My take on ‘Alexander’

AlexanderWe watched Alexander the other day. Yes, it made it to Doha that quickly. Impressive no? I know the critics were very hard on this epic, so I’ll try to be less so.

In spite of having to sit for three hours non-stop to watch a gory saga, I found the film to be informative, as I was not really aware of all this infamous conqueror’s travails. But I did take it with a grain of salt because you just can’t trust Hollywood’s version of history.

The star of this movie for me was Angelina Jolie, although her fake accent irritated me a bit — particularly the way she rolled the letter β€˜R.’ Val Kilmer was very good as well, although his screen time was brief.

As for Farrell, well, I understand he is supposed to be a natural blond in this movie, but really, what’s up with the black eyebrows?

Overall, I didn’t regret watching the movie and thought it was worth my money. I just expected something quasi-perfect from a legend like Oliver Stone but this one didn’t quite get there.

12 thoughts on “My take on ‘Alexander’”

  1. When Hollywood makes a movie it is entertainment. I would go far beyond taking it with a grain of salt. Movies don’t necessarily tie in to historical accuracy – they try to make good entertainment (which this one apparently failed at).

  2. Well the way Persians are portrayed in that movie is quite ridiculous. I won’t elaborate as not to offend anyone.

  3. Arash, I actually thought about you while I was watching the movie. I wondered what you would think about the portrayal of Persians in this epic.

  4. The Alexander Movie: How are Iranians and Greeks portrayed?

    …More puzzling is the “Arabesque” way in which ancient Persians are portrayed in this battle. I was shocked to see Arabian camel riders used to portray one of the vanguards of Darius III’s attack on Alexander…

  5. The trackback I sent should do it then. Read the whole thing, I just quoted that part to incite people to click on the link.

  6. I have to say that I learned a lot in this movie. For one thing, I had no idea that the Greeks/Macedonians spoke English with Irish accents. I wonder if there is something in Irish DNA that connects them with the Med to produce such a curiosity? πŸ˜‰
    Both the wife and I found that aspect of the film most amusing, especially when combined with Jolie’s little “r” rolling thing.
    That critique aside, I do have to defend one aspect of Hollywood history. It gets busted out quite often for inaccurate portrayals and quite rightly so. Movies are artistic and, these days, business ventures. Many concepts and ideas go through a process that often alters their origins.
    But I wonder if we’d rather have people wandering about who have no clue who, say, John Nash [A Beautiful Mind] was or the great Alexander. ‘Tis true that many will walk out of the theater with warped history but it will spark the more intellectually curious among us to explore further. It may lead to discussions such as this one, which really expand knowledge in a fantastic way. For me, even though they’d be wrong on the details, I’d rather see a filmgoer be able to remark, “Oh, that Alexander dude was the guy who was ruling the world way back, right?” than the alternative: “Alexander who?”.
    Anyone who goes to a movie for a history lesson will be sadly served. But for those — and there are quite a few — who use movies as a nice stepping off point for greater learning I don’t see anything wrong with the “treatment (in the movie term sense)” given history.
    And just for the record, it’s not only movies that take such liberties. Let’s not forget that page turner “The DaVinci Code” as just one literary (!) example. Amongst our friends the tale it wove sparked a lot of independent research and exploration. I find that tough to condemn.

  7. I actually understand the accent thing. It’s supposed to be relative to Attican Greek. So Athenians get the English accent. Ionians, Macedonians and other “less urban” folks get Irish and Scottish accents. It would be really confusing, if not outright wrong, if all these people spoke English the same way. And Hubby, if we approach things that way, I prefer people to be totally ignorant about Persians than to get to know them through that treacherous movie.

