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Alexander: The Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray Review)

Alexander - www.whysoblu.comCelebrate the 10th Anniversary of Alexander! Collectible 10th-anniversary edition includes the never-before-seen Ultimate Cut, The Art of Alexander photo book and insightful filmmaker correspondence. Based on the life of Alexander the Great, the epic historical drama is directed by Oliver Stone and features Colin Farrell in the title role. Two versions of the film will be included in this release – the theatrical cut and the forthcoming “Ultimate Cut.” Also included is the brand New documentary The Real Alexander and the World He Made which reveals how Alexander the Great’s vision of uniting East and West helped shape our modern world, and illuminates how different our lives might have been had his empire not fractured upon his untimely death at the age of 32. 

Alexander

Film 

Oliver Stone took upon himself a grand undertaking more than ten years ago to bring to the screen an ambitious tale of one of, if not, the greatest general-tactician the world had ever seen since. His name: Alexander. Colin Farrell leads an impressive cast of familiar faces into the great unknown. Angelina Jolie plays his mysterious mother; Val Kilmer is the degenerate King Philip and Alexander’s father, along with Anthony Hopkins as the old Ptolemy who acts as our tour guide of the rise and subsequent fall of the great Alexander.

By my counts this is like 20th release of the film on various formats throughout the past ten years. I’m being facetious there. This ultimate cut is the fourth version of the film to be released. There was a the theatrical cut that came out first, which was followed by the “director’s cut” then there was the “Revisited: Final Cut” followed by this new ultimate cult. I have seen them both and can honestly say that this ultimate cut is by far the best version. It’s the best version, in my opinion, because it takes from every version available, and while being three and half hours long, plays in a very streamlined fashion. It retains all of the depth and information and tweaks the order a bit. Old Ptolemy’s scenes are now bookended into the film and the huge battle of Gaugamela is now the first in line. In the theatrical cut it was placed at the halfway mark.

The same goes for Ptolemy’s lamentations and admirations of the man. He gets a big finale towards the end that’s somewhat reminiscent of Kevin Costner at the end of JFK– Ptolemy’s end speech is far shorter, though. I remember Oliver Stone saying that that his final cut was his last cut due to there being no more footage left to re-cut. Obviously, this was not the case, because here we are with this version. It’s funny and fascinating all that the same time and I admire that in Stone. He’s an artist and if he wants to re-cut his own film then let him. Oliver Stone isn’t pulling out the revisionist card at all here. He’s trying to tell the best story he can with the best materials possible and the fact that the studio has let him do this is also pretty neat.

As you can see by my high score of the film I have always been a fan of the film in some way. Maybe it has to do with me being a fan of bloody historical epics? Who knows? The cast is stellar and the only distracting bits are that of the accents. They’re all over the place but what can you do? Suck it up. The film never borders on camp but does creep into melodramatic fits here and there and those are mostly whenever Angelina Jolie as the deliciously manipulative Queen Olympia is on screen. She’s obsessed with Alexander being the new and ultimate ruler of the kingdom…by any means necessary. That’s the conundrum that is set up early on. Alexander had a great education coming up but was smothered by his mother and had an overbearing father in King Philip II. Alexander grew up using the ‘ol noggin more than he did his brawn. He knew how to fight but he also knew how to analyze and take in useful information before acting upon it. You don’t conquer most of the known world by brute force, right?

The film gradually shows the eventual 180-degree turn Alexander took when he became power hungry. His inner circle became a bit more crowded and his personal life became a bit more complicated. Alexander is depicted as bi-sexual in the film partaking of both sexes while those closest around him sit in silent judgment. Alexander also has some terrific and very bloody battles. The early battle of Gaugamela is fantastic as it shows Alexander literally kicking up a storm while the Persian adversary’s look on in a confused state not knowing where the leader of the army is. The battle cuts back and forth through the several flanks as we see Alexander get up close and personal with some frontline enemy troops. If you think that battle was insane then wait until you get to India. One of the more unexplored lands of Alexander’s world was that of India – a savage and untamed land. Alexander made a small miscalculation in his conquering mind about trying to take it over and the inhabitants retaliated in kind…with giant elephants! You can say whatever you want about the film but it’s all worth it once we get to the battle in India. It was literally like reliving Middle Earth again.

As you can probably tell I am not going to re-tread 3 previous versions of this film into this one. I’m giving you guys the lowdown on THIS particular version. I highly suggest giving it a shot but take your bathroom breaks according. Alexander: The Ultimate Cut also features an intermission and brand new audio commentary by Oliver Stone in addition to the theatrical cut available on Blu-ray for the very first time. Whatever your misgivings are about the film as film fan you owe it yourself to give Alexander: The Ultimate Cut a perusal.

