- Alexander (film)
name = Alexander
caption = Promotional poster for "Alexander"
Colin Farrell Angelina Jolie Val Kilmer Rosario Dawson Jared Leto Anthony Hopkins
editing = Thomas J. Nordberg
November 24, 2004( United States) December 3, 2004( Greece)
runtime = 175 min (theatrical) / 167 min (
214 Min (Final cut)
language = English
budget = $155 million USD
gross = $167,298,192
amg_id = 1:288641
imdb_id = 0346491
"Alexander" is a 2004
epic film, based on the life of Alexander the Great. It was directed by Oliver Stone, who contended that it was based on historical events.
The film is based mostly on the book "Alexander the Great", written in the 1970s by historian
Robin Lane Fox, who gave up his screen credit in return for being allowed to take part in the epic cavalry chargeduring the film's recreation of the Battle of Gaugamela.
The film proved controversial. It was critically derided upon its release and failed at the American box office, grossing only US$34 million domestically, while costing $155 million to produce. It did better internationally, however, grossing a total of $133 million in overseas revenue. cite web | title=Boxofficemojo.com | work=Alexander Box Office Gross | url=http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=alexander.htm | accessyear=2006 ]
The two earlier DVD versions of "Alexander" ("director's cut" version and the theatrical version) sold over 3.5 million copies in the U.S. alone. [Retrieved from http://www.videobusiness.com/article/CA6400409.html.]
The film is based on the life of Alexander the Great, the first
Macedonian Emperor to conquer Asia Minor, Persiaand eventually Ancient India. It offers a glimpse into some of the key moments of Alexander's youth, his invasion of the mighty Persian Empire and his death. It also outlines his early life, including his difficult relationship with his father, Philip II of Macedonia, the conquering of the Greek city-states under the League of Corinthand the conquest of the Persian Empire in 331 BC. It also details his plans to reform his empire and the attempts he made to reach the end of the world.
The storyline begins in
356 BCwith Ptolemy I Soter, who narrates throughout the film. In lavish sets and images, Stone shows his vision of Alexander's daily life in the court of his father and portrays the strained relationship between his parents.
Alexander grows up with his mother
Olympiasand his tutor Aristotle, where he finds interest in love, honour, music, exploration, poetryand military combat. His relationship with his father is destroyed when Philip marries Attalus's niece, Eurydice.
After Philip is assassinated, Alexander becomes king of Macedonia and the rest of Greece. Having briefly mentioned his punitive razing of Thebes and burning of
Persepolis, Ptolemy gives an overview of Alexander's west-Persian campaign, including his declaration as the son of Zeusby the Oracleof Amunat Siwa Oasis, his great battle against the Persian Emperor Darius III in the Battle of Gaugamela and his eight-year campaign at Hydaspes against Porusin modern-day Pakistan.
The plot also illustrates Alexander's private relationship with his childhood friend
Hephaestionand later his wife Roxana. Before succumbing to an unknown illness or poison — it is never revealed which, yet both are suggested —, Alexander distances himself from his wife, despite her being pregnant, believing that she has killed his childhood friend Hephaestion.
The film accurately places Hephaestion in a far closer position to him than Roxanna. It is suggested in the film that Alexander died in part due to the loss of Hephaestion, which occurred less than three months earlier. Early in the film, Hephaestion compares Alexander to
Achilles, to which Alexander replies that, if he is Achilles, Hephaestion must be his Patroclus(Achilles's cousin and supposed lover). When Hephaestion mentions that Patroclus died first, Alexander pledges that, if Hephaestion should die first, he will follow him into the afterlife — a promise that Ptolemy observes he apparently kept when he died shortly after his friend.
Babylon, Alexander admits that Hephaestion is the only person whom he loves. During the film, Hephaestion shows extensive jealousy when he sees Alexander with Roxana and deep sadness when he marries her, going so far as to attempt to keep her away from him after Alexander murders Cleitus the Blackin India.
The film also focuses intensively on the close and warped relationship that Alexander shared with his mother Olympias, even though he never saw her after embarking on his crusades.
director's cutwas re-edited before the DVD release later in 2005. Stone removed seventeen minutes of footage and added nine back. This, then, shortened the running time from 175 minutes to 167. The differences between the director's cut and the theatrical version are as follows:
* Dates in the flashbacks and flashforwards use normal historical figures, such as 323 BC and 356 BC, as opposed to referring to time lapses, like "30 years earlier". In his commentary, Stone explains that, for the theatrical release in the United States, he had to refrain from using regular "BC" dates, since (according to data collected from test screenings) there was a significant number of viewers who did not know that 356 BC represented an earlier historical period than 323 BC.
