Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Alexander Vs. 300

I sent my film-maker son Victor Davis Hanson's review of 300. Hanson praises 300, and the earlier Rome in passing, pithily describing why. Though Hanson is an historian of the era, it was not only because of historical inaccuracy that he disliked Alexander. But I think Ben's reply really gets to the heart of the matter.
Alexander gave us an Irishman in a blond wig with an Oedipus complex and a homosexual bent, instead of what we really wanted: extreme slow-motion decapitations.


Angevin13 said...

Often, historical films are a double-edged sword. Take, for instance, "Gladiator." The historical errors began almost immediately. A few include: there was no great battle against the Germanic tribes on the eve of Marcus Aurelius's death; the Colosseum was not referred to as such, but rather was the "Flavian Amphitheatre"; the reign of Commodus is severely abridged; and Commodus was killed not by a gladiator, but by a wrestler named Narcissus. But despite its inaccuracies, "Gladiator" helped reinvigorate popular interest in the Ancient World among the lay public as film artists and writers have been far more successful at this than professional historians.

That's a good thing, except when it leads to the making of films like "Troy" and "Alexander." "Alexander" was one of the worst films I've ever seen, from the casting of Colin Farrel as Alexander, to Angelina Jolie's comically Dracula-esque accent and approach to her failing marriage the way a late 20th century woman would, to Oliver Stone's overblown homoerotic overtones. It's hard to go wrong portraying the life of Alexander the Great, one of the most fascinating and powerful stories ever. It's almost impressive, the terrible job Stone did.

"Gladiator's" deficiencies, in my opinion, are excusable, as are the liberties taken in one of the greatest films of all time: "Braveheart." It is one of two historical films which the use of modern English did not bother me or take away from my appreciation for the contemporary time period. The other is "The Lion in Winter." It's no coincidence that both are superb as films in their own right, not simply as works of history.

Ben Wyman said...

Gladiator and Braveheart also feature slo-mo violence, as well as the other great historical-movie standby: the hero yelling motivating things at large crowds. The granddaddy of these, of course, is Shakespeare's take on the St. Crispin's Day speech in Henry V.

Angevin13 said...


Of course, the great speeches given in Gladiator, Braveheart, and even Shakespeare's Henry V are anacronistic. Not that ancient and medieval commanders didn't deliver speeches to their troops on the eve of battle, just didn't do it the way the movies show it.

Doesn't mean their not great, though.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Gladiator also at least strongly imply that the Republic was restored after Commodus was killed?

Angevin13 said...

I can't remember, but I know that in the M. Aurelius gets his history of Rome wrong when he says it was founded as a republic.