Alexander — the Life, the Book, the Film

Next week a friend will be coming back from Baghdad and we’ve agreed to go and see Oliver Stone’s new movie about Alexander. I’m looking forward to the experience, despite the awful reviews the film’s been getting.

The best bad review is undoubtedly Stephen Hunter’s quite insightful critique in the Washington Post. [Requires simple registration.] Hunter’s not merely a fine film critic; he’s a very sharp student of history and politics. Here’s a sample from the review:

“The movie lacks any convincing ideas about Alexander. Stone advances but one, the notion that Alexander was an early multiculturalist, who wanted to “unify” the globe. He seems not to recognize this as a standard agitprop of the totalitarian mind-set, always repulsive, but more so here in a movie that glosses over the boy-king’s frequent massacres. Conquerors always want “unity,” Stalin a unity of Russia without kulaks, Hitler a Europe without Jews, Mao a China without deviationists and wreckers. All of these boys loved to wax lyrical about unity while they were breaking human eggs in the millions, and so it was with Alexander, who wanted world unity without Persians, Egyptians, Sumerians, Turks and Indians.”

In the meantime, I’m reading Guy MacLean Rogers’ new book Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness, which is enjoyable and interesting so far. I’m not that far into the book, so I can’t say much about it yet. I bought it on an impulse at the San Francisco Airport, where I noticed that several books have come out timed to the Oliver Stone film, including another interesting looking one that was next to Rogers’, Paul Cartledge’s Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past, which I’ve ordered to read later.