* Ptolemy's backstory at the beginning is shortened.
* The two flashbacks with the arrival of Eurydice to the court and the wedding feast are shifted into the eastern campaign, enveloping the trial of
Philotasand assassination of Parmenion.
* The scene in which Aristotle gives a lesson to the young Alexander and his friends is re-edited and extended by a few seconds.
* Ptolemy's narration leading up to the Battle of Gaugamela gives no reference to the razing of Thebes and burning of Persepolis. He mentions the official Macedonian accusation, that Darius assisted the assassination of Philip — in both versions, it is also mentioned when Alexander rallies the troops —, and the proclamation by the Oracle of Amun is moved to a later part of the narrative.
* There is no scene on the night before the Battle of Gaugamela or the omen reader looking into the intestine of the ox-sacrifice before the Battle of Gaugamela.
* Directly after Alexander's mourning the dead after the Battle of Gaugamela, there is an additional flashback in which Philip explains the Titans to the young Alexander.
* In the theatrical version, during Roxana's dance,
Perdiccascan be seen breaking up a fight between Hephaestion and Cleitus. This is removed in the director's cut.
* The sex scene between Alexander and Roxana is shortened, and her attempt to kill him after her discovery of his relationship with Hephaestion is cut. More explicit footage of Alexander and Roxana having sex is added.
* When Alexander uncovers the page's plot, the director's cut features a scenelet in which Perdiccas goes to arrest Hermolaus, who falls on his sword with the words "Death to all tyrants".
* There is no narrative explanation by Ptolemy during the trial of Philotas.
* Alexander does not mourn Cleitus.
* The flashback of Alexander questioning Olympias does not appear immediately after the flashback of Philip's assassination; rather, it is moved to follow Alexander's grievous wounds in the Battle of the Hydaspes.
* The scene in which Roxana is prevented from entering Alexander's tent by Hephaestion is also removed. This is the last remnant of a Roxana-
Cassander subplotthat was filmed but not included.
* Between the scene in which Alexander smashes the "rebellion" within the ranks and the final battle, there is an additional scene in which Alexander reads a letter from Aristotle, who is featured dictating it to an unseen scribe.
* Ptolemy's narration of the march through the
Gedrosian desert additionally mentions the helplessness of Alexander watching his broken army die due to natural causes and harsh conditions. He does not mention either Alexander's new marriages in his final years or that the march across the Gedrosian desert was the "worst blunder of his life".
* The scene of the army returning to Babylon, together with that in which Olympias receives the omen of Alexander's death, is shortened.
Final cut: "Alexander Revisited"
Stone also made an extended version of "Alexander". "I'm doing a third version on DVD, not theatrical," he said in an interview with Ropeofsilicon.com. "I'm going to do a
Cecil B. Demillethree-hour-45-minute thing; I'm going to go all out, put everything I like in the movie. He [Alexander] was a complicated man, it was a complicated story, and it doesn't hurt to make it longer and let people who loved the film [...] see it more and understand it more."
The extended version of the film was released under the title of "Alexander Revisited: The Final Unrated Cut" on
February 27, 2007. The two-disc set featured a new introduction by Stone. "Over the last two years," said he, "I have been able to sort out some of the unanswered questions about this highly complicated and passionate monarch — questions I failed to answer dramatically enough. This film represents my complete and last version, as it will contain all the essential footage we shot. I don't know how many film-makers have managed to make three versions of the same film, but I have been fortunate to have the opportunity because of the success of video and DVD sales in the world, and I felt, if I didn't do it now, with the energy and memory I still have for the subject, it would never quite be the same again. For me, this is the complete Alexander, the clearest interpretation I can offer." [ [http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/news.php?id=4906 "Oliver Stone's 'Alexander' Gets Another DVD Release The final, final cut is now confirmed...] By Brad Brevet (Monday, December 18, 2006)]
The film is restructured into two acts with an intermission. "Alexander: Revisited" takes a more in-depth look at Alexander's life and his relationships with Olympias, Philip, Hephaestion, Roxanne and Ptolemy. The film has a running time of three hours and 34 minutes (214 minutes) and is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with English
Dolby Digital5.1 Surround audio. Beyond the new introduction with Stone, there are no other confirmed extras, except for a free coupon to the movie "300". [ [http://whv.warnerbros.com/WHVPORTAL/Portal/product.jsp?OID=18842 Warner Bros. Online: DVD Shop Browsing ] ]
* Library of
Alexandria: Shepperton Studios, London, England
Pella/Babylon/Indian palaces and myths cave: Pinewood Studios, London, England