 

Alexander

Video 

Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail:  This is a demo presentation. I could not spot one single imperfection, so no need to rant all verbose about the merit of the video presentation. It’s perfect.

Depth: This is not a 3D presentation but you would never know it. It has some great pop and just leaps from the screen. It’s gorgeous!

Black Levels: Black levels are steady and never crush and the darkness of some of those nighttime shots look amazing.

Color Reproduction: There are lots of golden hues through almost every frame of the film that really stand out. Banding and pixilation are rightfully absent.

Flesh Tones: Everyone looks healthy and spry with the exception of those who fall ill or are injured.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing. This version is clean and free from anomalies.

Alexander

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1 (both versions)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Hungarian, Czech, Italian

Dynamics: From every branch, footstep, hushed whisper to the deafening sound of the spear, sword, and shield, this lossless DTS 5.1 track delivers everything one can only imagine about a war epic. It’s an insane film with a bombastic soundtrack. This is what the Blu-ray format is all about, folks!

Low Frequency Extension: One word: exquisite. Get ready to get out of the way during battle, because the LFE in those scenes is spectacular! Watch out for the rampaging elephants, because I didn’t know any better I’d have thought we were back in Middle Earth!

Surround Sound Presentation:

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue levels are clean, crisp, and clear. Yes, everyone seems to have an accent that may or may not be appropriate for the setting, but nonetheless we can understand what is being said.

Alexander

Extras 

The Alexander: Ultimate Cut Blu-ray set is a lovely set that contains the giant ultimate cut version of the film in addition to some nice collectables, and for the first time ever the theatrical cut is presented in high definition. A new featurette is presented that features several historians and Oliver Stone himself talking about the project. The ultimate cut is presented on its own disc, as is the theatrical cut.

Disc 1

  • Alexander: The Ultimate Cut (HD, 207 minutes)
  • The Ultimate Cut Commentary by Oliver Stone – Oliver Stone makes no reference as to why he’s putting out yet another version of his film out on home video. He mentions a sense of pride and nagging at his side that he must do this in order to satisfy (as close as he can at this point) his original vision. It’s a very humbling commentary and it’s obvious that listening to Stone talk about the project he’s still a fan of the film.
  • Documentary The Real Alexander and the World He Made (HD, 29:45) – This is a brand new featurette that features interviews with several historians and Oliver Stone as they talk about Alexander the Great and all of his accomplishments.
  • Feature-Length Documentary by Sean Stone Fight Against Time: Oliver Stone’s Alexander (HD, 1:16:13) – An interesting documentary focusing on the trials and tribulations of what went into the behemoth that was Alexander. This is the complete documentary that runs all the way through that are spread out on disc 2 of this set. Oliver Stone’s son Sean directed this project. It’s about as grand an undertaking as the film itself and it highlights just about every facet of the colossal film.

Disc 2

  • Alexander: Theatrical Cut (HD, 175 minutes)
  • Theatrical Cut Commentary by Oliver Stone and Robin Lee Fox – Recorded ten years ago and sprinkled with hints of doubt Stone and Lee Fox (recorded separately) talk about the film and the man. Hindsight is 20/20, which is a neat thing to listen to Stone talk about the project and where his head was at ten years ago.
  • Go Behind the Scenes of Alexander with Sean Stone Via 3 DocumentariesResurrecting Alexander (SD, 26:41), Perfect Is the Enemy of Good (SD, 28:53), The Death of Alexander (SD, 31:16) – This is the original documentary that was shot by Sean Stone that appears on disc 1. It’s still fascinating to watch the sheer spectacle of the making of the film.
  • Vangelis Scores Alexander (SD, 4:31) – A very cool featurette with Vangelis talking about what went into scoring the film and it features him at work composing. I wish this were a longer featurette, though.
  • Teaser Trailer (SD, 1:55) – An early teaser trailer for the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:57) – The theatrical trailer for the film.

 

Alexander

Summary

Alexander has been getting ripped to shreds since it was released in theaters ten years ago. That’s a shame, because the film was never that bad and it was never that bad in all of the various cuts throughout the past ten years. It has now ended with this ultimate cut and I am thankful that it has seen the light of day. The technical specifications on this Blu-ray set are demo-worthy and the extras are more than satisfactory. The fact that we get the theatrical cut for the first time in high definition is a treat unto itself. If you’re an Oliver Stone fan in general then this is a no-brainer. If you’re at all curious about the historical figure and of Stone’s interpretation then this should be right up your alley. Give it a shot. It’s a little early to say but Alexander: The Ultimate Cut may just make it onto my list of the best Blu-rays of 2014. We’ll see what happens.

 

Order Alexander: The Ultimate Cut on Blu-ray!

Alexander

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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