ⓘ Alexander (2004 film)

Alexander (2004 film)

ⓘ Alexander (2004 film)

Alexander is a 2004 epic historical drama film based on the life of the Macedonian Greek general and king Alexander the Great. It was directed by Oliver Stone and starred Colin Farrell. The films original screenplay derived in part from the book Alexander the Great, published in 1973 by the University of Oxford historian Robin Lane Fox. After release, while it performed well in Europe, the American critical reaction was negative. It grossed over 7 million worldwide against a 5 million budget.

Four versions of the film exist, the initial theatrical cut and three home video directors cuts: the "Directors Cut" in 2005, the "Final Cut" in 2007 and the "Ultimate Cut" in 2013. The two earlier DVD versions of Alexander "directors cut" version and the theatrical version sold over 3.5 million copies in the United States. Oliver Stones third version, Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut 2007, sold nearly a million copies as of 2012.


1. Plot

The story begins around 283 BC, with Ptolemy I Soter, who narrates throughout the film. Alexander grows up with his mother Olympias and his tutor Aristotle, where he finds interest in love, honor, music, exploration, poetry and military combat. His relationship with his father is destroyed when Philip marries Attaluss niece, Eurydice. Alexander insults Philip after disowning Attalus as his kinsman, which results in Alexanders banishment from Philips palace.

After Philip is assassinated, Alexander becomes King of Macedonia. Ptolemy mentions Alexanders punitive campaign in which he razes Thebes, also referring to the later burning of Persepolis, then gives an overview of Alexanders west-Persian campaign, including his declaration as the son of Zeus by the Oracle of Amun at Siwa Oasis, his great battle against the Persian Emperor Darius III in the Battle of Gaugamela, and his eight-year campaign across Asia.

Also shown are Alexanders private relationships with his childhood friend Hephaistion, Bagoas, and later his wife, Roxane. Hephaistion compares Alexander to Achilles, to which Alexander replies that Hephaistion must be his Patroclus Achilles childhood role model. When Hephaistion mentions that Patroclus died first, Alexander pledges that, if Hephaistion should die first, he will follow him into the afterlife. Hephaistion shows extensive jealousy when he sees Alexander with Roxane and deep sadness when he marries her, going so far as to attempt to keep her away from him after Alexander murders Cleitus the Black in India.

After initial objection from his soldiers, Alexander convinces them to join him in his final and bloodiest battle, the Battle of Hydaspes. He is severely injured with an arrow but survives and is celebrated. Later on, Hephaistion succumbs to an unknown illness either by chance or perhaps poison, speculated in the movie to be typhus carried with him from India. Alexander, full of grief and anger, distances himself from his wife, despite her pregnancy, believing that she has killed Hephaistion. He dies less than three months after Hephaistion, in the same manner, keeping his promise that he would follow him. On his deathbed, Bagoas grieves as Alexanders generals begin to split up his kingdom and fight over the ownership of his body.

The story then returns to 283 BC, where Ptolemy admits to his scribe that he, along with all the other officers, had indeed poisoned Alexander just to spare themselves from any future conquests or consequences. However, he has it recorded that Alexander died due to illness compounding his overall weakened condition. He then goes on to end his memoirs with praise to Alexander.

The story then ends with the note that Ptolemys memoirs of Alexander were eventually burned, lost forever with the Library of Alexandria.


2. Production

The first mention of the film was in October 2001 by Initial Entertainment Group.


  • Hydaspes: Central Botanical Garden, Amphoe Mueang, Saraburi Province, Thailand
  • Bactrian fortress: Lower Atlas Mountains, Morocco
  • Pella/Babylon/Indian palaces and myths cave: Pinewood Studios, London, England
  • Hyphasis: Mekong, northeastern Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand
  • Temple of Pallas Athena, Mieza and Macedonian horse market: Essaouira, Morocco
  • Macedonian amphitheater: Morocco
  • Babylon gates: Marrakech, Morocco
  • Hindu Kush effect back plate: Ouarzazate, Morocco
  • Library of Alexandria: Shepperton Studios, London, England
  • Alexandria effect back plate: Malta
  • Gaugamela: desert near Marrakech, Morocco

3.1. Reception Box office

Alexander was released in 2.445 venues on 24 November 2004 and earned $13.687.087 in its opening weekend, ranking sixth in the North American box office and second among the weeks new releases. Upon closing on 1 February 2005, the film grossed $34.297.191 domestically and $133.001.001 overseas for a worldwide total of $167.298.192. Based on a $155 million budget, the film was a box office bomb.


