movie trailer (apple.com - quicktime)
NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Esther who says... "Oliver Stone's effort in Alexander is indeed apparent in its accurate portrayal of Alexander the Great, the sole leader/king in history who's ever been closest to conquering the whole world.."
The show opens with an old man, Ptolemy, played by Anthony Hopkins, who stands at the balcony of his Greek Renaissance mansion dictating a story to his servants, who are armed with papyrus and quills trying vainly to capture every word from Ptolemy. Ptolemy begins to tell of his admiration for Alexander, his achievements, as the screen begins to move to paintings/murals depicting Alexander in warrior glory.
Ptolemy (overheard) tells the story of how Alexander started, as we see Olympias, Alexander's mom, played by the tres jolie Angelina Jolie, in their bedroom at night. She brings a small snake to Alexander (then only a young child), and tells him to take the snake and not be afraid, for if you show fear, it will bite you. She also teaches him some (odd) life lessons, such as that you can be very close to someone and nurture them for years, but in the end, they will turn around and betray you. Mother and son are having some time alone when suddenly, outside the bedroom, noises and disruptances are heard. We see Olympias tell Alexander to be quiet (remain on the bed) as she crosses over to open the door to see what's going on. Suddenly, King Phillip, played by Val Kilmer, appears, and savagely seizes and kisses Olympias. Phillip is sort of a barbarian with wild hair, unshaven face, only 1 eye, and wears the skin of animals. Olympias struggles roughly, which leads to what looks like the beginning of a vicious rape scene, all being witnessed by the young 6-year-old Alexander. He watches in fear as his parents fight it out, and suddenly, servants rush in and break the fight and grab Alexander away. It ends with Olympias shouting in revenge at Phillip that Alexander is not his son and that she bred him with all her hatred in her womb.
The scene shifts and it's 6 years later. We see many 12-year old boys during arm-on-arm combat with each other, guided by an old man who is Aristotle. We see Alexander toughing it out with another boy, and loses to him. Aristotle gives Alexander a lesson, and the other boy, who is Alexander's best friend Hephastion, asks Alexander if Alexander would like him (Hephastion) to lose to him. Alexander replies no, and that one day, he will win Hephastion. Later, Phillip takes Alexander to an underground cave where Father and son share a precious rare moment together. Alexander learns of all the great Greeks before him who did great things but suffered a great deal as leaders. At this point, Phillip is vulnerable as he recalls how he struggled with kingship and what he had to deal with to get by. During this tender moment, father and son bond. Phillip is all too aware that Alexander might be too close to Olympias for any good to come out of it, as it was said that Olympias could have been a soceress who carried out Dionysian practices. It is also further mentioned that Olympias believes that the father of Alexander is Zeus (god of the gods) rather than Phillip.
Again, it is 6 years later, and we see Colin Farrell as Alexander. He is in a room with Olympias, who is looking older than before. She is telling him that his life is not his own and sometimes, he has to do certain things like marry a woman for the sake of himself, to get an heir so that Phillip will name Alexander as his successor, because apparently, Phillip is a womanizer and his offsprings are far and plenty. Olympias wants for Alexander the throne, something which Alexander does not share, and he doesn't understand Olympias's hatred for Phillip. He, however, loves his mother and does his best to speak for his father in front of her. We see Phillip bringing home his latest wife, a Macedonian woman, who is pregnant with his child.
It is Phillip's wedding day and the Macedonian relatives and all are celebrating. (the Greeks and Macedonians are not equals, and the marriage has political significance and consequence). Phillip is on a high and he makes a speech, saying that his Macedonian relatives are now his equals. Alexander sees this and is enraged. He makes a loud comment, which upsets one of the Macedonian people. A scuffle ensues. To add insult to injury, his father commands him to apologize and greet his in-laws. Alexander refuses and the more, Phillip uses his aggressiveness on Alexander, who retaliates even further. The scene escalates to such a proportion where it results in Phillip publicly shaming Alexander as a bastard and that Olympias no more than a whore. Alexander leaves, very upset.
