Alexander the Great has captivated imaginations for millennia—the Macedonian ruler who conquered the mighty Persian Empire and took his army all the way to India, dying at just 32 years old. His life seems tailor-made for thrilling historical drama. So hopes were high for Alexander: The Making of a God, a new six-part docudrama series from director Hugh Ballantyne. With a combination of talking-head historian interviews and extensive battle reenactments, the show aims to chronicle Alexander’s meteoric rise to power.
The series starts strong, with a commanding lead performance from Buck Braithwaite as the storied conqueror. Backed by a solid supporting cast, the early episodes capture Alexander’s exile and tense homecoming to Macedonia after his father’s assassination. But as the series barrels through major events in fast-forward, the disjointed interview format fails to weave the disparate strands into a cohesive narrative. Important characters vanish for episodes on end, timelines blur, and dramatic license leaves some scenes feeling more fancy dress party than gritty antiquity.
For all its polished production values, The Making of a God lacks the continuity and depth of character to make Alexander’s legend stir hearts as it should. The show’s split personality smothers the power of both educational documentary and thrilling historical reenactment. Rather than an epic rise to godlike status, we get the Wikipedia version—just enough to pass the quiz on Monday. Alexander deserves better.
Leading the Charge
While the series as a whole may struggle to find its footing, lead actor Buck Braithwaite storms through the battlefield in fine form as Alexander. With chiseled features and piercing eyes, Braithwaite has both the physical presence and force of personality to capture Alexander’s magnetism as a leader of men. One believes him when he rouses his soldiers with speeches about divine destiny before leading the cavalry charge into the stunned Persians’ phalanx. Braithwaite’s Alexander brims with charismatic self-assurance, his ambition and hunger for conquest having been nurtured from birth by his cunning mother Olympias (Kosha Engler).
Braithwaite receives stalwart support from Will Stevens’ Hephaestion and Dino Kelly’s Ptolemy as Alexander’s trusted generals and closest confidants. Together, the three share an easy camaraderie, grounded in years of battlefield reliance. Their dynamic brings welcome moments of humanity amidst the endless clanging swords and spraying blood. On the Persian side, Mido Hamada is a sympathetic presence as King Darius, inspiring loyalty even as the odds turn increasingly bleak. professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones shines in interview segments with his sheer enthusiasm for the period details.
Visually, the series delivers on its blockbuster budget with sweeping desert vistas and a painstaking recreation of 4th-century BCE Babylon. Gorgeous costumes abound, patterned leather armor glinting alongside golden breastplates and ornate royal dress. Individual scenes have an undeniable wow factor: Alexander taming the wild horse Bucephalus; the Macedonians vs Persians showdown at the Granicus river. But the sum lacks the continuity of a compelling historical arc—less Lawrence of Arabia epic, more Instagram travel reel highlights package. For all the work that went into surface polish, the soul of Alexander’s story gets lost somewhere in the sandstorms.
Missing the Mark
For all the series’ visual razzle-dazzle, many key moments end up falling flat. The fragmented interview format means that forward narrative momentum keeps getting stalled out. As historians pause to explain Alexander’s significance, the dramatic recreations lose continuity, making it hard to connect to the characters on an emotional level.
Subplots feel truncated as battles and marches leapfrog across years and vast distances. Alexander’s lifelong bonds with companions like Ptolemy and Hephaestion are referenced, then dropped. Blink and you’ll miss it when Barsine goes from cursing Alexander’s name to praying for his safe return in the space of a minute. Even main story arcs feel rushed—Philip’s assassination arrivals abruptly as a half-baked conspiracy, the knot-cutting scene in Gordium is over before it registers as anything special.
Instead of highlighting climactic moments, the series skims the surface. The grit and gore of ancient warfare is glossed over in easily palatable CGI clashes and bloodless deaths. Persian royalty and hardened soldiers alike die pretty, with nary a indiciation of their anguish or suffering. The long desert treks barely break a sweat. And don’t expect any substantive exploration of sexuality, politics, or the other intricacies behind Alexander’s relationships; people kiss, fall in love and marry as suddenly as a Disney fairy tale.
