DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Alexander Revisited - The Final Cut

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ken_McAlinden, Feb 27, 2007.

  1. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer

    Feb 20, 2001
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    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
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    Alexander Revisited - The Final Cut

    Directed By: Oliver Stone

    Starring: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Francisco Bosch, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Hopkins

    Studio: Warner Brothers

    Year: 2004

    Rated: Unrated

    Film Length: 214 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

    Subtitles: English

    Release Date: February 27, 2007

    If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.
    -W.C. Fields
    Oliver Stone hopes that the third time is the charm with "Alexander Revisited", his most recent re-cut of his sprawling 2004 epic telling the life story of Alexander the Great.

    The Film

    Right off the bat, I will mention that I have not seen "Alexander" in either the theatrical cut, which premiered in theaters in late 2004, or the director's cut, which premiered on DVD in 2005. As such, I will be unable to compare the differences between this extended "Final Cut" and its predecessors.

    "Alexander" tells the tale of its title character (Farrell), the Macedonian leader who conquered most of the known world in the fourth century B.C.. The film focuses on Alexander's youth and ascension to the throne, and on his campaigns from his defeat of the Persian army at the Battle of Gaugamela onward.

    While the recreations of historical events are fascinating, and it is clear that Stone and co-screenwriters Christopher Kyle and Laeta Kalogridis did a lot of research. The film has structural problems and does not work as well as a whole as it does in individual sequences. Stone continually intercuts between Alexander's Asian campaigns and his youth, and yet undermines this flashback approach by employing an awkward framing device where the story is being narrated by an aged Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) in Egypt.

    Other than a couple of scenes showing Alexander being tutored by Aristotle (Plummer) and learning to wrestle, the story of Alexander's youth is dominated by the conflicts between his father, King Phillip (Kilmer) and his mother Olympias (Jolie). A major problem with these scenes is that Phillip and Olympias keep making the same points and expressing the same views over and over again in each flashback. Kilmer gets the slightly better end of this as he at least has a couple of interesting sequences: one where Alexander surprises him by taming the horse Bucephelas, and another where Phillip and young Alexander discuss the relationship between the Greek heroes and their Gods. Jolie's Olympias is left to strum the same note, insisting that like Achilles, Zeus is Alexander's true father in increasingly redundant scenes. Stone employs a device where the Macedonian characters speak with a Celtic accent (fitting Farrell's natural speech), the Greek's speak with a British accent, and the various outsiders employ other accents. This generally works well except for Olympias. Stone has Jolie employ an Eastern European accent that sounds like she should be plotting with Boris Badenov to defeat Moose and Squirrel.

    Similarly, the portions of the film focusing on Alexander's Asian campaigns have a lot of repetitive scenes that keep underlining the same points. While framed by two spectacularly realized battle sequences, the scenes in between keep reminding us ad infinitum how Alexander's generals do not approve of his integration of "barbarian" people and customs into his empire. While based on historical truths and real characters, the various intrigues and executions involved with this conflict play cinematically like different variations on the same scenes.

    The film also concerns itself with Alexander's intimate relationships with lifelong friend Hephaistion (Leto), first wife Roxane (Dawson), and the eunuch Bagoas (Bosch). Surprisingly, Stone manages to shortchange all three characters, not providing much insight beyond surface details of their relationships. Stone seems to want to show the casual attitudes towards same sex intimacy that were characteristic to the Greek and Macedonians of the time. The scenes where Aristotle discusses acceptable and unacceptable relations between men certainly lay the groundwork, but Stone makes strange editing choices that undermine this approach. He frequently cuts to reaction shots of onlookers which suggest disapproval, surprise, jealousy, or some other non-casual reaction to the various couplings.

    "Alexander Revisited" does start off with a bang, flashing back directly to the Battle of Gaugamela after the Ptolomeic introduction and a scene of Alexander's death. This must be different than at least one of the previous cuts, since it does not line up with the "cast in order of appearance" scroll at the end of the film. This is as impressive a massive battle sequence as one could hope for in the CGI effects era. It has realistic looking massive armies and lots of gruesome practical effects in the close quarters battle segments. The battle sequence near the end of the film where Alexander's army confronts an enormous Indian force including numerous elephants is similarly well executed.

    Also impressive is the lush costume and production design, and the make-up effects that show the accumulation of battle scars on Alexander and his compatriots over the years.

    Finally, at the film's center, Colin Farrell seems to be a bit overwhelmed at times, none more so than when he is playing a teenage Alexander prior to his ascension to the throne. He is over the top unconvincing as a conflicted teen, and fitfully so as the older Alexander in the more histrionic scenes throughout the film.

    The Video

    The transfer features rich colors and excellent detail. The over three and a half hour film is spread out over two dual-layered discs with minimal supplements, and the consistently high bitrate ensures that compression artifacts are few and far between. Shadow detail is usually impressive, although blacks are a hair less deep than they could be. I thought I spotted light edge ringing a couple of times, but it was not pervasive.

    The Audio

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack serves the film well, coming to life particularly effectively during the battle sequences (Look out for elephants bearing down over your left shoulder!). It is a bit more restrained in its dimensionality during much of the rest of the film, though fidelity is still pleasing. No other language tracks are provided.

    The Extras

    The only supplement is a three and a half minute introduction from Oliver Stone explaining his reasons for "revisiting" Alexander including some of the thought process that went into this expanded cut, some specific differences to the previous cuts, and discussion of his desire to present it in a form similar to the epics he remembers from his youth inclusive of an act break with intermission music. Talking head footage of Stone is intercut with some behind the scenes production footage of "Alexander" being filmed. The featurette is presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.


    "Alexander Revisited - The Final Cut" comes packaged in a standard hard Amaray-style case with a hinged tray on the interior. The case is inside a carboard slipcase which reproduces identical cover graphics to that of the hard case. The film is spread over two discs, split neatly with the intermission music at the end of disc one's 128 minutes. A slight annoyance with disc two is that you must sit through the FBI warning, the Warner logo, and a menu screen to get to the 86 minute second act of the film.

    The first pressing run of this DVD also comes packaged with a voucher for up to US$10.50 for a ticket to see "The 300" in theaters.


    While "Alexander Revisited - The Final Cut" falls quite a bit short of greatness, it is fitfully brilliant with impressively staged battle sequences and an attention to historical detail. History and war buffs will likely want to check out this DVD, which sports an impressive audio and video presentation, but no substantial extras.

  2. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

    Jul 16, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for the review, Ken.
  3. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer

    Apr 24, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
    I am a fan of the theatrical cut of the movie (did not watch the shorter director's cut), and I was disappointed when it was reported the Blu-ray version of this would be delayed. That's the version I'll be interested in watching.

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