Next, we are told by Ptolemy that Phillip had been murdered and Alexander crowned as King. (We do not know how this happen, but there is a flashback scene later.) We see Alexander marching out to war, with Hephastion, his best friend by his side. During and throughout the show, the two share very very tender moments of affection and exchanges of words of love, leading us to the inevitable conclusion (and truth) that Alexander is a gay. Ptolemy shows a map of all of Alexander's conquests, leading us to the great battle of Persia.
Alexander and his team of generals/leaders discuss the strategy for the battle. We see the young Ptolemy then. Alexander explains his strategy, which apparently is a daring and bold one, since it's their 40,000 men against the 250,000 strong Persian army. Many in the team disagree of Alexander's optimism of victory, but later on, they decide to follow him. The battle was Persia was a long hard fought one, a graphic scene of blood which Alexander pursued with revenge as he believes that the person who paid the gold for his father's death was the Persian king. He revs up his army by remembering all their names and background and reminding them what they have to fight for: the glory of Greece. Alexander strategy works, and the Persian king is taken by surprise, and flees away. Alexander sets out in pursuit, but is stopped only by notice from a messenger that his other forces tackling the other part of the Persian army on the other side is being overrun and they need help quickly. After the battle, Alexander, though wounded himself, visits his wounded men, many of which had to be put down to death/sleep as they were too badly injured to survive. Alexander holds them through their last breath.
Alexander marches through and the Persian victory leads him to conquer the city of Babylon, a beautiful flourishing city. They enter the palace where they jest about where the Persian king might have escaped to, and they surmise that he might be hiding out in the mountains. As they stroll around the palace, they end up at the harem, where all the women are gathered. Later, the persian princess comes forward, prepared to be brave to make negotiations with Alexander on his treatment with them. To her surprise and gratefulness, Alexander treats her with utmost respect and tells all his men to accord decorum and respect to all his conquered subjects as if they were his own family. Olympias writes to Alexander, continuing to try to influence him with her ambitions and trying to get him to send for her to Babylon. Alexander is highly hesitant in this. Later on, Alexander announces to his team that he intends to marry an Asian/persian wife, which in his view, is key to bringing his message that he is a merciful ruler. His team disagree, many of which insist that he marry a Macedonian as his first wife in the very least. It leads to a big argument, where Alexander storms off. True to his word, there is a wedding, where Alexander marries this dark-haired-skinned dancer in one of the earlier performances he saw.
The wedding night scene: Alexander is waiting for his wife, when there is a knock on his door, and Hephastion stands there. It is clear that he has been crying and is highly emotional, barely holding it back. He gives alexander a lovely yellow-cat's-eye ring, saying he bought it from a man who said that the stone fell from the sun and the stars, and he bought it for alexander so that his life would always be bright. They embrace, with Hephastion clearly heartbroken that his bestfriend/lover is now married to a woman. In a whack of humor, Alexander's wife comes in and witnesses the tender embrace, to which her eyes narrow in suspicion and she accuses Alexander of "you love him???". Alexander tries to cover up and says that there's many different kinds of love. The wife refuses to listen and tries to run away, which ends up Alexander mimicking Phillip's brutalness with Olympias in the opening scene as he forces his wife up to the bedroom and ends up with both of them naked, clawing and slapping at each other's faces (didn't know whether to laugh or cry at this scene, but sort of a bondage porn movie if you ask me.). The scene imitates the bedroom scene in Troy where Helen of Troy attempts to assasinate Archilles but in the end, they end up making love. As Alexander leaves the bedroom, he says "Too bad your love is only but a reflection of my mother's", which the wife, who was pretending to be asleep, heard.
Alexander continues his march in Asia towards India, but as more victorious battles continued, his army dwindled and grew more disgruntled. Alexander finds it increasingly hard to pacify his soldiers, who are miles away from home and years since they've seen their family. To top it off, Alexander's wife failed to get pregnant, leading him to visit her tent even less. Alexander also gets increasingly frustrated, and hallucinates, causing him to make mistakes and become more a tyrant on a killing rampage (even towards non-agressive folk like the monkey people) than a merciful ruler. He also hallucinates often, and during one of these moments, his rashness causes him to kill one of his most loyal and faithful generals, who also served Phillip before Alexander.
