Thursday, August 11, 2005

Alexander the Catastrophy

I hate Oliver Stone.

The movie "Alexander" is worth less than a sugar-coated fart, and if you even watch the intro credits, you'll immediately come away thinking "Oh my god... I've just wasted 4 minutes of my life!". First off, it was horribly cast. Secondly, it went through the entire Persian conquest within 15 minutes after the first battle (which was actually Alexander's 4th, chronologically).

They ignored the battle wherein he was blooded against the Greeks at Thebes, charged by his father to break the Sacred Band, the Thebian elite heavy infantry unit that spelled the end for Spartan power in Greece. They ignored his father's assassination, and the Greek rebellion. They bloody ignored the Battle of the Granicus and Issus!!! They started, more or less, at Gaugamela (which I think was 4 years into his Persian campaign) where Alexander routs Darius from the field. They ignored his trek into Egypt. They ignored pretty much his entire campaign in Asia Minor, Persia, etc. Out of 1,000 elements they attempted to implicate, they only got a handful even close to correct.

I hardly ever watch half a movie. Even if it sucks, I might turn my attentions to my computer, or my cat or whatever, but the movie will keep going in the background. I shut off "Alexander" after about 45 minutes.

The pros:
  • They got his horse's name correct, and the story behind Bucephalus.
  • Through high-shot camera sequences, they showed how Alexander used to advance on the oblique, a novel technique to phalanx warfare whereby an opposing force does not advance in a straight line, but leads with one edge on the diagonal, typically leading with a reinforced, strong right (keeping those on the left, the shield-side, protected). This was a strategy his father innovated and Alexander perfected.
  • ... and they showed (for 1.8 seconds) the Agrianians, who were the coolest detachment in Alexander's army. They were a group of ~700 mountain-clan javelineers who would run with the cavalry units, both Companion cavalry and Thessalians, and hurl with devastating effect heirloom javelins at the enemy. They were specifically employed to destroy enemies on heights such as steep slopes and mountainous terrain.