* Alexandria (effect back plate):
* Temple of Pallas Athena,
Miezaand Macedonian horse market: Essaouira, Morocco
* Gaugamela: desert near
* Babylon gates:
* Bactrian fortress: Lower Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Hindu Kush(effect back plate): Himalayas, India
* Macedonian amphitheater: Morocco
Mekong, northeastern Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand
* Hydaspes: Central Botanical Garden, Amphoe Mueang,
Saraburi Province, Thailand
* The Greatest Legend Of All Was Real
Box Office performance
* Budget: US$ 155,000,000.00
* Total Domestic Grosses: US$ 34,297,191.00
* Total Overseas Grosses: US$ 133,001,001.00
* Total Worldwide Grosses: US$ 167,298,192.00
Even prior to its release, there was controversy about the film's depiction of ancient Greek sexual
moresor, more specifically, homosexuality. A group of 25 Greek lawyers initially threatened to file a lawsuitagainst both Stone and the Warner Bros.film studio for what they claimed was an inaccurate portrayal of history. "We are not saying that we are against gays," said Yannis Varnakos, "but we are saying that the production company should make it clear to the audience that this film is pure fiction and not a true depiction of the life of Alexander". After an advanced screening of the film, the lawyers announced that they would not pursue such a course of action. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4064727.stm Greek lawyers halt Alexander case] ]
At the British première of the film, Stone blamed "raging
fundamentalismin morality" for the film's US box-office failure. [ [http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,12589,1384483,00.html "Stone blames 'moral fundamentalism' for US box office flop"] (Thursday January 6, 2005)] He argued that American critics and audiences had blown the issue of Alexander's sexuality out of proportion. [ [http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,12589,1371013,00.html "Stone says Alexander is too complex for 'conventional minds'"] ( Friday, December 10, 2004)] The criticism prompted him to make significant changes to the film for its DVD release, whose cover characterises them as making it "faster paced, more action-packed".
Criticism by historians
With its attention to historical detail, "Alexander" also attracted critical scrutiny from historians due to its various factual errors. [ [http://www.moviemistakes.com/film4636 "Alexander" mistakes, goofs and bloopers] ] Most academic criticism was concerned with the insufficient adherence to historical details. [ [http://www.stfrancis.edu/historyinthemovies/alexander.htm "ALEXANDER (opened 11/ 24/04) Oliver Stone's Costly History Lesson"] By Cathy Schultz, Ph.D. in "Dayton Daily News", November 24, 2004. (Also in "Joliet Herald News", November 28, 2004; "Bend Bulletin", November 28, 2004; "Providence Journal", November 26, 2004.)]
Major objections came from Iranian historians, who were upset by the film's renderings of Persians and Macedonians alike.
Kaveh Farrokh, an expert on Persian history, said that the portrayals of Persians and Macedonians were inaccurate. As an example, Alexander and his troops defeat the Persian army in a single battle in the movie, but Farrokh holds that the real Alexander had to fight several fierce battles before he was able to defeat Darius III. Farrokh also observed that, in the film, the "Macedonian forces are typically shown [to be] very organised, disciplined, and so on, and what's very disturbing is, when the so-called Persians are shown confronting the Macedonians, their armies are totally disorganised. What is not known is that the Persians actually had uniforms. They marched in discipline, and music was actually used such as trumpets and so on, to allow them to march in disciplined rank."
In addition to what some critics perceived as the movie's downplaying of Persian imperial forces, King Darius is shown fleeing the Gaugamela battle and abandoning his troops when approached by Alexander, whereas a few historians have pointed out that, from the only known contemporary account, Darius tried to rally his army but was abandoned by his troops. [ [http://www.livius.org/aj-al/alexander/alexander_t40.html A contemporary Babylonian account of the battle of Gaugamela] ] Most Greek historians, however, agree with the film's version of these events.
The final battle against Indian kingdoms, which is considered to have changed Alexander's life forever, is also inaccurately depicted. A famous story holds that, when Alexander won the battle, King
Poruswas captured and presented to him. "Tell me," said Alexander, "in what way should I treat you?" Porus replied, "Treat me, O Alexander, like a king." [Rogers, p. 200.] Impressed, Alexander befriended him immediately. [In spite of the bloody war, people in India, particularly in the north, have come to accept Alexander as a vital part of their history.]
Similarly, Alexander is not (contrary to what the movie claims) severely injured by a poison arrow during this battle. This only occurred during a siege later that year against the Mallians in the city of Multan.
Criticism by film critics
One of the principal complaints among US film critics was that "Alexander" resembled a history documentary more than an action-drama film.