There is then a flashback scene where it is finally revealed how Phillip was murdered. While on the parade after a victory in battle, Phillip is to take his place in front of his people in the theatre. Olympias arrives at the theatre decked in a red gown, and while superficially courteous to Phillip's latest wife and newborn son, her words are filled with sarcasm and hatred. Alexander arrives with Phillip, and is introduced to the man whom Alexander killed in the previous scene, though much younger. Phillip tells Alexander that if there is only one person to trust, that man is the man. Alexander wishes to accompany Phillip into the theatre for protection, but Phillip sees it as Alexander trying to show to the world that he is Phillip's successor, and possibly on the goading of Olympias. As such, Phillip commands and shoos Alexander away. While the announcement is being made, Phillip steps out from the tunnel into the theatre where he is greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd. Suddenly, one of his followers steps in front of him and kisses him, leaving Phillip shock and immobilized. The next moments happen quickly, as Phillip is fatally stabbed, and the crowd goes into chaos. Note that throughout this whole scene, Olympias sits majestically still on her chair just watching everything happening before her without an expression on her face. Alexander rushes forward to hold his father, and is distraught as Phillip dies gasping in his arms. Throughout the chaos, Alexander is suddenly declared King and the crown placed on his head. He appears still quite lost and dumbfounded, but Olympias smiles, indicating that she got her wish. Alexander suspects his mother's cruel hand in his father's death, and confronts her. In this scene of high passion, it ends with Alexander acceding to be King but ended up estranged from his mother and never saw her again.
There is this eagle that from the beginning of the show, is always present everytime Alexander begins his journey/battle, as if to guide him. However, towards the end, the eagle no longer appears. Alexander notices this and remarks on it. On a last battle scene, we are told that Alexander's current forces of 16,000 is much too little to fight the indian army. But Alexander insists. He tells them that if they desert him, they would not be remembered for their conquests but for the fact that they deserted their King in India. He tells them to stay with him for one more battle and then they can return, but the soldiers do not believe him as they are demoralised and have had enough. As such, they fought dismally and many died against the hands of the other army with their elephants and spears. Alexander, witnessing all these, charges forward in a moment of bravery. He is speared and in a haze of red, lies injured and awaiting death. His soldiers seeing this, is inflamed with the spirit of courage demonstrated by Alexander, and spurs on in their fight. By some magic, they win the battle, push back the defending forces and carry Alexander back to their base. We are not sure whether Alexander survives, but later on at the camp, he limps out, pale and sickly, but with enough strength to announce to his remaining army that they will now return home.
Enroute to Greece at Babylon, Alexander suddenly receives news that Hephastion is ill. He rushes to Hephastion's bedside, who is clearly on his last legs. Apparently, he's contracted typhus (an illness spread by unclean water) and is in feverish shiverings. The doctor can do nothing, and Alexander puts him to death in a fit of rage. He chases everyone out in his despair, as Hephastion tries to bravely assure him he is okay and will recover. Alexander suspects Hephastion was poisoned and suspects all around him. He takes a swipe from Hephastion's glass. As Alexander reminesces about the things he and Hephastion planned to do together, Hephastion dies. A loud howl is heard throughout the castle.
Later, we overhear Ptolemy tell us that 8 months later (similar to Archilles' after Patroclus's death) has also contracted typhus. All his team and people are around his bedside quibbling over who is Alexander's successor. Alexander is gasping, trying to say something but no one can hear nor understand. As Alexander is dying, he stares up at the ceiling which has this woven fan with an eagle motif. He holds the ring Hephastion gave him and reaches upward, as if trying to touch the eagle. He dies and the ring falls to the floor.
We return to present day to Ptolemy where we see that he is wearing Hephastion's ring. He tells us of how Alexander's death sparked off a series of events, which involved the murder of his wife, who finally gave birth to Alexander's son but both was murdered, how his empire was carved into 4, Olympias being murdered (she found out about Alexander's death when one day looking out of her window, she sees an eagle dropping a dead snake from its talons) and so on. As Ptolemy's servants continue to take down his words, Ptolemy suddenly changes his mind and tell his servants to scrap all that he just told them, and just write a short paragraph instead.