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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Olive Stone, cinematic madman, and his new ‘Alexander’

Consider me the time-traveling National Guardswoman for the Movies: I spent a weekend with ancient warriors on ancient battlefields. After my third look at 300 on Saturday, I spent Sunday with Alexander the Great. Well, Alexander the Not So Great. Okay, Alexander the Toga Ken Doll.

As I mentioned recently over at Film.com, Toga Ken has been taunting me for weeks, and I finally gave in to the new director’s cut Oliver Stone has perpetrated of his 2004 flick Alexander. In a brief video introduction on the DVD — actually on Disc 1 of the two-disc set — Stone says this, at last, is his original vision for the film, and it is to be celebrated as a triumph of true creative artistry over fake Hollywood bullshit. Which is one of the funniest things going on here. Also, Stone promises that if we loved the theatrical version, we’ll love this one even more — I’m not sure to whom he is referring; maybe Colin Farrell’s mom? Though, to his credit, Stone also acknowledges the fact that many movie lovers considered the theatrical version errant nonsense, and says that if we thought he was looney before, we’re sure to think he’s even loonier now.

In this he is correct.
I tried to see something worthy here, I really tried. And all I could see was the epic sweep of Stone’s campy insanity. This new Alexander reaches beyond the mere loopiness of the theatrical cut to approach the Showgirls-crazy — it’s mind-boggling in the breadth of its lunacy. The opening battle sequence plays like something out of Monty Python, and it’s as long as an episode of The Flying Circus: we’re talking thirty minutes of guys on horses and guys on foot and guys with swords and guys with spears whackin’ the crap out of one another. Stone helpfully gives us captions to let us know where we are — Macedonian Left flank, in the Macadeonian Center, etc. — as well as grand helicopter shots, presumably simulated via CGI, zooming down over the presumably simulated ancient hoards, but no matter where we are, it’s just guys whackin’ the crap out of one another. There’s a kind of hypnotic awfulness to it, like you can’t look away no matter how hard you’d like to.

Honestly, just read my original review and multiply by a hundred. This new Alexander features more orgies, more parties, more entertainments for mighty Alexander, his hair, and his three wives, two lovers, and crazy-ass mom. The casting of Angelina Jolie and her terrible accent and snarling scenery-chewing is now more apparent as a madcap novelty. That Colin Farrell took acting lessons from William Shatner is ever clearer. There’s more sex, more violence, more camp, more everything. The everything here was nothing good to start with, and now there’s more of it. Which is outrageously funny in its own way.

There’s a kind of mad-science, evil-overlord, taking-over-the-world kind of genius in that, I suppose. All hail Oliver Stone, and prepare the padded room.

[buy at Amazon]

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  • zen88

    It’s obvious you have no respect for history, or someone’s creativity. Of course, people are entitled to their opinion and I don’t agree. At least Oliver Stone tried to get some historical details right, unlike another certain “comic book” movie playing in theaters right now.
    Stone was just trying to tell a story in a way modern audiences could understand. It’s not his fault people nowadays have the attention span of lemmings.

  • MaryAnn

    Attention span of lemmings… riiiight. That’s why no one was able to sit through nine hours of *Lord of the Rings*: we all have the attention span of lemmings.

  • spellcheckpenguin

    ITYM “arrant nonsense”

  • MaryAnn

    Actually, spellcheck, I do mean “errant.” Depending on what dictionary you use, the two words are acceptable variants. My dictionary — Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate, a standard edition used extensively throughout the publishing industry — says it’s fine.

    Why the fuck are all the grammar nazis out in force at my site all of a sudden?

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