When it comes to history’s greatest conquerors and warriors, no discussion would be complete without Alexander the Great, whose ambition knew no bounds. Alexander (Colin Farrell) was driven to power like few others could imagine, his desire to overtake and claim was that of legend. Even when he was outnumbered, overpowered, or faced with certain defeat, he refused to back down and against all odds, he would be triumphant. Oliver Stone brings the story of Alexander to life here, but the movie was trashed by critics and avoided by audiences. While I agree that Colin Farrell was a terrible choice for the lead, the movie isn’t that bad and has some terrific sequences. If Farrell were replaced by someone with more skill and presence, this could have been a great epic, but sadly Farrell drowns in his role. A lot of controversy surrounded Alexander due to homosexual elements, but this is a historical film and history tells us that the society within the film was open toward homosexuality. So why complain? Stone would revise those elements in his director’s cut, but this Final Cut reinstates them. Is Alexander is bad as its reputation suggests? I don’t think so. The movie is flawed and Farrell crumbles under his role, but the battles are fantastic and the movie has some great moments. So don’t listen to the negative hype and decide for yourself.
The trend of releasing director’s cuts and unrated versions of movies has boomed in recent years, as all kinds of films are revisited to hammer out new editions. Some are just to cash in on a second purchase by offering a few “too hot for the theaters” moments, but others have substance and are worth the second look. In the case of Alexander, this is the third different incarnation, with a “Final Cut” as well as a theatrical cut and now this Ultimate Cut. To be fair, this is the best overall version of Alexander, but it still doesn’t solve the problems found in the others. I was pleased to see that some of the gaps have been filled in however, so this cut does seem like a more complete version. I do think the film is stretched thin at times, especially toward the end, but I was never bored, I just wanted things to pick up a touch. The movie is still a flawed epic, but it has plenty of great scenes and is well worth a look, especially in this new version. The supplements have been lopped off, but if you’re a fan of the movie or just love period epics, Alexander: The Ultimate Cut is recommended.
Video: How’s it look?
Though the film contains two different cuts of the movie, it’s still the same movie. Alexander, now a decade old, has benefitted from Warner’s new Blu-ray, though that’s not to say that the previous versions looked bad. Stone composed the film in a very wide 2.40:1 aspect ratio and the Blu-ray’s AVC HD encode certainly does the film justice. Colors shine, they’re both stark and bold depending on the scene and while the expansive running time pretty much covers the spectrum in terms of the pallet(s) used, it always looks good. Details are amazing, razor sharp in fact. One thing that struck me was how solid some of the black levels were – I could have sworn with my old DVD copy, there was some jittering, but that’s not really the case here. In spite of the long running times for either version, the image really isn’t compromised in the least. A nice effort here and the best the film has ever looked, to say the least.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Both versions of the film feature a very expansive DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that more than does the film justice. Farrell’s course and raspy voice take front and center (literally), while the front stage explodes with action. The surrounds earn their keep here as well, offering tons of ambient support that really do a great job of amping up the action. Swords clash, horses gallop and everything in between sounds simply amazing in this robust mix. No matter which version of the film you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Every time I see a “Special Edition” or “Ultimate Cut” of a film, my mind goes into marketing mode. Well let’s see, it is the tenth anniversary of the film, but Angelina Jolie is starring in Maleficent, her first starring role in four years. Add to that the cast stars Jared Leto, who just picked up a Best Supporting Actor statue a few months ago and I’d say that’s enough to warrant this “new” cut of the film. Between this and Terminator 2, I’m not sure if a definitive cut of either truly exists. At any rate, let’s check out what’s included from the supplemental side of things.
Theatrical Cut (175 minutes) and Ultimate Cut (207 minutes) of the film.
The Real Alexander and the World He Made – This is the only true new extra on the set as the rest has been available in one format or the other over the last few years. Still, it’s nice to see new material produced and this shows Alexander’s vision and how it helped shape our modern world. Also explored is the possibility of the long-lasting ramifications had the empire not been split. It’s a very informative and incisive documentary that’s well worth a look.
Audio Commentary – If you’ve ever heard one of Stone’s commentary tracks, you’ll know that it’s worth the price of admission. I’ll come right out and say that I did a selected listen to this track as I didn’t have it in me to watch the film again for another four hours, but Stone is very articulate and immerses in the making of, production and research done for this film. If you’ve got it in you then this track delivers.
Audio Commentary – Stone is joined by Robin Lane Fox as they deliver a separate track for the theatrical cut. A lot of the same information is covered in this track and will be redundant if you listened to the above track, but Fox delivers insight as well.
Behind the Scenes with Sean Stone
Resurrecting Alexander – Part One of three focuses on bringing this epic tale to the screen. Discussions on finances, casting and everything in between are the subject matter.
Perfect Is The Enemy of Good – Part Two focuses on more of the technical aspect of the film, getting that shot between clouds and rain and making sure that everything is as how it’s supposed to be on screen (then again, the filmmakers are going off modern day theories for the film, so it’s not like there’s a wrong answer, per se).
The Death of Alexander – The final part focuses on the actors, mainly Farrell as he’s broken his wrist and ankle with a mere few days to film. None of the other major players are features here, which is too bad, but it’s again insightful and informative.
Vangelis Scores Alexander – Essentially a brief segment by the film’s composer and what he thinks music can bring to the film.
Fight Against Time: Oliver Stone’s Alexander by Sean Stone – Oliver Stone’s son, Sean, is responsible for this piece that’s both exciting and informative and running at 1 hour 15 minutes, a lot of material is covered here. Clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as Sean seems to have a future in filmmaking as well.
The Art of Alexander – A small, hard-bound book with some sketches and production photos from the film.
Oliver Stone’s Letters to Actors – Several small notes from Oliver Stone to members of the cast including Angelina Jolie, Colin Farrell and Christopher Plummer to name a few.