Oliver Stone’s historical epic Alexander returns to Blu-ray in a new Ultimate Cut set – which features the theatrical cut and ultimate cut of the film. The discs are housed in a beautiful box that includes The Art of Alexander hardback book and other goodies to help justify the price of the re-release.
The Art of Alexander features storyboard sketches with scenes from the film, character photos and production stills. The set also includes an envelope featuring letters sent from Stone to Christopher Plummer, Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, and to the Alexander crew. The notes range from dinner invitations to notes on performances and call times. There is also a note from Anthony Hopkins to Stone. The notes are a nice addition for film buffs.
The new edition of the film comes with the new bonus feature The Real Alexander and the World He Made. The feature is sure to please those wanting a deeper look at Alexander and his legacy. The feature looks at how the events of his life helped shape the world as we know it.
The Ultimate Cut of Alexander runs 31 minutes longer, but fails to fix the many problems with Stone’s film (which has seen several recuts already). At its best, Alexander is a guilty pleasure, but a far cry from how good the film should have been given the talent involved. Its saving graces are the truly impressive battle sequences Stone manages to capture on film and the grand scale of the epic – which reminds of some of the great movies from Hollywood’s golden days.
Chopped to jump back and forth in time, the film chronicles Alexander’s life from childhood to his death. Making the most of his story, Stone sets a pace that makes sure to develop every element of the character’s life, and adds his own Hollywood touches to fill in any holes that history may have about the legendary figure.
Along with a huge production, Stone brings together a huge cast including Colin Farrell miscast as Alexander, Angelina Jolie as his snarling mother, Jared Leto, Val Kilmer as his misunderstood father and Anthony Hopkins. The cast, joined by thousands of extras, tells a story that travels numerous countries and falls totally into chaos by about halfway through the film.
Although the Ultimate Cut begins with the massive Gaugamela battle and includes the visually impressive Hydaspes battle (with that great shot of Alexander facing off against an elephant decked out for war), Stone’s film seems to focus more on the man and the many relationships that dictated the actions of his life – or at least Stone’s version of his life.
The film shows how Alexander’s father filled his head with the stories of heroes as a child, and how his mother seemed to attempt to manipulate his entire life to her vision of her son’s place in history. Stone also spends a great deal of time on the personal relationships Alexander forms with his men, and how the many battles and exotic lands changed them.
The film truly attempts to make Alexander’s life as epic as history tells us, but gets weighted down by Stone’s use of jumping back and forth in time. The film is also stalled by the story of Alexander and Hephaistion (Leto) – who Alexander loves but the relationship is constantly challenged by Alexander’s other romances. The shifting in time gives the film a choppy feeling like Stone couldn’t settle on a storyline and scenes are just strung together in an attempt to make the movie work.
Along with less than great editing, the film is further hurt by the stellar cast – which all do less than stellar work. Farrell and Jolie (with her odd accent) are almost laughable in the film, and Leto comes across as a lost puppy every time he looks at Alexander. The cast all seem dedicated to their roles, but just couldn’t save the film – especially Farrell who tends to overact in almost every scene.
Still, Alexander (and its many cuts) is starting to grow on me, and I found this new Ultimate Cut to be the best version of the film to date. The movie is still far from as good as it could have been, but the production value and battle sequences are truly epic. Stone makes the film truly a beauty to watch on Blu-ray with its lush locations and costuming. He also shows the horror of war as men are brutally cut down in the various battles.
Without a doubt, Alexander: The Ultimate Cut is the version to watch. The new set is worth the double dip and comes with enough extras to make up for the fact you might already own a copy or two of the movie.