Alexander [2004]

For better or worse (and in this case, it's mostly for better), Oliver Stone's Alexander Revisited should stand as the definitive version of Stone's much-maligned epic about the great Asian conqueror. Following the DVD release of his previous Director's Cut, Stone offers a video introduction here, explaining why he felt a third and final attempt at refining his film was necessary. Essentially, he's using this opportunity to re-create the "road show" format of the Biblical epics of the 1950s and '60s, with a three-and-a-half-hour running time (with an intermission at the two-hour mark) including 45 minutes of previously unseen footage. Stone has also significantly restructured the film, resulting in substantial (if not exactly redemptive) improvements in its narrative flow. Alexander (played in a torrent of emotions by Colin Farrell) is dying as the film opens, his final moments serving to bookend the film's epic story, which incorporates flashback sequences to flesh out the Macedonian king's back-story involving the turbulent battle of fate between his father, King Philip (Val Kilmer) and his scheming sorceress mother Olympia (Angelina Jolie, ridiculous accent and all), who insists that Alexander is literally a child of the gods. In Stone's final cut, epic battles remain chaotic (although Alexander's strategy is somewhat easier to follow, with on-screen titles indicating left, right, and center during his army's greatest maneuvers) and the ultra-violent battles are more graphically gory than ever (hence their "unrated" status). The animalistic lovemaking of Alexander and his barbarian bride Roxana (Rosario Dawson) is slightly extended (with Dawson as ravishing as ever), and Stone's additional footage also improves the overall arc of Alexander's relationship with his closest generals and male companions, although his most intimate homosexual encounters remain mostly discreet. As Alexander Revisited makes clear, the film's weaknesses remain unavoidable, but Stone deserves credit for recognizing how a longer running time, and more disciplined narrative structure, would bring Alexander closer to the respect it never earned from critics and filmgoers alike. This is unquestionably a better film than it used to be, leaving us to wonder why it took three separate efforts to shape Alexander into its best possible presentation. --Jeff Shannon

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