Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone, is told in the form of a narrative from Ptolemy (played by Anthony Hopkins), the ruler of Egypt, dictated to a scribe in 323 b.c. He recounts a biography of Alexander (played by Colin Farrell) from childhood to his death at the age of thirty-two. The point of the biography is to prove that Alexander had a vision of breaking down the barriers between Hellenic civilization and the civilizations of the East, bringing the concepts of equality and “freedom” to the absolute monarchy of Persia, the superpower of the “known world” when Alexander grew up. The biopic demonstrates how Alexander exceeded the ambitions of his one-eyed father King Philip II of Macedonia (played by Val Kilmer), who was evidently assassinated at the orders of Alexander’s mother Olympias (played by Angelina Jolie), Philip’s fourth wife, who feared that Philip would disinherit her rather weak son after siring a son from a marriage with another wife. Accordingly, Alexander, the king’s only son, is crowned king at the age of twenty. Blaming the assassination on Darius III (played by Raz Degan), the Persian king, Alexander declares war on Persia in order to exact revenge but also to extend Greek civilization eastward. Early in the film, Alexander declares his undying loyalty to Hephaistion (played by Jared Leto), whom he has loved since childhood, so the film gratuitously makes clear that he was gay, uninterested in the company of women, but he has no sex with him in the movie. Soon, Alexander’s military strategy overcomes his outnumbered army in defeating the Persians, chasing Darius into hiding, and he marches triumphantly with his army into the Persian capital of Babylon. However, Alexander pursues Darius beyond Babylon; after Darius dies at the hands of his own army, Alexander marches his army to Bactria (Afghanistan). Inexplicably, Alexander weds Roxane (played by Rosario Dawson), a tribal princess of no strategic value, in order to give birth to an heir and then orders his army to conquer India. Many of his faithful army commanders rebel, preferring to see their families as Alexander leads them farther from home. After the rebels are killed, he leads a charge into India that proves disastrous, as the Indians fight him with elephants. Defeated, Alexander falls ill and dies without a son. His kingdom is then divided up into four parts, one of which is assigned to his faithful commander Ptolemy. Director Oliver Stone may at first surprise many filmviewers by apparently celebrating a legendary gay war hero who has the idealistic aim of uniting east and west into a single civilization, but the subtext of the film is quite the opposite. A war that begins based on a lie, with grandiose war aims, soon turns into a fiasco when a great power stretches beyond its limits. While proclaiming that he is bringing “freedom,” he changes the consensus decisionmaking process among his generals to authoritarian rule, and he is clearly portrayed as uncharismatic. Although the analogies are obvious to some, the tagline “Fortune favor the bold” destroys any illusion that Alexander is an anti-war (or even pro-gay) film. In fact, historians agree that there was already considerable intellectual interchange between Greece and Persia, so the idealistic war aim in the film is bogus. Alexander the Great, in short, simply led armies for the sake of imperialistic conquest, and the script appears to have been influenced by the post-9/11 hysteria, a story that so lacks conviction that “the Great” is dropped from the title of the film. MH



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