September 17, 2005

Movie Review: Alexander (maybe)

(Because this movie sucked dead deer dicks, I'm not putting any effort into links. If you want further information, find it yourself.)

Question: Are you going to do this movie review in "Question and Answer" style?

Answer: Yes.

Q: Why?

A: There is some chance it will be funnier this way. And, it means I have to write (and think) less about movie that was so bad, it should have been recalled. Plus, it gives me many, many chances to point it "it sucks" using different words. In other words, sheer laziness.

Q: Oh. So, what movie was this?

A: Alexander. Or, Alexander the Great. Could even be something else involving the word "Alexander"; I just don't care.

Q: You can't even remember what the title was?

A: Nope. I think my brain is trying to save me from future flashbacks/bad drug trips/crying jags while drunk, and is reclaiming those neurons and wiping my memories.

Q: Just how bad was it?

A: It was a 10.

Q: A 10? Isn't that good? 10 out of 10? Perfect score?

A: No. 10 is the number of seconds it takes you to realize you'd rather be doing anything else. Washing dishes. Cleaning out the gunk from under the washing machine. Poking yourself in the eye with lemon and salt coated toothpicks.

Q: Oh. Well, if that's how bad it was in 10 seconds, how long was it? And why did you keep watching it?

A: The universe has been around for about 10 billion years. The movie was easily half that. Oliver Stone is still watching the opening credits somewhere.

Q: Oliver Stone? Isn't he supposed to be something of a decent director? What did he have to do with the movie?

A: He was listed as director, and then in the ending credits (yes, I watched those; I think reading them allowed my brain to recover sentience and thus I became human again) he is listed as a writer, along with two other people. Listing his jobs was easy. Explaining why he had anything to do with this steaming pile of shit is harder. Perhaps he needed money. Perhaps someone kidnapped some important member of his family (I, personally, would have sacrificed a nephew or an uncle rather than be a part of this). Perhaps his brain was on an extended vacation, and his body decided to do this anyway (one of the characters from "Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams, who is somehow associated with "Disaster Area" - the greatest rock band in the history of the universe - spends a year dead for tax reasons; that's the feeble origins of this joke. You can find the reference yourself, if you want. As noted, I'm not). In any event, Oliver Stone both wrote part of, and directed, this abomination.

Q: Damn. That was the longest response I've gotten from you yet. Are you just getting warmed up? Are you really pissed off, and going to rant about the failure of hollywood to make historical movies that have anything to do with reality?

A: No.

Q: Oh.


Q: Well, why was it so bad?

A: Look. I don't want to think about it. I don't want (and, actually, can't) to remember all the horrific things that made hate this movie.

Q: Please?

A: Fine. Colin Farrell (Farrel? Who cares?) speaks for the entire movie with an Irish/Scottish accent. He's supposed to be fricking Macedonian, for pete's sake. Irish? Yeah, that was a stretch. He worked hard on that. Oh, and after he goes insane (Alexander, not Colin; though Colin is nuts to have been part of this. Hope they paid him enough.), he runs around with blonde, shoulder length frizzy hair that makes him look very much like Ozzy.

Q: Ozzy?

A: Ozzy. The Prince of Darkness. Wild eyed and staggering through hordes of Macedonian soldiers, shouting about "continuing on" and "uniting the world" and "making everyone equal" or some such shit.

Q: That's somewhat unnerving. I've never thought of Ozzy and Alexander the Great at the same time. That sorta makes my head hurt.

A: Ah, now you're entering my world. That sort of shit was happening all over the place. I wanted a nice, historical movie about global conquest, and I get Ozzy raving about global multiculturalism. That's where the "poking your eyeballs" option starts to look good.

Q:What the hell does multiculturalism have to do this?

A: I'm not sure. Colin Farrell makes big, impassioned speeches about wanting to make everyone like each other, and getting Europe and Asia (I'm fairly certain those words didn't exist in any language in 300 BC) to all be part of his empire together, with equality for all. This seemed like a load of leftist hollywood crap, but then I looked him up in the wikipedia (find the link yourself) and it turns out that there might have been something historically accurate about that. Not to the extent the movie makes it, but more along the lines of Alexander needed soldiers and bureaucrats to run his massive empire, and by treating everyone equally, his pool of talent was much larger then if he depended only on Macedonians for everything. In any event, it was a jarring note in the film.