You mean aside from the very existence of this shite movie?
  • Colin Farrell. He - is - not - European. He doesn't look European, he doesn't sound European, and he sure as hell does not look to be in his 20s or even early 30s. Colin Farrell is a worse actor than Keanu Reeves. At least directors have the wisdom to cast Reeves in parts that suit him.
  • Why the hell was Jared Leto in this movie? He looked like a 12-year-old girl, not a boyhood companion and soldier of Alexander's.
  • Alexander III was not a fucking German. It is almost certain that he did not have blonde hair! He sure as hell didn't have bleached blonde hair. Jesus H. God-Dancing Christ. Have you seen many Greeks with blonde hair? The little details that were utterly screwed-up in this movie just completely piss me off.
  • In the movie, the Companion cavalry had about as much coordination as a spider-monkey rotting in a gutter, when in actual fact they were the first cavalry ever that was used to break enemy infantry lines (and not in the way illustrated in the movie). In the movie, it looked like he had all of 50 cavalrymen (charging across their own fucking lines, obscuring the view of their infantry and the advance), when in fact his full cavalry complement would have been closer to 5,000 to 10,000 (including Companions, Thessalians, and mercenary Greek horse as well as Persian units in the latter years of the campaign). This is not a hard thing to render with today's CG technology.
  • His troops, although displaying sarrissas (14-foot infantry lances of Alexander's invention), were disorganized, mostly-unarmoured rabble gathered in clumps not even closely resembling a military phalanx. There was no shield overlapping so they all should have died under the first volley of Persian arrow since the Persians had about 75,000 archers. Considering a well-trained (or at least not-bloody-stupid) archer can draw, nock and fire an arrow in 5 seconds, that's a shit-load of bronze-tipped wood flying through the air at high velocity over the course of a minute, the minimum it would take to close ranks between two opposing forces. Especially when one is side-stepping and moving in the oblique.
  • The fighting. Dear god, it sucked. It looked like two hordes just whelming into each other, as opposed to solid bricks moving as one. There was so much space between each man in the units that you could have driven a wagon through. They would have broken after the initial impact. Phalanx fighting was dependent on grinding the man in front of you forward, compacting your shield into position to defend your companion, and forcing forward. It ought to look a lot like a reverse tug-of-war.
  • Alexander's mother was not some pouty-faced witch-woman. She was eccentric, and into exotic cults, and yeah, every now and then it was rumoured she had snakes around. But she wasn't a goddamn Angelina Jolie weirdo wench.
  • Alexander's father was a heavy-handed but cunning man and war-leader who revolutionized Classical warfare, not a stumbling-drunk brutish asshole as Val Kilmer played him as. We're talking about a man who unified dozens upon dozens of mountain clans that had been in-fighting and raiding each other for centuries. A one-eyed dipshit could hardly get them to coordinate, let alone fight and subjugate the entireity of the Greek mainland.
  • Alexander, himself, didn't possess exceptional ambition, and he wasn't arrogant as portrayed. His daemon (a god's manifestation in the soul of Man) drove him forward, set his ambitions. It controlled him, more or less; executed its desires through him. Small thing, and somewhat hard to convey, but very essential to understanding the pious and humble nature of the greatest conquerer in the world.
  • What the hell was with his helmet?? ARGH!! So goddamn stupid. What dicksmack would ride around in next to no armour, but wear a helm with not just one plume, but 2 side plumes? Why not just ride over to the enemy and tell them to cut you down.
  • The army. Where was the damn army? That wasn't 43,000 soldiers. On top of any combat army itself, there are 3 times as many civilians/military support personnel: farriers, smiths, cooks, servants, squires, attendants, scribes, historians, priests, teamsters. Where was the baggage train? He had no sea support until he won at Gaugamela or Issus (can't remember, but I think it was Issus) so how the hell did he feed 43,000 men 6,000 miles from his homeland in the middle of relatively inhospitable terrain?
  • On the other side of the fight... what the hell was up with Darius'? His forces all looked like they'd been dragged out of some ditch on the way from Persepolis to Gaugamela. The Persian forces were reputed to look like dandies: blooming pantaloons of vibrant colours, scale-mail vests, wicker shields, etc. In short, they looked like courtiers on their way to a ball. These guys looked like something out of Jesus Christ Super-Star. Also, Darius' army was around 300,000. So picture a fifth the population of Toronto jammed onto a battlefield that is only 2 square miles. Also, Darius had his entire royal family with him, and pavilions, etc. Those were nowhere to be seen. Just the dork on a chariot (accurate) who made stupid decisions with his forces. Also, he wasn't shown near enough respect as one would usually accord a god (Persian emperors were gods incarnate to their nation).
  • Distance. In the span of 30 seconds, Alexander is teleported 5,000 miles from Iran to Afghanistan. S-t-u-p-i-d.
  • ... and more.
In short (ha!), this movie was an atrocity, and deserved even less than the 17% rating on RottenTomatoes. The absolute worst thing about this movie? Now that one has been made, it would be very difficult to do a decent movie on the subject for some time. They have not only spit upon a legacy, and a turning point in both Western and Eastern history, but made it highly unlikely that it can be shown on the big-screen in a way that does it justice.

Don't get me started on Troy...


Anonymous said...

Your unbiased review ;) was greatly entertaining. I particularly enjoy your description of Angelina Jolie. Perhaps if they had cast Texans in the film it would have made everything better (Texans are good at everything)

Wayward Mind said...

... don't make me come over there!

Yeah, I just don't get why Hollywood is so bent on destroying history. Disney does a great job of obliterating myths and legends and making them rated G, why the hell do people making mature movies have to fark things up too? Bah. C'mon weekend!

callmescipio said...

yeppers, Ben's and my reaction after watching it in the cinemas (my fault- I wanted to go to see Bucephalus) was, "wow, that's 3 (four?) hours of our lives we'll never have again."

Shocking. Utterly shocking. Thank all gods Baz Luhrman gave up on his. I don't think I could have handled Leo as Alexander (although to be fair, he couldn't have done a worse job).

How is that Pele of yours?

Dosoga said...


Mature = Gory, with lots of fighting and 1 sex scene per 30 minutes... Where on Earth did you ever come up with the idea that historical facts came in the equation????

I won't even battle the list of anachronism with Scipio the Great and The Philosopher King...