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(2004) on IMDb

Alexander (2004)

The greatest legend of all was real

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Alexander film poster, found at International Movie Poster Awards. Alexander
Alexander film poster, found at International Movie Poster Awards.

Alexander is a 2004 epic motion picture film, based on the life of Alexander the Great. The film was directed by Oliver Stone. According to Stone, the theatrical release is based on facts and historical events.

The film was controversial and critically-derided on its release, and failed at the American box office, grossing only $34 million domestically. It succeeded internationally, however, grossing a total of $167 million worldwide, with $133 million in overseas revenues.

Plot summary

The film is based on the biography of “Alexander the Great of Macedonia.” It gives a glimpse into some of the key moments of Alexander’s youth, and his invasion of the mighty Persian Empire, until his tragic death. It also outlined his life experience during his youth, including his difficult relationship with his father Philip II of Macedonia, the unification of the Greek city-states under the League of Corinth, and the conquest of the Persian Empire in 331 BC as well as his new plans to reform his empire, and the attempts made to reach the end of the world.

The storyline begins in 356 BC with Ptolemy I Soter, who narrates the story throughout the film. In lavish sets and images Oliver Stone shows the daily life in court of his father Philip and portraying the crippling relationship between his parents.

Alexander grows up together with his mother Olympias and his tutor Aristotle where he finds interest in love, honour, music, exploration, poetry and military combat. He also witnesses how his relationship with his father is destroyed and objects strenuously to his father’s new marriage of Attalus’ niece, Eurydice.

Thereafter Philip is assassinated and Alexander becomes king of Greece and Macedonia. After a brief mentioning of his punitive razing of Thebes and burning of Persepolis, Ptolemy gives an overview of Alexander’s west Persian campaign, including his declaration to be the son of Zeus by the Oracle of Amun at Siwa Oasis, his great battle against the Persian Emperor Darius III in the Battle of Gaugamela, and his eight year campaign at Hydaspes against Porus in India (now Pakistan), both of which are shown in the film.

The plot also illustrates Alexander’s private relationship with his childhood friend, and lover, Hephaistion, and later his wife Roxana until his death.

Criticism by historians

With its attention to historical detail, “Alexander” also attracted critical scrutiny from historians. However, it often had a quite opposite tendency than that has been voiced by general film critiques. Most academic criticism was concerned with the insufficient adherence to historical details.

Other major controversies came from Iranian (Persian) historians, who were upset by the film’s renderings of Persians and Macedonians alike. Kaveh Farrokh, an expert of Persian history, says the portrayals of Persians and Macedonians in the film are inaccurate. As an example, in the movie, Alexander the Great and his troops supposedly defeated the Persian army in a single battle, where Farrokh points out that historical facts show that Alexander had to fight several fierce battles against a large Persian Army, before he was even able to defeat Darius III, creating heavy doubts in regards to the movies accuracy. Farrokh also stated that the “Macedonian forces are typically shown very organized, disciplined, and so on, and what’s very disturbing is when the so-called Persians are shown confronting the Macedonians, their armies are totally disorganized. What is not known is that the Persians actually had uniforms. They marched in discipline, and music was actually used such as trumpets and so on, to allow them to march in disciplined rank”. Farrokh also criticized the portrayal of Alexander with blonde hair and blue eyes, pointing out that the real Alexander had dark hair and dark eyes.

In addition to what some critics perceived as the movie’s “down-playing of the Persians”, King Darius is shown fleeing the Gaugamela battle and abandoning his troops when approached by Alexander, where historians have pointed out from contemporary Babylonian accounts that Darius was trying to rally his army but was abandoned by his troops

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