Film / Alexander

Alexander is a 2004 biographical film directed by Oliver Stone about the life and death of emperor Alexander the Great. The film starred Colin Farrell in the title role, along with Angelina Jolie and Val Kilmer as his parents, and Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, Christopher Plummer, and Rosario Dawson in further supporting roles.

Centering on the life of Macedonian emperor Alexander the Great, mainly from his youth and his conquering of Persia and India. The son of Phillip II and his wife Olympias, Alexander became king after his father's murder, and retained the throne until his early death at the age of 32.

Tropes in the film:

  • Accent Adaptation: Alexander the Great has an Irish accent as do many of his generals. The filmmakers did this on purpose, as Alexander was Macedonian, which at the time were considered much more rural and uncivilized than their Greek neighbors, and hypothesized that they sounded more like Celts, so they decided an Irish accent would be more realistic than anything else. On the other hand, Angelina Jolie affects an "exotic foreigner" accent (intended to be Albanian, which would fit her character's birthplace of Epirus, in modern-day Albania.)
    • Or, acording to the documentry about making of the film, Colin Farrell was unable to fully drop his Irish one, so instead everyone adopted it and then it went to the above described decision of Irish accent as Macedonian Greek.
    • Some of the actors playing the Macedonian troops have strong Scots accents rather than Irish.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Despite popular belief, no ancient sources state Alexander had homosexual relationships or that his relationship with Hephaestion was sexual. He did refer to Hephaestion as his "eromenos" or "beloved" but that does not necessarily have a sexual meaning. It is possible he was bisexual as he married Roxana out of love but other than Greek culture at the time there is nothing to say he was.
  • Anachronic Order: The film starts with narration by Ptolemy, when he's at the end of his life. Then it keeps jumping on the events of Alexander conquest and early years. In shorter cuts it can be hard to follow with so many retrospections within retrospections.
  • Analogy Backfire: Alexander feels that Hephaistion is being less than optimistic over his plans.
    Alexander: Did Patroclus stare at Achilles when they stood side by side at the siege of Troy?
    Hephaistion: Patroclus died first.
    • This repeats itself, when in a flashback Aristotle is reminding everyone how selfish and egoistic Achilles was. Yet Alexander is styling himself as second Achilles for his whole life, perhaps too hard...
  • And Then What?: Hephaistion at one point asks Alexander what he would do once he conquered his way all the way to his much sought "Outer Ocean". Without missing a beat, Alexander turns to his best friend, and moral center, and answers: "I turn around and conquer the other half!"
  • Animal Motifs: Alexander and the eagle, barring on Rule of Symbolism later on. Also, Olympias in her introduction scene is holding a snake, which tells you all.
  • The Backwards Я: The film had some advertising posters where the title was written as "ΛLΣXΛNDΣR", i.e. "LLSXLNDSR".
  • Belly Dancer: A traditional female example with Roxana's dance, and a rare male example with Bagoas, the Persian dancer who performs for Alexander at one of the big banquets.
  • Berserk Button: Do NOT insult Alexander's mother.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: The Battle of Gaugamela towards the opening of the film.
  • Childhood Friends: Alexander and Hephaistion.
  • Creator Cameo: Oliver Stone appears as a soldier.
  • Cultural Posturing: Aristotle, while explaining to young Alexander and his future commanders why Greeks are a superior race over Persians.
  • Decapitated Army: Alexander's plan for winning Gaugamela requires going right for Darius and slaying him, which will destroy the Persian ranks almost instantly.
    Alexander: If I die, it's one Macedonian. But the Persians, they can't move without Darius' command.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Macedonians and other Greeks in general look down on all non-Greeks as hedonistic barbarians. When Alexander says that he looks forward to the day when Greeks and non-Greeks will mix and be treated as equals, his generals look at him as if he's insane. And there is of course a heavy misogynistic theme on the Greek side, treating women as good for childbearing and slaves to passion, while only two man can create a true, perfect love.
    • It is also quite obvious that many of the Indian people disapprove of the Greeks' homosexual behavior, with dirty looks and whispered disapproval when Bagoas dances for and kisses Alexander at a banquet.
  • Evil Matriarch: Olympias, who manipulates Alexander as she pleases.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Invoked by Olympias, while she handles young Alexander a snake.
