“All men reach and fall, reach and fall.”

So proclaims Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins), pharaoh of Egypt, lieutenant to Alexander the Great, and Alexander’s biographer in “Alexander.”

He could be talking about Oliver Stone. Oliver the Great has a great fall with this epic, a three-hour march notable for skipping much of the heroic and barbaric in Alexander to dwell on his bisexuality.

Not important, historians tell us. Sex was not what drove Alexander.

Stone has Alexander make out with a Persian eunuch. He fills the screen with meaningful stares and embraces between Alexander (Colin Farrell) and his lifelong friend, Hephaestion (Jared Leto), who plainly has a queer eye for the Great guy.

Stone ignores Alexander’s mysticism, his trips to various oracles, his famed solution to the Gordian Knot, his many early battles – the sack of Thebes, the Siege of Tyre, the burning of Persepolis. Stone was much more at home in the harem, even though his Alexander plainly wasn’t. Stone does everything but have Alexander and Hephaestion pick out china patterns.

In so doing, he robs us of the sort of thrilling film and Middle East allegory that was his aim. This is a “Lawrence of Arabia” where the gay subtext has become text. And the spread of Hellenism – with its notions of city civilization, democracy and freedom, the expansion of the West’s idea of the “known world,” paving the way for the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity – takes a back seat.

The film’s best scenes are in its stutter-start opening, as we meet the boy Alexander (Connor Paolo), who tames the untamable horse Bucephalas to impress his brutal but brave father, the one-eyed King Philip (Val Kilmer). The origins of the internal struggle that must have driven the future emperor are here. Who will hold sway – loutish Philip or his scheming mystic of a queen, Olympias?

As played by the perfectly cast Angelina Jolie, this Slavic-accented exotic is a Medusa, a snake-charmer who fills her boy with the idea that he is the son of Zeus himself, that his father will kill them both to make way for a new heir.

We leap forward to Gaugamela, the climactic battle in Alexander’s invasion of Persia. It is brilliantly staged, with a digitally-augmented sweep that suggest hundreds of thousands of men on foot, chariot and horseback creating a whirlwind of dust, blood and noise.

An Osama-lookalike King Darius (Raz Degan) confidently commands the vastly greater force – until his person is threatened by the brash, bloodstained Alexander, a leader who led from the front of the charge. It must have been just like this.

But that’s the highlight of “Alexander.” After that, it’s just two hours of harems, court intrigues, paranoia, mutiny, executions, a gruesome battle with Indians and elephants and a sado-masochistic marriage of convenience – Rosario Dawson is Roxanne, who gives as good as she gets in Alexander’s Greco-Roman wrestling idea of romance.

Stone fails to make the case that Ptolemy proclaims, that this was “an empire not of land and gold, but of the mind.” Though he hints at the strangeness of these unknown peoples and places, of Alexander’s curiosity and his ambitions for a New World Order, Stone undercuts any sense of what made thousands of Macedonians and Greeks follow him “to the ends of the Earth” in a decadelong march.

Alexander may have had an appreciation for the cultures he meets, conquers and then embraces, one cultivated by his teacher, Aristotle (Christopher Plummer). He may be inspiring to his men, giving Henry V-style speeches, leading his Companion Cavalry, wearing his wounds with pride. But Stone and his team of screenwriters paint an incomplete picture of the man and those he led.

What works is Stone’s casting of the Irishman Farrell, and surrounding his able leading man with guys who match his accent. The sense of a gang of gutsy, hard-drinking Irishmen running roughshod over modern-day Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan is both funny and apt. Macedonians were looked down on by their more civilized Greek cousins as borderline barbarians.

The allegory of a region that continues to attract and ensnare the West is under the surface much of the time. Only old Aristotle voices a word of warning: “The East has a way of swallowing men, and their dreams.”

But the allegory works best on Stone. He won the race to make an “Alexander” movie, scaring off Ridley Scott and Baz Luhrmann. He gambled an estimated $150 million on his vision, the latest “Oliver Stone version” of a piece of history.

He reached. And he fell.

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