Directed by: Oliver Stone
Premise: The third (and final?) edit of Oliver Stone’s 2004 film. The picture is a biopic of Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell) focusing on his relationship with his parents and his political and military allies.
What Works: This new cut of Alexander is far and away better than the original 2004 film and an improvement upon the 2005 Director’s Cut, which was also released directly to DVD. The main problems of the original version were that it was far too talky, focused too much on Alexander’s romantic relationships but without moving forward with any one storyline, and got bogged down in a lot of very melodramatic sequences that made the film come across as a soap opera set in the ancient world. At 220 minutes, The Final Cut is the longest version of Alexander but it also makes the most sense of the three. This version appears to have more focus and Stone has radically changed the structure of the film, opening with Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire, and then cutting back and forth between his youth, characterizing his relationships with his mother (Angelina Jolie) and father (Val Kilmer). The new structure allows the viewer to see the logic in the juxtaposition of sequences and the arrangement of the scenes reveals much more about Alexander’s psychology and illuminates why he makes certain decisions in his later life. It is also much more entertaining, balancing out the action with drama much more effectively. Aside from the relationship with the parents, The Final Cut also clarifies Alexander’s relationship to his military staff and his political maneuvers. Among these, his relationship to Ptolmey, played by Anthony Hopkins in the outer frame of the narrative and by Elliot Cowan inside the narrative, is much clearer, and it is much more apparent who Hopkins’ character is and from what point of view he is providing the narration. Hopkins’ narration has been simplified in this version from the original cut and the result is much more economical storytelling. The battle sequences in Alexander have also been re-cut and made much more coherent, especially the battle at Gaugamela, by adding additional footage in the battle itself and including expanded scenes ahead of the fighting that lay out Alexander’s battle plans.
What Doesn’t: Alexander remains a flawed film, and no amount of recutting can fix some of the miscasting, namely Angelina Jolie as Olympias. While on her own she is not bad (her scenes with Connor Paolo as the young Alexander play very well) when paired with Colin Farrell and trying to play his mother the casting does not work because she is so obviously the same age. Some of the dialogue remains over the top and Farrell’s delivery sounds silly and over dramatic at times, especially when he gets loud. He is far better in the role when he plays it quiet.
DVD Extras: Introduction by Oliver Stone.
Bottom Line: Alexander Revisited is a bold re-cut that mostly saves a much maligned film. While it is not Stone’s best work, this is one of his most interesting films and The Final Cut is a vast improvement over the original version. It is a shame that this version was not the one released theatrically in 2004. As a side note, the three versions are worth looking at for students of film, particularly those interested in editing and storytelling in the cinematic form, as the three show how much a film is made in the editing room.
Episode: #138 (April 22, 2007)