews/ Cineplex Odeon Fantasy Cinemas in Rockville Centre had the answer. As the three-hour epic ended, the clash of swords and sounds of bellowing war elephants melded into a gigantic yawn... provided by the patron. Despite two pitched battles (120 minutes apart), the story of Alexander has been made boring —  hopelessly muddled by the man who created the conspiracy-confused “JFK.” Stone has simplified the complex conqueror into a guy who overcomes the known and unknown world as an excuse to run away from his domineering mother. And he steals the army of his murdered father, Philip (Val Kilmer), to do it. Played by Colin Farrell in California surfer locks, Alexander has a vague vision of uniting hundreds of tribes into a multicultural empire. Though he never loses a battle, he has two problems: He doesn’t know when to stop conquering and, bisexual that he is, he can’t produce an heir.

The film is designed as a history lesson, courtesy of ancient General Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins), inter-cut with scenes of battle, debauchery and young Alex struggling with a severe Oedipal complex, thanks to his witch/bitch mom Olympias (Angelina Jolie with a Bela Lugosi accent). While Jolie is unintentionally comic in a Mel Brooks way, Farrell is not even close to handling the obsessive psychosis that drove the near-mad empire builder. Both Stone and Farrell seem unsure of how to deal with the great leader’s homosexuality. It’s addressed with hugs, loyalty oaths and serious stare-downs between Alexander and his trusted friend, Hephaistion (Jared Leto). Although he lounges with and once kisses an Asian eunuch, Alex’s big sex scene is reserved for his Persian wildcat wife, Roxane (Rosario Dawson). But, when an offspring is not forthcoming, the noble warrior king goes back to his boyfriends.

When Alexander arrives at the end of the world, he and his army have nowhere to go…and neither does Stone. Fortunately, we can get up and leave the theater. It may be better not to enter it.

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