HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Alexander: The Ultimate Cut (2014)
HTS Overall Score:80
How do you describe a man who’s constantly tinkering with his work, one who’s never satisfied with the end result? Well, usually I call him George Lucas, but it seems that Oliver Stone has taken a page from Lucas’ work and has an unnatural fascination with trying to make “Alexander” the epic film that he always envisioned. The theatrical cut was always a cut that Stone was never happy with. He vehemently disagreed with Warner brothers over creative issues and viewed the theatrical cut much the same way that Lucas saw his original creations. A flawed film that just is never finished. With the Directors cut he did a few tweaks to try and enhance the theatrical cut, but it really wasn’t any different. With “Alexander: Revisited – The Final Cut” he threw everything he could at the wall, hoping it would stick. Deleted scenes, re-adjusted scenes, whole scenes completely cut out, but the end result wasn’t a wild amount better. Don’t get me wrong, the Final cut was almost 45 minutes longer and definitely fleshed out many of the rushed scenes, but it felt bloated and unwieldy at the same time. After 10 years of tweaking and dissatisfaction, Oliver Stone makes one more effort in the Ultimate Cut to rectify his mistakes and shortcomings. The film has been trimmed of some bloat and readjusted in terms of chronology to even out the flow a bit, with mixed results. This is easily the most fluid of his cuts, but the poor acting by Farrell and the insanely sluggish pace of the film just can’t be fixed with simple editing along. Sometimes you have to realize that what’s done is done, and nothing short of re filming the entire thing will fix the issues at hand.
“Alexander” tells the story of Alexander the Great (Played by Colin Farrell) and his rise to power from Macedonia. Son of King Phillip (Val Kilmer) and Olympias (Angelina Jolie), Alexander rises to power after his father is murdered and takes over the Grecian army. His love of conquest and power is unmatched by anyone, for his fame is literally conquering all of the known world and then some. Sweeping aside King Darius of Persia, Babylon is taken and then off to the east, where he fights across the Hindu Kush, the European armies of the west and all the way through Egypt and the entire Orient (known at the time). His lust for power and domination led his men through all sorts of hardships and glories. Even to the point of his most trusted men begging to return home. Only after a stunning draw in the Hindi nations is he content enough to head home with his Barbarian bride Roxane (Rosario Dawson). There is extends himself to the brink of ruin only to watch is oldest friend Hephaistion (Jared Leto) die before following the same route at just barely shy of 33 years old.
Alexander the great is one of the most complex and riveting tales in ancient history. As a result I was hoping for an epic film, full of excitement and intrigue. Instead we get a movie that has 2 action set pieces, both stunning in execution, but the remainder of the 3 and a half hour film to cram every little excerpt of his life into a single movie. With so many battles under his belt (one general mentions fighting over 50 battles on the campaign) we’re stuck with watching a short glimpse of them, while the rest of his conquests are glossed over in a matter of seconds as they rush to fill in all his life with just a few comments. The rest of the time we have Colin Farrell, the most poorly cast actor to ever play Alexander in film history, mopes about with sad puppy dog eyes, trying to suppress rebellions and then whimpering into the arms of his lovers. Oliver Stone mentions that he wanted to show that Alexander’s dallying’s with lovers was his way of “loving the whole world”, but it ends up coming across as a rich and spoiled conqueror pouting in his tent and getting anything he wants at a whim.
The story is told through the narration of a much older Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) and tends to jump back and forth across the time line. Starting as a young boy and as then jumping backwards every so often with harsh and jolting leaps to fill in some back story. The film has an epic story to tell, but it struggles to find a balance between too much and too little. We have copious scenes that would have made for a fantastic visual feast of battles and adventures, but instead we have dozens of battles just mentioned while Alexander lies around making googley eyes at all his luxurious surrounds and minions. Stone mentions that he was only given a $155 million budget to work with and couldn’t afford any more, but that didn’t mean he had to blow his entire budget on two battle scenes. At the same time the film just drones on, and on and on and on with the court life and having to deal with Farrell’s bad acting (he’s matured a bit now, but 10 years ago he was wildly untested and ill-suited to the emotional variants needed for this role), so much so that you start looking at your watch about an hour into it. Jared Leto knocks it out of the park as Hephaistion, but the rest of the cast just blurs into the background. Val Kilmer looks NOTHING like a Grecian king and what was UP with Angelina Jolie’s accent? I just couldn’t understand why the casting choices were made. We had an Irish Greek Alexander, a Scottish commander (with an accent that even makes Gerard Butler’s accent in “300” sound Greek), a weird Angelina Jolie accent that makes me think she was channeling Gary Oldman and an assortment of brits and American in the pot. Very little jived and the characters were mostly forgettable.
