I dipped my toe back into Oliver Stone's Alexander with some trepidation. I hadn't seen it since it came out, for obvious stinky reasons. But I'd been curious what all of Stone's tinkering had accomplished - I know he was frustrated that the studio was intent on squishing the homosexual content as much as they could from it; we were all frustrated with that. So I watched the just-released "Ultimate Cut" on blu-ray over the weekend, projecting it up on the big screen in my house, and ya know what? It's not a bad movie anymore.
Yeah there are still a few moments where Colin Farrell's being out-acted by his wig. I say that with much affection for Colin Farrell's acting talent - that is a lot of wig to act under. Anybody could get buried. But as a whole, with the gay stuff eased back in, the movie just actually makes sense now. When I say "gay stuff" I don't mean there's much more in the way of nudity or sex - sadly, we still don't get to see Alexander crushed between Hephaestion's thighs (save an adolescent wrestling match).
But the thematically gay stuff, the actual life-long love affair between A&H, turns out to be whaddya terribly important, and Stone treats it as such. It's actually pretty clearly the reason he made the movie, you can see now. The theatrical cut flailed around for meaning because it turns out that the studio had carved the very meat from the movie's bones in paring Alexander and Hephaestion's relationship down to a couple lingering glances - everybody in Alexander: The Ultimate Cut is constantly talking about Alexander's relationships with men, with Hephaestion and with the eunuch (and we do see some brief kissing between those two before the sheets billow and we wander away furtively).
And so with the center restored to the movie, side-shows like Angelina Jolie's Countess Chocula character don't exacerbate the nonsense, they just add a fun flavor - she feels much more of a piece with Anne Baxter in The Ten Commandments now that the movie around her isn't flailing. The battle scenes are beautiful and terrifying - the fight in India with the stampeding elephants amongst a forest of trees is an astonishing set-piece, old-fashioned and epic and singular. I get why Stone kept futzing with the film now. He's carved it into something very nearly great.