4 out of 10

Alexander the Grates-on-your-nerves

If you were spending $150,000,000 on a film, wouldn't you make damn sure the dialogue was serviceable?

Ask any stockbroker and he'll tell you that where the Chief Executive's role of daily management of a company and the overseeing one of a Chairman are merged into one, it's only a matter of time before there's big trouble with the no safety catch on run-away power. And in an ironic twist of fate, the movie "Alexander" runs into exactly the same catastrophy as it's subject's - the spectacular flash expansion and collapse of Alexander the Great's empire in 323BC. Just as lack of supervision allowed him to build an empire spanning three continents in just 8 years only for it to crash in hours after his death, so Oliver Stone as both writer AND director allowed him to evade all the usual strictures about screenplays laid down by studios with a disasterous and costly results. With not a hint of humour and tergid lines, the THREE HOURS or so of "Alexander" has all the pace of a TV documentary and the historical credibility of an action flick.

As in his previous lengthy cinematic tome, "The Doors", Stone produces a biographical work centred on a sexually messed up historical figure, whose blind pursuit of a pointless quest draws initail public support, yet suffers violent lack of sanity, downfall and death when his dream become impossible and corrupted, bringing down all those he brought up with him. And, as in "The Doors', Stone has clearly spent ten times the effort on developing artisitc symbolism rather than simple dialogue that the average ticket-buying Joe can stay awake to.

Although Alexander's family would have been a rating dream come true for Jerry Springer, Stone does not develop the obvious theme. Maybe one of the greatest empires on earth was founded by a young man simpkly trying to find a way to get away from his attrocious family: one being a manipulative and possessive murderess, with Angelina Jolie clearly wasted in the role and a drunken father, King Philip for whose part, Stone wheels in Val Kilmer from his role as Morrisson in his "The Doors' flick again. Worse, it is a basic concept in a script that the "guy gets the girl", yet not only does Alexander's "in-your-face" homosexuality put a brick wall up that stops most of the audience identifying with him, but it is made clear that, from the start, the guy "has already won the boy" (in this case), leaving nothing to develop and a dull flatness to the character development. Add in so many Macedonian generals that a Harvard history graduate would be sweating blood to keep track of who's who and a pathetic attempt to add intrigue by missing out pieces of the story and then having them told later in flashbacks and the whole movie is well on the way to being unintelligible, although it's near 3 hours in length does not drag quite as bad as other commentators claim.

I openly conceed that the battle scenes are truly amazing, historically accurate, and alone would make it worthwhile seeing, but I have to add a deep unease after reading the end titles. Not only were the Indian scenes filmed in Thailand, not exactly a hotbed of animal rights activity, but that the usual official declaration by the American Humane Society that "No animals were hurt in the making of this film" is notable by it's absence. With brutal scenes involving the mass slaughter of horses in battle and elephants having their trunks sliced off, I am left with a deep sense of unease by a director who is already clearly in a world of his own, valuing symbolism above respecting the hard earned wages of the average ticket-paying Joe. Maybe we'd all be better off if he'd spend it somewhere else, rather than help financing Stone empire in the sky?

"The Doors" set in 323BC with swords instead of guitars

Film Critic: - Robert L Thompsett