I would have loved for “Alexander” to be made into a miniseries, where it could be fleshed out properly, and even the trimmings of the Ultimate cut can’t fix the pacing and timing issues that Oliver Stone’s work suffers from. Oliver so desperately wants to be able to fix the film and it just isn’t possible, shy of a reshoot. It’s still mostly the same film and very similar to the Final cut. So those of you who didn’t like the romantic entanglements of that cut or the bloat will have deal with those same flaws, albeit with some mildly trimmed scenes that make some of the more blatant errors more palatable. As for the packaging and the release itself I have to take my hat off to Warner. They released it in two forms. One is a single disc edition containing just the Ultimate cut. The second is a collector’s edition packaging box that contains BOTH the theatrical cut and the Ultimate cut on two discs, a booklet of images and information, letters to and from the cast, a digital copy all encased in a nice chipboard slipbox.
Rated R for violence and some sexuality/nudity : Unrated (for the Ultimate Cut)
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=20330[/img]“Alexander” in its final cut form was put on a two BD-25’s and given a 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track due to it’s being one of Warner’s first outings in the Blu-ray world and it was still encoding to accommodate the lower file size of an HD DVD in its encodes. With this being said the 2.39:1 VC-1 encode was exceptional for the time and with the theatrical and ultimate cuts on their own BD-50’s and given an AVC upgrade the picture looks even better. Just shy of perfect is stands as an incredible achievement in filming with incredible landscape shots and camera work that proves that Oliver Stone put all of his $155 million budget into the film and didn’t waste any. The colors are rich and varied, changing with the scenery as Alexander travels from luxurious and sandy Babylon, to the greens and purples of the Hindi people then back to pale and white colors of Macedonia. Black levels are deep and inky, full of shadow detail, and skin tones look natural and smooth. Honestly I have very little to complain about in this encode, detail is gorgeous with the only issue being some softness on some of the wide battle shots, to accommodate the CGI additions. Still the picture is superb and a visual treat to experience.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=20338[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is no slouch either. As I mentioned before, the original Blu-ray discs had a 640 kbps lossy Dolby Digital track, and albeit a solid mix was always a bit lacking. This track rectifies those issues with a more full and rich dynamic range and the lower end is fleshed out nicely. The dialogue for the film has always been the main issue as it has sounded a bit compressed and soft in the Dolby Digital track. Here the small hints of tininess and fatigue are gone and replaced with a very vibrant and full track. The LFE is always present, giving us a very very nice low end to the film, but it really excels when the battle scenes are under way. The elephants in the final battle really shake the walls and pound the listener with some impressive mid and low bass. Dialogue is clean and crisp, with the only complaints being that the accents can sometimes be very thick and make the audio harder to distinguish. Nothing too major and nothing to complain about the actual encode, but more to do with Oliver’s casting choices and its detriments. Very very good job on the upgrade Warner.
• The Real Alexander and the World He Made NEW Documentary
• Ultimate Cut Commentary by Oliver Stone
• Theatrical Version Commentary by Oliver Stone and Robin Lane Fox
• Resurrecting Alexander
• Perfect Is The Enemy of Good
• The Death of Alexander
• Vangelis Scores Alexander
• Fight Against Time: Oliver Stone's Alexander by Sean Stone
“Alexander” is a tough film to get through if you’re not a fan of slow paced movies. Even with that knowledge in mind it’s a flawed and tough film to get through. I’ve tried with theatrical, the DC, the Final cut and now the Ultimate cut. It has it’s good points, but the bogged down pacing and the cramming of too much information into a 3.5 hour film just hampers the enjoyment. To be fair the film has sold over 1 million copies for the Final Cut alone and made quite a bit of money so there is a cult following to the film, and if you’re a fan this is easily the best version to buy. If you haven’t seen the movie before, I’d recommend a rental first, because it doesn’t appeal to everyone. With film finally in lossless audio and a very impressive video encode on a single BD-50 the Ultimate cut is the culmination of Stone’s work, and hopefully the last cut he ever puts out of the film before even his own fans disown him.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Oliver Stone, Christopher Kyle
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Italian, Portuguese, Hungarian DD 5.1, Czech DD 2.0
Runtime: 176/207 minutes
Own Alexander:The Ultimate Cut on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital HD on June 3rd 2014
Buy Alexander: The Ultimate Cut Collectors Edition Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Alexander: The Ultimate Cut Barebones Edition Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: For the Fans
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