  • A Father to His Men: Alexander, at least before the whole conquering the world goes over his head.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Roxane tries to stab Alexander while completely naked on their wedding night.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Did you know the conqueror of the Persian Empire was a sensitive dreamer with mommy and daddy issues?
  • Intermission: Featured in the Final Cut version. It was also a disc swap.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The Macedonian phalanx, which incorporates shields.
  • Mama's Boy: Alexander.
  • Marital Rape License: Drunk Philip on Olympias. While young Alexander is watching. And it's alluded he doesn't need to be drunk for that.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Hephaistion's death scene: Alexander speaks with him, then goes to a window and makes a speech about his future conquests and their growing old together...meanwhile, in the background, very much out of focus, Hephaistion dies.
  • Mercy Kill: Glaucos, an Ilirian wounded by a spear under Gaugamela, is dying. The physician starts to unwrap a set for euthanasia while Alexander is comforting the soldier, and then...
  • Moody Mount: Bucephalus, which should be no surprise.
  • Pride: Probably the biggest flaw of Alexander.
  • Protagonist Title: Which leaves the "The Great" part of it out.
  • Rape and Revenge: The guard who assassinates Phillip is the boy he raped at his wedding party. It's made clearer in the director's cut.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Phillip's father sent him to battle and when he returned after killing someone for the first time, he said "Now you know".
  • Rearing Horse: Alexander's horse rears as it faces an enemy War Elephant which is also rearing. Then he falls off.
  • Rousing Speech: At the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander rides before his phalanx, pointing out individual soldiers and reminding them of their past heroic deeds. Then he addresses the army as a whole.
    "Some of you, perhaps myself, will not live to see the sun set over these mountains today. But I tell you what every warrior has known since the beginning of time. Conquer your fear, and I promise you, you will conquer death!"
  • Royal Harem: One in Babylon. Which includes even androgynous boys with make up and long hair.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Alexander's whole family - drunk rapist father, possessive and treacherous mother, he himself lusting for everlasting glory as a conqueror, then Roxane playing her own games... Not to mention his male lovers that he treats as part of his family.
  • Sex Is Evil: Or at least sex as a result of blind lust, which the film keeps on reminding quite often. Alexander surely wasn't the best student of Aristotle, given his deeds.
  • Shown Their Work: Of the easiest kind by actually referring to Heracles by his Greek name instead of his Roman name Hercules.
  • Spiked Wheels: Scythed chariots are shown charging into Macedonian phalanx during the beginning of Battle of Gaugamela scene.
  • Take That!: Averted. While there are many digs toward Achilles, it was no one's intention to take them as an insult toward Troy.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Val Kilmer, playing Alexander's father, is deliberately doing a pirate accent.
  • The Film of the Book: Much of the film is drawn from Mary Renault's meticulously researched novels about Alexander's life. Fans of her work can recite the lines right along with the actors in a couple of scenes.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works:
    • At the Battle of the Hydaspes, Alexander throws his sword at King Poros in a futile attempt to kill him, only to miss.
    • In the Final Cut, during the Battle of Gaugamela, Antigonus (the one-eyed general) barely manages to protect himself with his shield from an arrow, and then conterattacks by tossing his sword at the Persian archer.
  • Translation Convention: Whenever writing is seen in letters or mosaics, it's always English instead of Greek.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The Battle of the Hydaspes is won after Alexander is shot with an arrow and falls from Bucephalus, causing his army to rampage into the Indian army to rescue him which drives the Indians to retreat.
  • War Is Glorious: What everyone firmly believes. With time however, more and more Macedonians are tired of never-ending conquest and witnessing the hell of war for so many years. In the end, Alexander is forced to retreat, being the only one still lusting for more war.
  • War Is Hell: The scenes after the battles are not very subtle about this. So are the battles in extended cuts.
  • You No Take Candle: The Persians (and much of the Greeks/Macedonians) speak fairly and eloquently ("If only you were not a pale reflection of my mother's heart") whilst the Bactrian Roxane speaks in this manner: "Great man, Alexander? You I kill now." Potentially justified in showcasing that Roxane was not very fluent in the native language of the Greeks, which her father Oxyartes speaks perfectly fluently.
  • Young Conqueror: Alexander.