3.2. Reception Controversies

A group of 25 Greek lawyers initially threatened to file a lawsuit against both Stone and the Warner Bros film studio for what they claimed was an inaccurate portrayal of history. "We are not saying that we are against gays," said Yannis Varnakos, "but we are saying that the production company should make it clear to the audience that this film is pure fiction and not a true depiction of the life of Alexander”. After an advance screening of the film, the lawyers announced that they would not pursue such a course of action.

At the British premiere of the film, Stone blamed "raging fundamentalism in morality" for the films US box-office failure. He argued that American critics and audiences had blown the issue of Alexanders sexuality out of proportion. The criticism prompted him to make significant changes to the film for its DVD release, whose cover characterizes them as making it "faster paced, more action-packed".


3.3. Reception Criticism by historians

Alexander attracted critical scrutiny from historians with regard to historical accuracy.

Persian historian Kaveh Farrokh questioned the omission of the burning of Persepolis by Alexander and observed that, in the film, "Greek forces are typically shown as very organised, disciplined, and so on, and whats very disturbing is, when the so-called Persians are shown confronting the Macedonians, you see them turbaned. Turbans are not even a Persian item e welcome the scenes of battle, pomp and circumstance because at least for a time we are free of the endless narration of Ptolemy the historian."

Faint praise came from Daily Variety Magazine, published on 21 November 2004, for which Todd McCarthy wrote, "Oliver Stones Alexander is at best an honorable failure, an intelligent and ambitious picture that crucially lacks dramatic flair and emotional involvement. Dry and academic where Troy 2004 was vulgar and willfully ahistorical".


3.4. Reception Nominations

The film was nominated in six categories at the Golden Raspberry Awards in 2005: Worst Picture, Worst Actor Colin Farrell, Worst Actress Angelina Jolie and Worst Director Oliver Stone, Worst Supporting Actor Val Kilmer and Worst Screenplay, thereby becoming the second-most-nominated potential "Razzie" film of 2004; however, it won no awards. At the 2004 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, it received nine nominations: Worst Picture, Worst Director Stone, Worst Actor Farrell, Worst Supporting Actress both Jolie and Dawson, Worst Screenplay, Most Intrusive Musical Score, Worst Female Fake Accent Dawson and Jolie, lumped into one nomination, and Least "Special" Special Effects. Its only wins were for Most Intrusive Musical Score and Worst Female Fake Accent.


4.1. Versions Theatrical cut

This is the film as it was originally released in theaters, with a running time of 175 minutes. It was released on DVD and is also available on Blu-ray in some territories.


4.2. Versions Directors cut

Stones directors cut was re-edited before the DVD release later in 2005. Stone removed seventeen minutes of footage and added nine back. This shortened the running time from 175 minutes to 167.


4.3. Versions Alexander Revisited: The Final Unrated Cut

Stone also made an extended version of Alexander. "Im doing a third version on DVD, not theatrical", he said, in an interview with Rope of Silicon. "Im going to do a Cecil B. DeMille three-hour-45-minute thing; Im going to go all out, put everything I like in the movie. He see it more and understand it more."

The extended version was released under the title of Alexander Revisited: The Final Unrated Cut on 27 February 2007. The two-disc set featured a new introduction by Stone. "Over the last two years," he said, "I have been able to sort out some of the unanswered questions about this highly complicated and passionate monarch – questions I failed to answer dramatically enough. This film represents my complete and last version, as it will contain all the essential footage we shot. I dont know how many film-makers have managed to make three versions of the same film, but I have been fortunate to have the opportunity because of the success of video and DVD sales in the world, and I felt, if I didnt do it now, with the energy and memory I still have for the subject, it would never quite be the same again. For me, this is the complete Alexander, the clearest interpretation I can offer."

The film is restructured into two acts with an intermission. Alexander: Revisited takes a more in-depth look at Alexanders life and his relationships with Olympias, Philip, Hephaestion, Roxane, and Ptolemy. The film has a running time of three hours and 34 minutes 214 minutes, about 40 minutes longer than the theatrical cut and almost 50 minutes longer than the first directors cut and is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio. Beyond the new introduction with Stone, there are no other extras on the DVD except for a free coupon to the movie 300. The Blu-ray and HD-DVD releases both feature a variety of special features however, including two audio commentaries and a new featurette.

For seven years, it was the only version of the film available on Blu-ray, until the release of the Ultimate Cut, which also includes the Theatrical Cut.

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