Elderly Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) who once served under the great Alexander (Colin Farrell) narrates the life story of the man the myth the legend--the son of the ambitious King Philip (Val Kilmer) who surpassed his father at every level and charged into the farthest reaches of the world. From early childhood in Macedonia we see where Alexander gets his drive--mostly from his vengeful snake-lovin' mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) who urges her son to take charge as well from his tutor Aristotle (Christopher Plummer). Even in the taming of his unbreakable horse Bucephalas at 10 years old Alexander's destiny is evident. The heart of the film lies in Persia which Alexander conquers in one of the most studied military battles of all time. Alexander spends a great deal of time there--taking in the culture claiming its riches and marrying a Bactrian princess Roxane (Rosario Dawson)--much to the chagrin of his Macedonian generals who are stuck in this foreign land with their king. Despite this success Alexander grows restless and turns his attention to the rest of the world including the unexplored regions of India. With his army stretched thin and his Macedonian troops longing for home Alexander presses them one campaign too far. Succumbing to a mysterious illness at age 33 Alexander dies never quite finding what he so desperately searched for.
Although some may scoff at casting the Irish actor in the lead Farrell does an admirable job playing the tortured hero blond wig and all. He exudes plenty of wide-eyed fury and intensity as Alexander the warrior balanced by the controlled calculation of a hyper-effective military commander although he isn't nearly as effective as the idealistic pre-world-conqueror Alexander as he is spiraling down into the haunted angst-ridden Alexander at the end of his obsessive crusade. Casting Jolie as Olympias is a stroke of genius. Sure Jolie can play a smart and beautiful woman in her sleep but her beauty is surpassed only by the power she imbues as Alexander's bitter yet loving mother; she's as hypnotic as the snakes she carries around. Kilmer relishes his role as Alexander's father Philip in all of his grotesque wine-soaked glory. Powerful driven and battle-scarred Kilmer's Philip knows precisely what he wants and matches Jolie's quiet intensity with the raw aggressive masculinity of a warrior king who is far more comfortable in his armor than a toga. In the supporting roles Hopkins is great as always this time in the thankless role of the narrator while Dawson plays Roxane with a ferocity that is as mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Standout Jared Leto also turns in a concentrated performance as Hephaestion Alexander's long-time companion boyhood friend and the person who loves Alexander the best. (And we do mean love.)
Alexander is Oliver Stone at his best. An Alexander nut for most of his life the director gives us a film that--even in its loooong three-hour form--continuously holds your attention especially its intense and bloody battle scenes. I mean honestly once you've fought against an elephant in armor the plain old sword-and-shield skirmishes pale in comparison. Alexander also possesses a great breadth of visuals: Alexandria's peace Pella's tension Babylon's opulence and India's richness. Yet as wonderful as the landscapes are it's personal interactions and internal politics that drive the story--and of course Stone's penchant for conspiracy theories as he more than insinuates Alexander was poisoned by his enemies rather than dying of an "unknown" illness. But a problem still remains: Alexander's life was so huge and he did so much that it's almost impossible to encapsulate it effectively into one film. Stone instead has to focus on what he thinks is the most important namely Alexander's renowned conquests while allowing the pressure cooker in which the young conqueror grew up--the triangle of mother father and son--come through in the decisions he makes later in life. For those few of us who have studied Alexander Stone has made this film especially for us. If you haven't spent any time reading Arrian and the other histories this excellent film might just inspire you to do so.
February 15, 2002 6:10am EST
Now a grown-up Wendy (voiced by Kath Soucie) has two children of her own Jane (voiced by Harriet Owen) and Danny (voiced by Andrew McDonough) who are in desperate need of the fantastic and magical world of Peter Pan (voiced by Blayne Weaver). As the small family deals with the tragedy and terror of World War II London Wendy tries to spread hope and cheer to her children by recounting her own childhood adventures with everlasting boy Peter Pan the fairy Tinker Bell and the unsuccessful-but-still-dangerous pirate Captain Hook (voiced by Corey Burton). While toddler Danny is captivated pre-teen Jane refuses to believe in "faith trust and pixie dust" until one night when Captain Hook's great pirate ship flies through her bedroom window and kidnaps her--thinking she is Wendy--in an effort to trap Peter Pan. The story unfolds as Jane must learn to believe in this whimsical world if she ever wants to return from Never Land.
The voices match their characters well: 25-year-old animation newbie Blayne Weaver makes Peter Pan "all boy" as he coyly tells Jane of Tinker Bell's jealousy "all girls get like that around me." He also leads the clan of six "lost boys" (dressed as twin raccoons a bear a skunk a rabbit and a fox) with great diligence. The boys offer silly childlike comic relief like when they make pacts to "stick" together by way of spitting in their hands and slapping them together. The real treat though is animation veteran Jeff Bennett who voices the small role of Smee Hook's "left"-hand man. His lack of faith in Hook's plots against Pan have him mumbling funny one-liners and singing songs that predict Hook will "bumble and fumble" every time.
Jane's trip from her bedroom window to Never Land includes a fly-by right past the clock face of Big Ben. Co-directors Robin Budd and Donovan Cook set the stage with this great London symbol as they remind us that time is of the essence. The harsh realities of war threaten to make Jane hard-edged and uncaring and she must truly believe in the world of Never Land before her childhood innocence is lost forever. Shadows play into the time theme as well. From the beginning credits and throughout the film whenever Peter Pan and company fly their shadows leave impressions in the clouds that remind us Never Land is not so far away; rather it lingers just beyond the shadows in our own world. The humor in the film is kid-friendly clean and often subtle; the only scene even coming close to "potty humor" is when an octopus rips the pants off Captain Hook. When Hook's white boxers are revealed dotted with big red hearts the kids are sure to laugh aloud. (It's also a nice touch considering the film sports a Valentine's Day opening.)