  8. Heh heh heh … Well Arash, since the movie is about Alexander I hope filmgoers don’t go in thinking they are going to get a big dose of Persian history. But I will grant you that the portrayal of the Persian empire was quite warped and reading what you’ve posted here I see it was still way more so than the wife and I realized.
    I think the biggest flaw in the movie was actually this almost continual emphasis on his sexual preference. Stone often chose not to fully explore a historic, undisputed fact in favor of continually churning the waters of this particular belief about Alexander, albeit one not proven conclusively true. And I’m certain you didn’t like the place Persians held in his court, particularly the catamite, taken from your comment above. I thought that was just quite a bit odd.
    I was telling Natasha that from my experience with Stone, he is not a director of singular vision that can support a film — not a Scorsese, Coppola or Allen. He is an assembler. It is a different style of direction. He brings together a big team and much as the leader of a nation or company might, he pools those resources to create his reality. I think this often results in a flawed vision because it is not singular. Often times it is too broad, refusing to reject any angle in the hopes of providing such a complete vision.
    In this piece he actually goes to a different extreme than say “JFK” where he molded and combined nearly every bit of Kennedy assassination theory. Here he goes after one theme with near religious fervor, helping me understand the Greek anger over the film: Why the continual focus on his sexual preference, his alleged homosexuality. It seems when it is such a sideways truth you wouldn’t want to trot it out constantly because you might be wrong. Here he seems to intent to explore the ‘never defeated except by Hephaistion’s thighs’ angle to such a degree it is to the detriment of the entire film.
    Obviously you feel strongly about the ‘mis-portrayal of Persian history and the information you provided here shows clearly we all should be. But in an effort to look at the silver lining of this situation, the fact that a number of people to this forum have learned something far beyond what Stone could have ever hoped to have conveyed is a good thing.
    As you well know, Arabs and Iranians are near constantly combined as one and the same in the West, particularly in the US. You’ve elaborated on your anger with this, with good reason. And the myth discussed in the articles you pointed to — What Jesus looked like — also continues to prevail. Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” continued that tradition of error.
    I wonder if you’d really like it to continue on in this vein. I think when something is wrong and the foundation it is built upon grows stronger, change is good even if the thought is moving in the wrong direction. Many will see the error in this and find new and better knowledge, hopefully slowly defeating these myths. If the status quo remains, is it better?
    With regard to Gibson’s work, I was surprised because he’d originally wanted to run the film in Aramaic alone, no subtitles, so why the white-washed Jesus? Both films had numerous flaws, but I’m a silver lining type fellow, still holding to the idea that a film can serve as a stepping stone for much greater understanding. It doesn’t always and it can be a real disservice, as was done here. But historically, especially since the rise of the internet, the voices raised in anger over such portrayals often prompt those not prompted by a mere film viewing to figure out what all the fuss is about. The director/film are not directly responsible for that but they did start the discussion.
    A perfect example of this recently: Fahrenheit 9/11 — not a perfect film but one that really got people talking and examining what was going on around them for good and bad. But unlike that film, Alexander is not a documentary; it is entertainment and not held by any real bonds to truth.

  9. Amir, of course we care πŸ™‚ and point taken. You are right. Hollywood is not a good source for the facts by any means. It is entertainment and hopefully will be taken as such but I still contend it has something to offer.
    As for books, they cannot be relied on completely either, the DaVinci Code being a case in point. But here, Alexander’s director Oliver Stone put as his right hand man someone he considered to be the preeminent expert on Alexander: Robin Lane Fox. Fox wrote a book on Alexander in 1973, is the author of the longest-running newspaper column in the United Kingdom and is fairly well obsessed with dear Alex. He was Stone’s source and guide throughout filming. Fox even requested to be in the lead 10 men of every cavalry charge being filmed. So you can assume he’s a bit of a nutter.
    But in all this it must be remembered that history is written by those victorious, that everything regardless of source or form comes through its own filter. Many think Fox is way off in his take on Alexander. If Stone was as close as he claims to Fox’s tenets, then comparing it with the information Arash linked to reveals Fox to be more than a little wrong.
    Point is, even books are not the penultimate source of the truth. I tend to trust the individual over the written word or visual representation. But everything is still filtered through experience and bias. Movies, particularly Hollywood flicks, are heavily filtered. I think most viewers know this. For the little coterie I call my friends, we view these things as an opportunity to turn a corner and learn new things after the film has peaked our interest. So, as I say, I tend to lean toward the idea that some good can come from even poor, bad or just plain wrong information in a film.
    People always get worked up about it, of course. The furor around Nash’s portrayal in A Beautiful Mind was well placed since the film completely re-wrote a known history. But I always view a film with the caveat that it is entertainment first and foremost. Entertainment can be dismissed or serve as a stepping stone. I just prefer to regard it as the latter.

  10. Thanks Jeff for the well thought input. I have to point out that that article wasn’t written by me. Heavens forbid, I am not THAT interested in the topic. But I have to agree with you, the movie has its plus sides. It’s just my Persian upbringing, I get “jav-zadeh” (caught up in the moment) as the saying goes.

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