In trying to serve double duty as both gripping historical drama and educational documentary, Alexander: The Making of God ends up failing on both counts. The constant cuts away from dramatic momentum leave the behind-the-scenes tales from historians feeling disconnected and lacking in relevance. Meanwhile, the 3rd-century world of golden breastplates and gods whispering prophecies lacks enough substance to feel like real historical immersion. Somewhere between lusty entertainment and academic discourse lies missed opportunity waiting to be seized by visionary filmmakers. But this series only manages a tepid march between worlds.
Alexander: The Making of a God follows in the footsteps of recent hybrid docudramas like PBS’s Queen Cleopatra and the History Channel’s The Dark Ages. Like those series, director Hugh Ballantyne employs a mix of talking-head historians and lavish dramatic reenactments to chronicle the life of yet another larger-than-life figure. And unfortunately, this latest effort demonstrates the consistent pitfalls of trying to serve these twin masters. Dramatic flair loses out to educational context, while academic discourse feels undercut by superficial battle scenes riddled with historical inaccuracies.
In essence, the entertainment gives way to education, then back again, leaving neither satisfied. As historians describe Alexander’s significance, the dramatic portrayals are reduced to one-dimensional puppets hitting expected story beats. We get the crucial events—Gordium, Issus, Gaugamela— but bereft of depth, tension or clear character motivation. Likewise, the experts pontificate about sexuality, politics, divinity—but their words feel disconnected from the on-screen tableaux. And don’t expect much illumination from those cut-rate CGI elephants anyway.
Somewhere beneath the academic platitudes and cinematic smoke-and-mirrors lies the beating heart that could bring Alexander the Great to vivid life for a modern audience. His relationships, ambitions, fateful decisions—the raw humanity behind the mythic god figure. But this remains untapped. Buck Braithwaite himself can’t overcome the shallow writing to deliver more than a statuesque, solemn conquerer bemused by the tangled threads of his own destiny.
In the end, we’re left with neither thrilling action epic nor cogent character study. Movies like Oliver Stone’s bombastic Alexander may take greater historical liberties, but at least embrace wholehearted commitment to grand spectacle and fateful drama. Here we have neither truth nor explosive entertainment. Mediocrity stalks the middle ground.
A Conqueror Unvanquished
For all its pomp and promise, Alexander: The Making of God fails to capture the greatness of Alexander’s legend. A commanding lead performance from Buck Braithwaite hints at what might have been. And glimpses of sweeping desert vistas, clashing armies, and royal pageantry shine amidst the muddled storytelling. But neither thrilling historical reenactment nor insightful expert commentary comes together in a cohesive package. The abrupt transitions and narrative gaps leave a disjointed viewing experience bereft of connection to Alexander as a complex, flesh-and-blood figure.
Rather than this dull hybrid, Alexander’s mythic saga calls out for the bold, singular vision of an old Hollywood epic or modern dramatic interpretation. Embrace history with romantic fervor like Stone, dive into relationships and rivalries, fully engage the contradictions of a man who thought himself a god. Don’t hold back! Alexander certainly didn’t. True understanding comes not from checking boxes, but through full-blooded commitment one way or the other. Facts, yes, but thrillingly so!
For now, the heart of history’s most storied conqueror remains untamed by the screen’s scrutiny. Alexander’s extraordinary adventures may be dimmed by flat recounting, but cannot be denied. Perhaps someday his transcendent life will serve as muse for a worthy cinematic tribute. But this dutiful halfway hybrid falls short. The legend remains waiting, unconquered.
Alexander: The Making of a God
Alexander the Great continues to elude definitive screen dramatization, his sprawling legend ill-served by this disjointed hybrid's split personality and superficial snapshots. The failure to commit to either scholarly discourse or full-blooded epic leaves his mythic story diminished—an unfulfilled promise.
- Strong lead performance from Buck Braithwaite
- Solid supporting cast
- Sweeping visual recreation of ancient world
- Decent production values and costumes
- Disjointed narrative format
- Superficial treatment of relationships and drama
- Key moments lack depth, tension, continuity
- Failed fusion of documentary and drama