Q: How did Alexander manage to take over most of the known world?

A: I'm not sure you want to trust a movie for that sort of historical information. According to the movie, he got his start 'cause he wanted to kill Darius (the third, I think, not that it matters) who he blamed for killing his father (played like a pirate by Val Kilmer) although in point of fact, his father may have been killed by his mother (played like a female Russian gangster by Angelina Jolie). Anyway, after he becomes king, he takes his army off to Persia, kicks Darius' ass, and sort of keeps on invading places further and further east (Egypt is never mentioned). His motivations for doing this seem to be two-fold. First, Socrates (played like a dying English stage actor by a very old and likely dying English stage actor who's name I can't remember) shows a very young Alexander (though some sort of flashback part) a map that indicates that if you go far enough east you come to a great big lake where you can sail to the head of the Nile river and thence sail almost straight home to Greece/Macedonia. Alexander seems to have fully believed this crap, and thus set out with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, camp followers and assorted people off across modern-day Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India assuming he could build ships and sail home. All because some old dude showed him a map that said he could. In other words, he's an idiot. Second, (and here's where it starts to get weird), he seems to spend the entire movie moving further and further (physically) away from his mother. I mean, Oliver Stone goes to great lengths to try and impress upon us that Mom/Angelina Jolie is somewhat nuts, possibly homicidal, and clearly out to further Alexander's career/power. Alexander responds by fleeing Macedonia (going after Darius) and never returning. Moreover, everytime Mom writes him to ask why can't she come to Babylon or at least out of the palace where everybody hates her, Alexander/Colin looks maudlin and picks up camp and moves further east. I'm just an uneducated movie hick, but to me it looked very much like Alexander was conquering the known world just so he wouldn't have to see his mother again. So, just to sum up, Alexander conquered everything in sight because (1)He just wanted to get home again by boat, and (2)He wanted to get away from his mother. Somehow I think I'm missing some historical accuracy somewhere.

Q: Angelina Jolie? Val Kilmer?

A: Oh, you want to focus on that? OK. Val Kilmer played Philip of Macedonia (Alexander's father), and looked like he was sort of having fun with it. He had only one eye, and a great big scar over it, and spent almost all his time on screen drunk (and, perhaps, was drunk off-screen, too, for accuracy). In any event, he had a very piratical nature: you expected him to start shouting "Aarrr" and "Avast" at any given point. It was (simultaneously) disturbing, distracting, and morbidly compelling. Angelina Jolie played Alexander's mother (her character's name escapes me, and I don't care). She was just out-and-out strange. I mean, she spoke with a Russian accent, looked old enough to be Alexander's younger sister, insisted Alexander's father was not Philip but was Zeus, played with snakes (for reasons never explained), and (I can't emphasize this enough) spoke with a heavy Russian accent. I'm happy to suspend disbelief a little bit for a movie (more for say, Star Wars, then a movie about Alexander the Great), but this was too much. Where Val Kilmer was oddly engaging (I kept looking for a parrot on his shoulder), Angelina Jolie was just wrong.

Q: Before you lose the thought, were their any other famous actors in the movie?

A: Uh, I guess. Anthony Hopkins played some sort of narrator dude (one of Alexander's top Generals, who lives a long time afterwards and is shown late in life telling his story) who was completely irrelevant. He had some sort of English/Irish accent going too, and since he's clearly a good actor, the accent thing must have been a director's idea. I watched it with my girlfriend, who kept saying "Oh, him." and "That's who that was" in the closing credits, but I never saw anyone else I recognized. I think some dude from one of the Lord of the Rings movies was someone important, but I can't remember. Honestly, anyone involved in this movie likely saw the final screening, and said to Oliver Stone, "Look, dude, I'll take a salary cut if you'll take my name off the credits." I can't imagine anyone using this as a resume booster. Hey, I really can't find the words to explain to you how bad this was. I'm trying, but I'm not sure they exist in the English language.

