Sunday, August 28, 2005

Alexander vs Ladder 49

And on the storytelling stakes, Ladder 49 wins hands down. Oh dear.

It's horrible when you want to like a film, but then it gives you so many reasons to not to. That's the case with Stone's Alexander. We had it out on DVD last night and hoped we were in for a treat, but sadly not. The problem is mainly structural. A flashback within a flashback is never a good idea. And then not to follow the story in a chronological fashion. It jigged about, trying to directly link Alexander's later motivations with events occuring earlier, hence the weird chronology. Hello! Trust the audience to work it out for themselves! Give just enough pointers and they will work it out. It was over-complicated, and in fact over intellectualised. The result was a completely uninvolving movie. Some of the battle scenes were spectacular (liked the phalanx, and the horse & elephant rearing at each other!), but in the end, I'm interested in the people. Here, there was no intimacy, no warmth, just people playing their part. No problems with the actors, they did their best. The costumes and sets looked good and didn't jar (so not overtly incorrect, at any rate) Oh, and the music by Vangelis was poor, poor, poor - let's be kind and say he's past his best.

By contrast, Ladder 49 (which I've just watched) was a haven of good, clear storytelling. Again, flashback is used, but that's fine and not overdone. Much building of character and exploration of modern day firefighters' motivations. Literal (!) and metaphorical warmth. Uncomplicated storytelling. I enjoyed it and cared for the characters way more than I did in Alexander. The music was modest, appropriately narrative and did its job without due fuss - much like the film itself. Competent and solid. Bravo.

Given, Alexander is about an extraordinary man doing extraordinary things, whereas as Ladder 49 is about ordinary men doing extraordinary jobs. But Alexander is made too iconic, and he certainly did not live as human for me. And neither did any of the other characters. They were mythic and unreal, mostly due to the lack of real human emotions. People in the past were as human as us, honest guv!

Ladder 49 worked as hard as Alexander to create its frame, and walked out with the honours. It's a crying shame for the historical epic. To my mind, no film has yet topped Spartacus or spectacle and intimacy. And that was released in 1960, so is as old as I am. Of recent epics, Gladiator is by far the best (much to admire, if a fair amount to niggle, but I did enjoy it), with the truly brainless King Arthur getting my Big Fat Raspberry award (oh how I cringed, mostly because it's set in my period of interest).

Whine, whine, whine. Whinge, whinge, whinge.


At 10:38 am BST, Blogger Excalibor said...

Come on, Alex, it was *that* bad! With viewers used to filmwonders like Titanic or Pearl Harbor, how wouldn't you want to make such a history as Alexandros's easier? Even if it becomes confusing to more educated viewers?

As for Ladder 49, never watched it, no comments, looks interesting, though...

Finally, King Artorius was that bad, either... Come on, do you really think they'd do a historically accurate movie anyway? It was, at least, visually stunning, and the story, despite the obvious flaws, is pretty solid (if you forgive about History). Finally, they were all so cool, hot, and yum! Specially Keira... :-)

(Nice horses as well)

take care :-)


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