When Oliver Stone’s Alexander, starring Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, and Colin Farrell, came out in 2004, it faced many issues apart from being a box office bomb. Over the years, primarily because of Stone’s inability to let the failure of the film slide away, we got many versions of the film, and surprisingly, instead of piling on the film’s failure they actually improved it infinitely, such that it has become an epic example of historical dramatization.
The basic core story of Alexander or its various iterations, more or less, remains the same. It is loosely based on the life of the great conqueror, Alexander the Great. The story starts in 285 BC where a young Alexander grows up with his mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) who trains him into becoming the ace leader he eventually ends up being. After his father’s death, Alexander (Colin Farrell) assumes the throne and becomes the King of Macedonia.
As narrated by Ptolemy I Soter, a historian in Alexander’s court, the new king went on many adventures, annexes many kingdoms ruthlessly, and fights many great battles, which includes his eight-year campaign across Asia. The film also alludes to Alexander being queer given his close friendship with his childhood friend, Hephaistion (Jared Leto), and his equally electric relationship with his wife, Roxana (Rosario Dawson). The story also implied the existence of sexual tension between him and his insanely beautiful mother i.e., the ever-beautiful Angelina Jolie who was once again a seductive force of power in the film.
Alexander went to fight the great Battle of Hydaspes and even though he won, his friend Hephaistion died from typhus he contracted in India. This broke the king and he soon died as well. But the film later reveals that his death wasn’t a cause of a broken heart but had a more complicated reason. What became of Macedonia, Angelina Jolie’s Olympus is something that you can now find out by watching the film on Netflix. And in case you have already watched 2004’s Alexander, let us tell you that the Final Cut is infinitely better than what its theatrical version presented and had all the potential to be the big box-office earner it couldn’t be.
When Alexander initially came out in 2004, apart from being a box office dud that had losses of as much as $71 million, it courted controversies for depicting Alexander as queer for its countless historical inaccuracies. The character arcs for Angelina Jolie, Rosario Dawson, Jared Leto, and Colin Farrell were severely criticized as well. But over the years, several version of the film has changed the stance of critics, as well as of the viewers, on the film as the various tinkerings it has undergone has genuinely improved the story such that it is now regarded as one of the best examples under historical dramas and obviously one of the most epic films starring Angelina Jolie.
But it is the third version of the film by Stone, Alexander Revisited: The Final Unrated Cut in 2007 that made the film a piece of cinematic wonder. It is an extended version of Alexander and was released on DVD. Stone went ahead and added around 40 minutes of extra already shot footage to the film to ensure that people understand his characters better. This new version took a better, more nuanced look at Colin Farrell’s Alexander’s life and his relationships with Olympias, Philip, Hephaestion, Roxana, and Ptolemy, while actors like Angelina Jolie, Jared Leto, Anthony Hopkins, and Rosario Dawson got more in-depth character development. But when it comes to Jolie, the different versions only served to amp up her already excellent representation of Olympia.
When it comes to Angelina Jolie, it is hard to pick up her best films because no matter how the film fared commercially, she added substance to its storyline with her mere presence. Alexander (pick any of its versions) remains memorable because of Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Queen Olympias. Pick any of the films from her long, successful career and you will find that even if the story of the film is not top-notch, the actress so is. Some of her most memorable characters are Lara Croft in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Jane Smith in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted, Fox in Wanted, Sara Wayland in Gone in 60 Seconds, Christine Collins in Changeling, and obviously, Olympias in Alexander.