A world conqueror’s yawn-inducing story

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A world conqueror’s yawn-inducing story

Like an alcoholic about to hit bottom, sometimes a movie will let out an unconscious cry for help ― some wordless signal to the world that it’s in a desperate state and in need of intervention. In the case of “Alexander,” I think it’s Colin Farrell’s hair.
There’s precedent. The 2000 sci-fi trainwreck “Battlefield Earth” advertised its awfulness by way of the nest of dreadlocks that John Travolta, as the evil alien mastermind, wore on his head. He looked like a giant Jamaican spider. When you looked at a poster for “Battlefield Earth,” the copy was trying to lure you in, but Travolta’s hair was saying “run.”
Farrell, a fairly swarthy guy, has cherubic blond locks in “Alexander.” Presumably that’s historically correct, but all you have to do is look at Farrell with the hair on and you see the problem. Just look at the photo above and to the right. There ― you see.
In theory, it’d be very interesting to see a movie about Alexander the Great made by Oliver Stone during the American occupation of Iraq. The subject is a narcissistic king’s son who invades the Middle East because he thinks he has divine sanction. From Stone, a leftist filmmaker whose past films have gone on dark, apocalyptic riffs about the motivations of people who want to run the world, you’d expect an interesting perspective on this ― maybe even an implicit historical parallel. Instead, this movie seems to have been made by an overenthusiastic Alexander the Great fan.
From the opening scenes, it consists largely of awed people talking about the greatness, or potential greatness, of Alexander. Alexander often brings it up himself. If you tune the dialogue out once in a while and let your mind wander, as you will, it becomes “murmur murmur Alexander murmur Alexander murmur murmur murmur murmur Alexander murmur murmur.”
Evidently he had parental issues. His snake-handling mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) kept him in bed with her to what looks to have been an unhealthy age. His one-eyed father Philip, king of Macedonia, played by Val Kilmer in a “Brady Bunch” wig, suspects Alexander isn’t his son. I think. (It was a little hard to keep up.) Scenery is chewed. We follow wide-eyed Farrell from Macedonia to Persia to India, conquering one unconvincing-looking soundstage after another, in between melodramatic conversations about his destiny.
It never even gets interesting enough to become a disappointment. Was the great conqueror a boon to civilization, or a blood-soaked egotist? Since Stone, uncharacteristically, declines to take a position, all we’re left to take interest in is Alexander himself, and there’s no reason to. Even the film’s “controversial” treatment of his bisexuality, which Stone recently blamed for its commercial failure in America, is timid, consisting of a kiss and a few smoldering gazes. There are moments, including a battle in India involving war elephants, when Stone looses the hallucinatory grandeur that used to be his trademark; it makes you wonder what this movie would have been like had it been made by the director of “JFK” and “Natural Born Killers,” rather than the guy he grew up to be.


Alexander
Drama / English
175 min.
Now playing


by David Moll
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