Roger Ebertwrote in his review, " [W] e welcome the scenes of battle, pomp and circumstance because at least for a time we are free of the endless narration of Ptolemy the historian". [ [http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041123/REVIEWS/41105003/1023 Alexander (R)] ]
The kindest criticism came from "Daily Variety Magazine", published on
November 21, 2004, for which Todd McCarthy wrote, "Oliver Stone's 'Alexander' is at an honorable failure, an intelligent and ambitious picture that crucially lacks dramatic flair and emotional involvement. Dry and academic where "Troy" was vulgar and willfully a historical success." Manohla Dargiswrote in " The New York Times" that "Alexander" "brought out the best of the worst in terms of inaccurate storytelling that lacks planning."
* [http://alexanderthemovie.warnerbros.com/ Official website]
* " [http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808402866/info Alexander] " at
* [http://www.alexander-the-great.co.uk/ Alexander film fan site]
* [http://forum.alexander-the-great.co.uk/ Alexander film discussion Board]
* [http://myweb.unomaha.edu/~mreames/Beyond_Renault/review2.html J. Reames, "Fire Bringer: Oliver Stone's Alexander"] - comprehensive review by a researcher of Macedonian history
* [http://www.keithshortsculptor.com/alexander.htm Keith Short - Film Sculptor] Images of set pieces for this film
* [http://www.archaeology.org/online/interviews/fox.html Riding with Alexander] –interview with Robin Lane Fox on [http://www.archaeology.org/ "Archaeology" magazine]
* [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/01/e840ee45-68ca-4718-bf39-c2f01168d738.html World: Oliver Stone's "Alexander" Stirs Up Controversy] –
Radio Free Europe
* [http://www.menara.ma/Infos/includes/detail.asp?article_id=2059&lmodule=divertissement Divertissement: Le tournage d'Alexander s'est déroulé dans d'excellentes condition] –Menara (French)
* [http://www.livius.org/opinion/opinion0001.html "The good, the bad, and the prejudiced"] –addresses Stone's/Lane Fox's ignorance of the results of cuneiform studies
* [http://www.moviehole.net/news/20041109_4502.html Colin Farrell interview for Alexander]
* [http://madeinatlantis.com/movies_central/2004/alexander.htm Alexander Production Notes]
* [http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001001472 G. Abel, Hollywood Reporter 390 (2 August–8 August 2005), 11 (2005).]
* [http://www.theasc.com/magazine/nov04/alexander/index.html R. K. Bosley, "Warrior King", American Cinematographer 85:11, 36–40, 42–43, 45–46, 48–51 (2004); B. Bergery, "Timing Alexander", "ibid." 44–45 (2004).]
* T. Carver, "Oliver Stone's Alexander: Warner Bros. And Intermedia Films (2004)", [http://www.h-net.org/~filmhis/ Film & History] 35:2, 83–84 (2005).
* G. Crowdus, "Dramatizing Issues That Historians Don't Address: An Interview with Oliver Stone", [http://www.cineaste.com/ Cineaste] 30:2 (Spring 2005), 12–23 (2005).
* D. Fierman, [http://www.ew.com/ Entertainment Weekly] 793 (19 November 2004), 26–32 (2004).
* [http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117915415?categoryid=1019&cs=1 M. Fleming, "Stone Redraws Battle Plans: Producer Admit 'Alexander' Missteps, but Hope International Release Proves Epically Successful", Variety 397:6 (27 December 2004–2 January 2005), 6 (2005).]
* D. Gritten, "Fall Sneaks: Fearsome Phalanx: Executing His Vision Of Grandeur, Oliver Stone Leads A Front Line Of Powder-Keg Actors Across 3 Continents. What Could Go Wrong?", Los Angeles Times 12 September 2004, E21 (2004).
* A. Lane, "The Critics: The Current Cinema: War-Torn: Oliver Stone's 'Alexander'", [http://www.newyorker.com/ "The New Yorker"] 80:38 (6 December 2004), 125–127 (2004).
* R. Lane Fox, Alexander the Great (Penguin Books, London, 1973).
* [http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/110.2/br_111.html I. Worthington, "Book Review: Europe: Ancient and Medieval: Alexander. Directed by Oliver Stone", The American Historical Review 110:2, 553 (2005).]
* [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/01/e840ee45-68ca-4718-bf39-c2f01168d738.html Radio Free Europe/Radio liberty,January 28, 2005 "World: Oliver Stone's 'Alexander' Stirs Up Controversy" By Golnaz Esfandiari]
* Dr. Kaveh Farrokh, [http://hellenicnationalist.blogspot.com/2004/12/iranian-perspective-on-alexander-movie.html The Alexander Movie: How are Iranians and Greeks Portrayed?]
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