Q: Where did it really lose it?

A: Well, everyone has their own, individual, breaking point, so your mileage may vary. Mine was right there, in the first "action" scene, not 10 minutes in. Alexander is facing Darius. Alexander brought 40,000; Darius has 240,000 (this is noted in the film). Now, normally, that sort of ratio is not favorable to the smaller side. Two-to-one is manageable if you have some technological/organizational advantages (better discipline, iron versus bronze weapons, etc.). Three-to-one is best managed on the defensive (get a castle, use the terrain, something). Six-to-one is a sure loser. I don't really care what sort of advantages you have, unless you have laser rifles or plasma bazookas and the other side is limited to rocks and sticks, you are going to lose. Alexander's generals know this, and they try to convince him to retreat, regroup and get some more soldiers. Alexander is having none of this. His brilliant plan is that if his infantry can hold the "left wing" for just an hour, he can (personally) find Darius on the battlefield, kill him, and that will rout the Persians. What the hell the "left wing" has to do with this is beyond me, but there it was on the screen. This didn't seem like much a plan to me (and I'm not a military professional), but, hey, they had actual history to draw upon, so I wasn't going to fight it. I mean, what, this wasn't fiction, this was reality, right? Anyway, the battle starts, and Alexander/Colin gets this crafty look in his eye, and takes his cavalry and gallops away parallel to the line of battle. Away from the battle. Off into the distance. Darius sees the Macedonian cavalry heading off somewhere, and sends his cavalry (on his side of the line) parallel, shadowing Alexander's cavalry. I'm thinking, what the fuck? I'm totally confused as to what sort of maneuver this is; this is the desert, it's hot, and these idiots are running (galloping) their horses off to nowhere. Those horses aren't going to be good for anything, is what I'm thinking. So somewhere way out away from the battle, suddenly Alexander pivots 180-degrees around, making a big cloud of sand, and out of that cloud charges a whole mess of Macedonian infantry, who set on the surprised Persian cavalry, while Alexander charges back to the center, finds Darius, flings a spear at him (misses), and Darius runs away. Persians routed, Alexander wins.

Q: Huh? That didn't make any sense.

A: Right. None at all. Oh, and in the infantry battle, while the cavalry was riding around the hot desert, the Persians shot hordes of arrows at the (arrowless) Macedonians, and then charged. Think about that for a minute. If you have bows and arrows, and the other side doesn't, why do you bother charging? Just stand there and shoot arrows at the other side all day. They die, you don't. That seems simple enough.

Q: Hmm. You're right. None of that seems to make any sense.

A: That's where I lost it. About 10 minutes in, an eternity to go, and this movie stopped making sense to me. I mean, it's a movie and all; you don't have to be completely historically accurate, but people should at least do logical (or at least semi-logical) things. If people don't act like people, why should I invest in this?

Q: That's your biggest complaint?

A: No, my biggest complaint is that it was monumentally boring. I've watched bad movies before (see my review of Troy). Bad movies can be entertaining, as the movie starts bad, and gets howling worse and worse as it goes on. It's sort of like the human reaction to a train wreck: it's awful, but sorta fun to watch. Those sorts of movies clearly have their entertainment value. This one was ponderous, slow, took itself far to seriously, and just plain sucked. The acting sucked, the directing sucked, the story sucked, the family relations sucked, the battle scenes (all two of them in a two-and-a-half-hour movie) sucked (although the guy whacking people with a severed head was sorta cool), and the movie just generally sucked. Oliver Stone can keep the $4 I paid to rent the damn thing, I want him to give me back the three hours of my life so I could do something (anything) more useful with it.

Q: Two and a half hours or three? Make up your mind.

A: Shut up. I watched this crap, you didn't.

Q: You aren't going to discuss the homosexuality?

A: What's to discuss? The movie hints that Alexander slept with men at times. It doesn't fully make that claim (you never saw him fooling around with another guy), and it wasn't really something that was relevant to the movie. I have no idea if it was historically accurate or not, since I'm certainly not going to start really learning history from this steaming pile of shit.

