Original theatrical cut runs 175 mins.
2005 Director's Cut runs 167 mins.
2007 The Final Cut runs 213 mins.
2014 The Ultimate Cut runs 207 mins.
Alexander is a very problematic film. It got mostly negative reviews from critics and audiences alike when it came out in 2004. For years, I didn't want to sit through it because of those negative reviews. After nearly a decade, I finally gave it a shot, watching the three and a half hour Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut, which is considered by all concerned to be the best version of the film. I must say that I was, on the most part, thoroughly pleased with the film. I did some research into the other cuts of the film, and from what I've read and seen, I would have to agree that the "Final Cut" is the superior cut.
I loved the structure of the "Final Cut," and the earlier cuts are lacking the same structure. The "Director's Cut" was a bit closer in structure, but it left out a lot of character development, in an attempt to make the film feel more commercial. This is not a commercial film. It's deeply rooted in character development and plot, which is why I enjoyed it. The theatrical cut was quite a bit more chronological than the alternate cuts, done at the request of the studio. The "Director's Cut" was also done at the studio's request. Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut was released in 2007, after the fires against the film died down. Oliver Stone was finally able to completely take over his film for the home video market, and present a cut 100% true to his vision, no studio interference. He talks about this on his introduction to the "Final Cut." In 2014, for the film's tenth anniversary, Stone released a fourth cut, titled "The Ultimate Cut," which seems like nothing more than a fine-tuning of "The Final Cut."
I think the marketing strategy of this film is what killed its chances of being well received. The trailers make it look like a typical historical action flick, a la 300, when in reality, it lends more to the epic historical dramas of yesteryear, which is, again, Stone's intention with the "Final Cut," inserting an intermission so you can take a break and reflect on the first two hours you have just watched. If the film had been marketed to the proper audience, it might have fared better.
The performances in the film are hit-and-miss. I was nervous about Colin Farrell in the lead role. I've seen him in quite a few roles, and he just didn't seem like a historical figure to me. While watching the film, I realized that was exactly the point. Alexander is portrayed more as a human being than a god. I simply adored Colin Farrell in this film. I did not, however, like Angelina Jolie's and Rosario Dawson's horrid accents, Jonathan Rhys Meyers was annoying as always (he's my least favorite actor of all time), and I thought Jared Leto just looked awkward. Val Kilmer turned in a decent performance as Alexander's father, though, and the film is powered by Anthony Hopkins's intelligent-sounding voice.
"The Final Cut" has a structure that jumps around, interlacing past events with present events, and it works beautifully. It allows all the emotional punches to be thrown in a sensible manner, allowing the mind to function properly while soaking in the drama. During the battle in India, hover, Oliver Stone got a little too self-indulgent, as he usually does, and makes a crazy decision, washing everything out in a strange red tint. It really stands out in an otherwise normal film that uses primarily classic filmmaking techniques. The 20-30 minutes after that are also a bit tedious to sit through; maybe it's just the discomfort of the strange effect at the end of the battle sequence. The second time I watched the film, it didn't bother me as much, though, since I knew it was coming.
Also, I loved the lush score provided by the always talented Vangelis. It set the perfect tones and feelings for the film. I also loved the opening and ending credits design.
Alexander is a well thought out film, full of great characterizations. If you hated the film, but did not watch the "Final Cut," I highly recommend giving it a chance. Just remember that it's a drama, not an action flick.
Original theatrical aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Rated R for violence and some sexuality/nudity.
Oliver Stone and Christopher Kyle and Laeta Kalogridis