Alexander: Revisited :The Final Cut

Alexander: Revisited :The Final Cut (2004)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jaret Leto, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins
Extras: Introduction by Oliver Stone

"Alexander" is one of those film people either love or hate and even the previously released Director's Cut didn't change much there. Now director Oliver Stone has prepared an entirely new cut of the film adding over 45 minutes of additional footage bringing it to a whopping 220 minutes, and entirely re-editing the film as a whole. Now, I have tried to watch the theatrical version of "Alexander" some time ago and could not get past 30 minutes of it. The film bored me to death. I found it horribly sluggish, superficial and just bad. So I was someone who hated the film. With that notion I approached "Alexander: Revisited" but I definitely wanted to give the film a fair chance, and I am glad I did. This new cut is leaps and bounds above the previous versions and finally turns the material into an epic movie that is in line with classic Golden Era blockbusters of the Cecil B. DeMille school.

As I mentioned openings I have not seen the theatrical cut in its entirety but I immediately noticed that "Alexander: Revisited" has an entirely different opening, structure and pace than the theatrical cut. All the things that bored my initially were now replaced, re-arranged to create an opening for the film that has impact and immediately rattle the viewer – the Battle at Gaugamela. From there the film goes at an almost break-neck speed back and forth in time to fill in Alexander's past and to develop his unbelievable conquering spree into the far reaches of Persia, Asia and India.

However, "Alexander: Revisited" is not without flaws and the cutting back and forth in time can exhaust viewers quite a bit, making it hard to keep track of what's going on when and where. However this storytelling device is also one of the movie's strengths because it allows Oliver Stone to make sure there's always something happening in the film. 220 minutes are a long running time and to make sure viewers are constantly engaged this cutting back and forth allows him to insert dramatic and exciting tidbits during passages that would otherwise be bland and dragging. As a result you will view "Alexander: Revisited" in one wash and still feel wanting for more once the film is over.

Another thing that is notable about the movie is the casting and the overall look. Unlike DeMille's epics, Oliver Stone's movie is not necessarily pretty-fied. Characters are ragged and edgy, worn and scarred, even seedy at times. They have impossible haircuts and do's – remember beauty parlors and spas were no the rage back then and crew cuts had not yet been invented. Overall these are certainly not the kind of pretty people we are used to seeing in these epics – Rosario Dawson and Angelina Jolie being stark exceptions here. It takes a bit getting used to I admit but once you dig yourself into the story you accept it and see Alexander's decaying presence as a clear sign of the burden that is upon him and the fact that it is becoming increasingly harder for him to live up to his own expectations – let away those of his people.

At the same time the film masterfully hones in on Alexander's remarkable genius and I think it is impossible not to walk away form the film being impressed with his achievements. I had, of course, heard of "Alexander The Great" in history class. I had learned the dates of his battles by heart and knew of his achievements in general. But after watching "Alexander: Revisited" I could honestly say that now I know why they call him "The Great." I can finally put his achievements in perspective. I can look at a world map and stare in awe at the vast distances he crossed and the vastly different cultures he united. I still can't believe that he crossed the Himalayas and went to Tibet with an army of 100.000 men. The film helped me make all this a lot more tangible than any history book or teacher ever could and for that I am very thankful.

Given the length of the film Oliver Stone decided to insert an Intermission in the film complete with music etc. and Warner Home Video respectfully decided to present the movie on 2-discs, splitting the film at the Intermission point. It is a sensible decision that allows Warner to offer up a pristine presentation of the film on DVD. And pristine, it is. The film's transfer is absolutely clean and clear without as much as a hint of grain or dirt. Rock solid and with strong colors, the image is wonderful to behold. A good level of definition and nicely balanced colors that are saturated but never bleed make for a wonderful viewing. Add to it solid black levels and perfectly delineated shadows that always hold their detail and you have the remarkable transfer that is "Alexander: Revisited."

The DVD offers up an aggressive 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix that will throw you right into the action. While the quiet moments make good use of ambient surround effects it is during the action sequences that the presentation plays all its muscles. With aggressive surround usage that engages all channels viciously you will hear the din of battle from all directions. It adds tremendously to the film as your adrenaline will begin pumping at all the things you hear happening around what you actually see on the screen. Whether it is arrows flying close by, horses trampling or elephants stampeding ahead left, this mix is addi8ng punch to the overall cinematic experience.

"Alexander: Revisited" is devoid of any extras with the exception of an introduction by Oliver Stone. Stone discusses briefly why he felt that a third cut of the film was in order, how he approached it and why he made some of the most drastic alterations that changed the film's tone and structure altogether.

Most Director's Cuts these days are not worth the time of day and the majority of them are made solely for the purpose to resell the movie to fans. Not so in this case, however. When revisiting "Alexander," Oliver Stone did so with such ferocity – one of Stone's unique traits I daresay – that the result is a different film entirely and one that stands leaps and bounds above the theatrical version that spawned it. If you liked "Alexander" you will LOVE "Alexander: Revisted." If you hated "Alexander" there is a good chance that, like me, you will suddenly discover the true essence of this movie. Kudos to Oliver Stone for another monumental achievement and kudos to Warner for financing such an absolutely unobstructed retooling of this film.