Q: Are we through?

A: Lord, I hope so.

Q: Any final words?

A: What, all this wasn't enough? Let me make this clear: DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. Avoid this movie at all costs. Avoid the people who want you to watch this movie. Stick your finger down your throat and fake a sudden illness if confronted with this movie. Don't get drunk and try to find humor in this movie. Don't get stoned and try to understand the movie. Simply. Don't. Watch. This. Movie.

Q: What, no threats to directors or actors?

A: Jesus, leave me alone, already. I just want to forget I've ever seen this. Look, Oliver Stone has never been a favorite of mine. I saw Platoon long ago, and liked it. Since then, what? Born on the 4th of July? That Kevin Costner/JFK assassination thing? I'm sure there is more, but I just don't care. A historical epic seemed inappropriate for him, and it clearly was. Do I want to kill him? Just can't be bothered. Too much effort. Colin Farrell? Never liked him much. Seemed like a one-dimensional actor, and he proved that here. Should someone kill him? Sure, fine, whatever. Just leave me out of it. Angelina Jolie? She arches an eyebrow well. That doesn't seem like enough to build an acting career out of, but that's one step up on Colin Farrell, so who am I to cast stones. Should she be killed for this? She seems to single-handedly be trying to adopt all of south-east Asia, so as long as that keeps her busy and away from shit like this, then leave her alone. If you are going to shoot anyone, shoot the writers (including, I guess, Oliver Stone - it's not really worth shooting anyone, but someone could toss a few ink-filled water balloons at all of them). I mean, if you can't make a reasonable movie out of Alexander the Great (the man who, even more so than the Roman Empire, conquered almost the entire known world), then perhaps writing isn't a skill you possess, and you should move onto some other line of work. One that doesn't involve words. Like fingerpainting. Or TV News. Or (shudder) marketing. Just don't write another screenplay.

(PS: If anyone involved in the making of this movie actually sees this, I want to make clear that the movie was worse than I have tried to get across here. Really. It was that bad. Remember Ishtar? This was worse. Phantom Menace? This was much worse. Electra? Catwoman? Those are Oscar contenders compared to this. Anyone involved in the making of this should feel a great deal of shame, hopefully ostracism, and not a small amount of pain. Don't do it again.)

(PPS: I have been informed of some potentially factual errors in this review. Considering the vast quantity of various errors (factual and aesthetic) in the movie, this seems pointless, but we here at Bloodless Coup are nothing if not factual. That being said, Anthony Hopkins was playing Ptolemy, not some unknown doofus. The "dying English stage actor" was, in fact, Christopher Plummer, who (I guess) isn't a dying English stage actor (what else is he?), and he played Aristotle (not Socrates), not that it matters (both are important dead Greek philosophers). Oh, and the unknown supporting member of the cast wasn't from Lord of the Rings, but whose name was very much like someone who was in Lord of the Rings, is Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (supposedly very androgenously hunky). If anyone finds any further factual errors, please point them out. I could give a shit, but if it entertains you, that's fine. You'll have more fun than I had watching this bloody awful movie.)

Posted by baltar at September 17, 2005 09:58 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Movies


Wow. Baltar, you have outdone yourself. The only thing that would have made this review better is if you could have worked in the word "craptacular."

Posted by: binky at September 17, 2005 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

So, just to sum up, Alexander conquered everything in sight because (1)He just wanted to get home again by boat, and (2)He wanted to get away from his mother. Somehow I think I'm missing some historical accuracy somewhere.

God that sounds familiar. Still working on the boat. Re Mom, Pittsburgh seems to be far enough.

Posted by: joshua at September 19, 2005 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Baltar's prescience is astounding. Read down to "Quote of the Week."

Posted by: binky at September 24, 2005 01:43 AM | PERMALINK

Just as a note, I haven't seen the movie, but it sounds like they were taking a swing at trying to portray the battle of Gaugamela, and may have gotten some of the bits right. Link for battle is here:

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at November 27, 2005 07:47 PM | PERMALINK
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