ALEXANDER REVISITED

Could it be? Has Oliver Stone's third version in three years finally managed to deliver a satisfying movie? Alexander Revisited presents a fascinating portrait of one of history's greatest men.

Oliver Stone Written by: Oliver Stone,Christopher Kyle, Laeta Kalogridis Starring: Colin Farell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto,Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Christopher Plummer Distributed by: Warner Bros., Intermedia Film is out now to buy on Region 2 DVD from Play.com for £6.99

rating: 4

Review by Michael Kaminski The life of Alexander the Great is such an ambitious and complicated subject matter that it would seem nearly impossible to translate it into a motion picture; the many sides to his personality, the vast cast of characters in his life, the complex political context he existed in, the immense scale of his life, and the uncountable deeds he did, tangled in a web of ambiguities, contradicting history, controversy and necessary interpretation. But if there is one person adept at tackling ambitious subject matter, it is Oliver Stone. Particularly suited to Alexander, he was in fact intimately familiar with the subject matter, having held a life-long personal interest in Alexander the Great. He sought to bring to the screen a portrait of the man that examined his personal life, without censorship, but that was also meticulously detailed and historically accurate, and on a scale that had been seldom seen in even the world's grandest historical epics. Perhaps the subject matter was too dense for him to absorb in so small a space of time, perhaps he was overwhelmed by the hours of footage that covered the thirty year life of Alexander. When it was released in 2004, one sensed that there was an interesting movie trying to break out somewhere in there, but the film just never seemed to come together; the characters often seemed stilted and one never got a personal sense of the ambitious and complicated man that Alexander was, and with an eratic pace it seemed as though the film was crushed by the weight of its own story. Seeking a different way of approaching the material, Oliver Stone returned a year later with his Director's Cut, amping up the violence, radically re-editing the film and trimming it down to a brisk two-and-a-half hours. The results were even worse than his first attempt, according to some. Giving into commercial needs of more action and less running time were probably the total opposite of the approach necessary for a film like this. It is a testament to the personal involvement Oliver Stone has with the subject matter that he refused to let the film escape his creative system. This was supposed to be one of his life's major works, and instead it sat among the slew of other unsuccessful sword-and-sandal pictures of the early millennium like the overbloated Troy (even it returned with a recent Director's Cut, which solved none of the problems inherant in the approach). Though such direct-to-DVD double-dipping could be viewed in terms of commercial opportunism (the film made only a third of its budget at the box office), if any film needed a true re-working it was Alexander-- and, it seems, the third time is the charm. Stone returned to the thematically-linked cross-cutting of chronology that he originally envisioned, slowly revealing aspects of Alexander and his life, but he also included the more extreme content of the director's cut that did not flinch at the brutal violence or bi-sexuality of the character. He also greatly expanded the film, fleshing out characters, making relationships more complicated, giving more room for the story to unfold and adding more details to the rich world he was depicting. Far from bogging the film down in redundant material, the film has opened up in a way that makes each moment all the more fascinating to watch. Thirty-five minutes longer than the theatrical cut and fifty minutes longer than the directors cut, the extra breathing room this material allowed has made all the difference. What we get is a fascinating, complex and rich portrait that a character like Alexander the Great demands, allowing a much deeper examination of the man and his life. We already saw what a difference this amount of material can make in 2006 when Ridley Scott transformed a lackluster theatrical cut into one of the greatest historical epics ever made in his Director's Cut of Kingdom of Heaven. While Alexander Revisited is not as dramatic an improvement nor as great a final product as Scott's magnificent opus, it nonetheless is an interesting and intelligent film that bravely examines the most powerful individual in human history. Where before it was disjointed and clumsy, the film has become more confident, rich in life and bold in view, and it marches forth with consistent interest through its two-part (with intermission) division and nearly four-hour run-time.

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Oliver Stone has said that this is a version of the film that is appropriate and faithful to the demands of the subject matter, without concern for run-time or censorship. And indeed, it seems in the end that what historians suspected was true after all: the 175 minutes and 160 minutes of the original two versions simply was too short a time to explain the entire life of Alexander, as Stone was attempting. The film stands now, imperfect still, but nonetheless an entertaining and compelling biography that draws viewers into the ancient world and the dramatic personal life of Alexander the Great. Video: Alexander Revisited comes spread across two disks, so its video quality is excellent as you would expect. I did not notice any wavering in quality in any additional or re-worked scenes. Black levels could be better in some scenes. Overall, while this is not as pretty as the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions, its a good looking disk, and most likely better than either of the two previous versions (for compression reasons). Audio: Generally, the audio is good, and the battle scenes come to life with richness. Some of the scenes that are new to this edition do not sound as polished as they would had they been properly finished--for instance, as far as I can tell, there has been no new ADR done by the leads. Nonetheless, there are no moments of this nature that distract or become noticeable--in fact, I would say it adds to the reality of the film, but then I am not a lover of polished material. Extras: There are no extras aside from a video introduction by Stone explaining the new cut and why he returned to the film. While the disk is unfortunately bare-bones in the extras department, the real bonus feature here is the film itself. At a bargain price of roughly $10, it's hard to have any complaints. Alexander Revisited is a terrific and captivating film that finally shows its potential, balancing grand scale with personal intimacy--and as someone who disliked the previous versions, this comes as a big surprise to me.
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