"Alexander the Great" not surprisingly attempts to portray the life of Alexander the Great. On the surface it seems as though it should be excellent considering that the cast is led by two prolific actors, Richard Burton and Fredric March as Alexander and his father Philip respectively. The film also features elegant costumes and lavish sets laden with depictions of ancient art and architecture. However, all of these attributes disappointingly don't prevent the film from being extremely tedious.
The film starts with Alexander's earlier life in Macedon and is mostly focused on portraying antagonisms between Alexander and Philip and the relationship of Alexander's mother to both. Richard Burton and Fredric March have some fine moments, but for the most part their dialogue is uninteresting, which makes the film mostly dull since most of the scenes in the film show lengthy discourses. There are jokes added as well that are often followed by a number laughing, but the humor is mostly stale. There is one amusing point where Philip suggests that Alexander should wait until he is dead before naming a city after himself, but this represents an exception rather than the norm. Barry Jones did give an enjoyable performance as Aristotle, although he is only a marginal element in the film.
During this first phase of the film the Battle of Chaeronea of is also portrayed, where forces led by Philip and Alexander defeated a combined Athenian and Theban force in order to unite Greece under Macedonian rule. The battle, despite having an array of extras in it, is handled clumsily. It starts with brief shots of infantry and cavalry crossing a stream and then fighting out of formation. Then the focused is placed on Philip fighting one-on-one and Alexander charging in after him. This portrayal seems to bear little to no resemblance to the actual battle of history, is short in duration and not particularly exciting.
Shortly after half way through the film, Philip dies and the film moves to a portrayal of Alexander's military exploits in Persia. It is in this stage we are introduced to Memnon, a Greek fighting with the Persians. Peter Cushing gives a strong performance as Memnon armed with sharp lines, making his the top performance of the film though the character is seen in relatively few scenes. Harry Andrews is also notable as the Persian emperor Darius, though Darius is never made particularly interesting in the context of an opponent to Alexander. However, the scene representing the correspondence between Darius and Alexander showing the "clash of egos" was well-done.
Most of this phase of the film is a rotation between short battle scenes and more mostly dull dialogue with some rare decent scenes. The Battle of the Granicus is shown basically as a brief cavalry charge. The treatment of Granicus is better than the treatment of Chaeronea, but not much better. There is another final battle between Alexander and Darius, presumably intended to represent the Battle of Gaugamela. The battle starts with a Perisan chariot charge and seems as though it will be interesting, but it quickly culminates in a brief uninteresting cavalry charge as well. The main problem with these battle scenes is that they fail to give a sense of Alexander's military genius. It seems as though he just accumulated territory through a series of brief heroic cavalry charges and the film never represents the tactics used in any of the battles. These are also a series of brief and unnecessary battle clips overlapped by a map of Persia to represent the conquests not shown in "fuller" battles. After Alexander's conquests, the film ends poorly with an uninteresting "harmony and unity" speech from Alexander for Greeks and Persians. "Alexander the Great" is a colossal bore, and I strongly recommend avoiding it.