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In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great
In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great
Actor: Michael Wood
Director: David Wallace
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2004     4hr 0min

British filmmaker Michael Wood embarks on an idiosyncratic journey of 20,000 miles tracing the expedition of Alexander the Great in this captivating documentary. Relying on the words of Greek and Roman historians, Wood so...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Michael Wood
Director: David Wallace
Creators: Michael Wood, Peter Harvey, Robin Parsons, Laurence Rees, Leo Eaton, Rebecca Dobbs, Homer, Plutarch
Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: Pbs Paramount
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 10/26/2004
Original Release Date: 05/04/1998
Theatrical Release Date: 05/04/1998
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 4hr 0min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Now *that's* a documentary!
Scott Chamberlain | Minneapolis, MN United States | 10/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"While in grad school studying history (not ancient history, by the way) I got this and watched it with one of my fellow historians and his wife. We started off thinking: "Hm, this is quite a good documentary." We ended up thinking: "Dang! This is the best documentary ever!" Three things tip the scales on this one. First, the subject is inherently interesting. Whether you lean to the right or left, whether you are a tradtionalist or a revisionist at heart, you will find Alexander a fascinating character, and his bid to conquer the world harrowing, gripping, terrible, and awe-inspiring at same time. Second, the film is a good one, good pacing, wonderful footage, and all kinds of interesting people telling their stories. But what really makes this one special is Wood's incredible, insanely idiotic mania to reconstruct Alexander's journey. My God! Surveying battle sites from AWACS flying combat missions over Iraq? Fleeing Kabul ahead of the Taliban? Schmoozing with random warlords in Afganistan? Bandit raids in the Hindu Kush? It just keeps getting more and more bizarre! You will be swept along with this one... and the current troubles in this part of the world make it particularly interesting."
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 11/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Around 300 BC, Alexander The Great had conquered the known world. He was only 32. It is said that he got a fever and died when he realized there were no worlds left to conquer.

At this writing, Oliver Stone's soon to open epic "Alexander" is getting a lot of attention, so it's inevitable that similar themed digital editions will ride the publicity wave.

The four hour armchair adventure IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ALEXANDER (Paramount) is among the very best of all TV documentaries.

Enthusiastic, knowledgable and affable Oxford scholar Michael Wood retraces -- for the first time -- the 16 country war path of Alexander from Macedonia to India. Citing excerpts from ancient Greek and Roman historians, Woods literally treks, rides, swims and sails in Alexander's footsteps. Passing through at least four war zones, Wood observes that these regions remain "on the fault lines of history." No kidding. Along the way, Wood encounters local story tellers who perform ancient recitations that keep Alexander's story alive and current. For instance, in Iran there's still resentment of Alexander as conqueror of the Persian empire.

This exciting, engrossing documentary is loaded with numerous incidents rich in irony that puts in clearer perspective not only the world of Alexander (300 BC) but our modern, fractured world. Highest recommendation.

If Only More Film makers could tell stories like this!
Pete Goetz | APO, AE USA | 02/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I ordered this DVD, along with two books, because I wished to learn more about Alexander the Great as a historical figure. This was after having endured the recently released film disaster of the same name by Oliver Stone. Having earlier watched another of Michael Wood's documentaries, the delightful "The Conquistadores", I was willing to gamble on Mr. Wood's skills as a storyteller a second time. My gamble paid off.

As a trained historian and history teacher, I was again impressed by Mr. Wood's attention to detail and accuracy. Not once in four hours of viewing, could I jump out of my seat, play the pedant, and shout "Ah Ha!, he is wrong on this point!"

And the cinematography! I was as riveted by the beauty of the landscapes as I was the engaging and often humorous commentary of the host. "In the Footsteps.." deserves kudos for presenting the often desolate parts of the world its subject experienced as haunting and beautiful in their own right.

Wood's supreme gift, however, is his ability to tell a riveting story. And to tell it in such a warm and affable way as to convey the impression he was sharing it with me personally. It was together we traveled the Hindu Kush, tramped through the snow capped mountains of Macedonia, and sat huddled with tea drinking Iranians, listening to the tales of "Sikandur", the horned one. Mr. Wood's intention is not to persuade, but instead to educate and stimulate debate. My only regret is that the series was not longer. Whatever happened to the fruits of Alexander's labors and the labors of his men? Sadly, Mr. Wood leaves this tale for another to tell.

Alexander the Great, Iskandar and other versions of the tale
Phillip Kay | Sydney | 10/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is a superb presentation which has, nevertheless, some flaws. Segment one, which tells the story of Alexander's youth and the launch of the great expedition, gives due credit to Alexander's father, Philip II, as strategist and politician, but fails to mention that Philip planned the expedition to conquer Persia, raised an army and its supply lines and had a route mapped out. He was murdered just before he was due to leave Macedonia. Alexander was able to move so quickly because the work had been already prepared by Philip. Wood gives the impression that Persia was Alexander's idea. Wood also fails to emphasise enough Alexander's rivalry with Philip. A brilliant and commanding personality, Alexander spent his youth being eclipsed by his father's achievements, and it made him furious to excel Philip. This rivalry was cultivated by his mother Olympias, who had been set aside by Philip and would not accept it. The murder of Philip was most likely organised by Olympias, with Alexander's connivance.

Segment two, which deals with the conquest of Darius, fails to mention that Darius was an usurper who did not command the allegiance of his nobles and their forces. To be exact, an ambitious eunuch removed the legitimate heir and used Darius, who was of the royal house and of an impressive appearance, as a pawn through whom he could rule the empire. This was not accepted by the nobles, and if Alexander had not come it is likely the empire would have broken up in civil wars unless another Darius the Great had emerged. This explains why the Persian army was so ineffective, with whole divisions not engaging or deserting during combat. Alexander was fighting an already beaten enemy. These two instances lessen Alexander's achievement but make it much more understandable.

Segments three and four, on the circuit of the empire and arrival at India, return and death, are more of a travelogue, recounting surviving folklore in a leisurely way while reflecting on the possible collapse of Alexander's character through excess. It gave me the feeling that Wood was running out of steam, filling up his allotted time with lesser material.

On the positive side Wood illuminates Alexander's deeds and character by experiencing the same terrain as Alexander did, and in some instances sheds light on Alexander's actions. Wood is, as always, scholarly, and engaging, prompting audience involvement.

As a whole the documentary reinforces the myth, while highlighting aspects of it unknown to western audiences. It's a populist, and amazing, travelogue. For some reason Wood refers to Hercules (the Roman god) throughout, not Herakles (the Greek god). Alexander? A spoiled boy with a megalomania fostered by his unscrupulous mother, he was able to steal the achievements of Philip, a military and political genius of the calibre of Julius Caesar, by murdering him. Then, fortuitously, he was able to take the Persian Empire away from an usurper who could not have held it. He is famous because he was a prime example for Christian moralists of the futility of human ambition by having conquered the world and then dying at 32."