DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great
In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // May 25, 2010
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Casey Burchby | posted June 14, 2010 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly

Michael Wood is his own worst enemy. His 1998 BBC documentary, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great displays the best aspects of the English approach to historical investigation: tenacity, insight, a deep level of commitment to subject matter, and a sweeping perspective that allows information to fall into place while maintaining a broader context. Shot across the globe in adventuresome locales and brimming with regional color, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great is a remarkable and entertaining documentary mini-series with one self-defeating drawback: its presenter. Aiming for an infectious enthusiasm that no doubt has its origins in genuine feeling, Wood nonetheless overshoots the mark, coming off as a hyperactive poseur whose desire to excite is consistently undercut by his dorky attempts at bravado and a predilection for overstated dramatic gestures. Not content to rely on the truly engaging material in his hands, Wood thrusts it in our faces with the thuggish insistence of an overeager showman. Had he relied more confidently on the material itself, and avoided the added "personality," the result would have been much more enjoyable.

Wood's project here - and it is an impressive one - is to physically retrace the route of Alexander the Great's ongoing campaign to conquer the known world, a journey that originally took place more than two millennia ago. Wood's camera crew ably captures the visual splendor of these locales, which range from Greece to Afghanistan, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the mountains of the Himalayas. It's certainly a picturesque journey, and Wood's narrative approach is to juxtapose what Alexander experienced and achieved with the modern ways of the peoples he conquered so long ago. In many cases, Alexander's legacy is alive and visible among the cultures he swept through, especially in parts of the Middle East, a reminder that some places on Earth remain largely untouched by the engines of progress - a true anthropological marvel that was once the dream of imperial Britain, a power that yearned to conquer and "enlighten" such people (see Victorian-era English literature, from Haggard to Kipling.) Wood's more empathic and curious attitude is in no way reminiscent of his own cultural ancestors', except in his desire to document what fascinates him.

And fascinating this documentary is, as it covers a vast conceptual landscape that embraces geography, anthropology, archaeology, and history. When Wood is on-camera, however, the proceedings falter. The writer-presenter's energy is forced, unnecessary, and distracting. Fortunately, he does not hog the camera, and the exotic locations are often allowed to visually speak for themselves; fortunately, Wood's off-camera narration does not suffer from the same overbearing quality as his on-camera persona, and his input in this context is extremely informative.

The DVD

Image
The full-screen video image dates from 1998 and so is presented in its original aspect ratio. Colors pop and contrast is strong. Occasional evidence of the image's video origins are visible, but are not terribly ugly.

Sound
The stereo soundtrack is capable and clear. Well-mixed and favoring dialogue and narration, there are enough ambient sounds to help the film's far-flung locations come alive.

Bonus Content
There are a couple of very good bonus features that add some real value to the four-hour documentary itself. First, an Interview with Michael Wood (35:44) finds the presenter to be a bit more contained and relaxed than he appears in the documentary. Wood provides a nice overview of Alexander and the appeal of his story, as well as a rationale for the documentary project. Next up is the bonus program Alexander's Greatest Battle (48:01), a new (2009) documentary that compares Alexander's conquest of the Persian empire with the contemporary invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US and its allies. It's an engaging piece that lends an interesting contemporary political cast to Wood's historical inquiry.

Final Thoughts

Luckily enough for them, most people are less easily irritated than I am, and hopefully Michael Wood's hyperactive and self-aware antics won't detract from their enjoyment of his otherwise fine documentary. An incisive historical journey, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great is well worth seeing in any case. Recommended.

Casey Burchby lives in Northern California: Twitter, Tumblr.

Popular Reviews
1. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Turkey Day Collection
2. The Bubble aka Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth (3-D)
3. Batman The Complete TV Series Limited Edition Blu-ray
4. Seven Wonders of the World
5. Drunk History Seasons 1 and 2
6. Daniel Boone - The Complete Series: The Fiftieth Anniversary
7. The Killer Elite (1975)
8. Sam Whiskey
9. Mister Ed: The Complete Series
10. Lord Of Illusions


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use