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Category:    Home > Reviews > Epic > History > Action > Adventure > War > Gay > Alexander Revisited – The Final Cut: Two-Disc Special Edition (Widescreen/DVD-Video)

Alexander Revisited – The Final Cut: Two-Disc Special Edition (DVD-Video)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: C-     Film: C+



Every director eventually seems to make one of them.  Steven Spielberg had Hook, Robert Altman had Popeye, Terry Gilliam just had The Brothers Grimm and Oliver Stone has Alexander.  The big name director goes out and makes a big film with both critical and commercial intents and everything just implodes.  Odder still, the films are not considered their worst works and eventually get a cult following of some kind of whatever reasons.  In Stone’s case, we have three versions of the film now.


First was the shorter theatrical version that did not bode well for anyone, than there was the shorter version that was dubbed a “director’s cut” that subtracted the gay or bi-sexual disposition of the tile character because of either homophobia and/or a bizarre lawsuit from Greek lawyers who had their own issues (neither of which changes the absolute fact that he slept with and had sex with men) and now there is the full-length version Stone intended in the first place.  It runs 214 minutes (!) and though it has better exposition than the previous cuts, the problems with the film have to do with things like casting and mixed screenplay issues.


The first problem in this film (and the other noted) are the repeating of the wrong things at the wrong time.  This film needed to be a standout and big step forward for Stone, who has been reeling from his best work (Nixon, JFK) since going more commercial and less edgy (Any Given Sunday) needing to reestablish himself as the proper heir to the kind of cinema Arthur Penn and Michael Cimino established.  Not being about America is not the issue either, but making an epic feel as real and authentic as the American experience is.


Instead, we get too much casting that is either mixed, has too much referential baggage or is just a spoof of itself.  As much as I like them, casting Val Kilmer (The Doors) and Anthony Hopkins (Nixon) were big mistakes because they are there with no connection or purpose for the film or relating to Stone’s previous work.  Colin Farrell is good in the title role, though the relationship he has with Jared Leto’s character (playing another role to type, unfortunately) and a third man who looks like he is impersonating Jay Davidson from The Crying Game (or Stargate?) is a mess.  A heterosexual director doing “gay lite” is a huge mistake.


Then casting the formidable Angelina Jolie as the mother who never ages much is also bizarre, made odder by Miss Jolie unfortunate situation of being media star out of glamour (too bad the press did not spend more time celebrating her talent or her amazing work with UNICEF, but that’s yellow journalism for you!) instead of what she really does so well.  There is zero chemistry there and those scenes are all bombs.  Christopher Plummer (going for a Guinness Book Of World Records “actor in the most films” title) makes more sense and other great British actors like Brian Blessed, Tim Pigott-Smith and Johnathan Rhys Meyers are a plus, but this never gels.


The best evidence of this is use of the likable Rosario Dawson in a role that should have been a big winner.  She is oddly absent in the other cuts, but gets more screen time here.  She is the non-gay, non-white, non-male, non-mother love interest and the only road to a “mature heterosexual” status, if still also subversive by her being a “lady of color” in a world where many are Mediterranean, which is not exactly “white” and an issue for another essay.


In other words, while all this vital history is going on and much of it we later learn is lost because it was not stored or recorded properly, the film in all three cuts never finds meaning in all the activity.  Sure, the cross-cutting confusion (though not as trippy as the most counterculture editing of Stone’s oeuvre) is interrupted by some decent battle scenes, but even they look like Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and any other time the lead soldier gives a speech, it looks secondary to that film.  I only wondered if Stone might be responding to Gibson’s homophobic film if not taking on other now-controversial aspects of the man.


This is the best version of the three cuts, but as the longest, also the most frustrating not only because it takes so much time, but because most every problem remains unresolved.  The wind-up is that Stone says things often that only he understands the meaning of and if the idea was to recreate a 1950s-type epic, than that went down with a thud too.  Stone needs to get back on the cutting edge or retire because he is better than this and was just not up to his usual high standards and speed for this project.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is exceptionally good-looking for the standard DVD format, with goods color, depth and definition that actually edges out the ugly-look of the HD-DVD of Wolfgang Petersen’s overly digitized Troy (reviewed elsewhere on this site) with digital work here looking better and not used as often.  Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography (in Super 35mm film) has its moments, with Jan Roelfs' Production Design and Jenny Beavan’s costumes helping the film to be much more watchable than the screenplay would allow.  Warner wanted this to look good and if this is the DVD, we can only imagine how much better the HD-DVD and Blu-ray will look whenever they arrive.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has limits and this sounded better in the theater.  Vangelis score is not very memorable and is as flat as his work on Ridley Scott’s 1942: Conquest Of Paradise.  Maybe Jon Anderson of Yes should join him next time.  As for the sound mix, it is dynamic until it hits the wall and limits of standard Dolby Digital, meaning it will take the better 5.1 mixes in HD-DVD and Blu-ray to do justice to it.  Though not a sonic masterwork, the mix has some character with giving credit to.


The only extra over the two discs is a brief introduction by Stone about why we have this third cut.  I don’t know if that matters, but you might want to listen to it after you watch and see if you agree or not.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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