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Alexander and the Hero Archetype

November 29, 2004

The tickets have been counted, the verdict handed down, and the word spread – Oliver Stone’s "Alexander" is a flop.  A failure matched only by the most hubristic of Kevin Costner’s films – "Waterworld" and "The Postman".

I’ve feared this would happen for some time.  Pretty much ever since Stone decided to cast a pale, dark-haired Irishman as the youthful, blond-locked conqueror, in fact.  Sadly, my fears have been borne out.  For the love of God, it was beaten by "Christmas with the Kranks".

Personally, I don’t think the whole bisexual thing had a lot to do with it.  Except, of course, that Thanksgiving is a time when you see movies as a family.  As accepting as you may be of homosexuality, bisexuality, or whatever, it’s not exactly family fare.  So when you’re looking at a movie to go see with your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, do you choose the one with a fully nude Rosario Dawson and references to Jared Leto’s thighs, or something more widely acceptable – such as "The Incredibles" or the fun-if-silly "National Treasure"?

For all the idiocy of releasing such a sexual film during Thanksgiving, I think "Alexander" would have flopped no matter when it was released. 

Why?

It goes back to an interview of Steven Pressfield that I read once.  He was saying that his favorite novel, of the ones he has written, was also the least popular among his readers.  The reason?  It eschewed heroic virtue, and portrayed people as they really are – scheming, duplititous, and jealous.

Thinking about it, I began to realize that all of the great (and even not-so-great) epics are centered around heroes.  These heroes may have to overcome atrocities and dark memories, but in the end they emerge as idealized, better-than-human heroes.  Judah Ben-Hur.  Spartacus.  William Wallace in Braveheart.  Maximus in Gladiator.  Hell, even Nathan Algren in The Last Samurai.

I’m sure there are a lot of faults in Stone’s "Alexander".  I’ve heard that the motivation he gives Alexander for his conquests is downright laughable (to spread peace to the world).  But perhaps his biggest failing is that, in examining Alexander, he failed to make him a hero.

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Something else to ponder – is it even possible to tell the story of Alexander in a three hour span?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2004 8:46 pm

    Screw Alexander, give me three hours of references to Jared Leto’s thighs!!!

  2. Bob Conley permalink
    November 30, 2004 10:06 am

    Matt:

    Have been waiting for your review. I guess you think that we should not see it.

    Bob

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