Production Cost: $95 million
Worldwide Gross: $22 million
Subsequent Earnings: $2 million
Remember the Alamo (the movie I mean)? No? Yeah, I almost didn’t either. The movie started with potential. Originally, the movie was supposed to be directed by Ron Howard, produced by Brian Grazer, and starring Russell Crowe, Ethan Hawke, and Billy Bob Thorton. The deal fell through when Howard asked for an unbelievable $200 million to make the movie. Disney said “Hell no!” and everybody but Thorton walked. Disney then hired John Lee Hancock. Who is John Lee Hancock? No one, that’s who. I had to check IMDb to see what (if anything) the guy had done. His only big movie is The Rookie. Well, now that I know that, he’s the perfect person to direct our $100 million dollar historical epic.
The movie was supposed to be more historically accurate than the 1960 John Wayne film, featuring a balanced look at both the Mexican and Texan sides of the conflict. It was shot near Austin on the largest outdoor set ever. Even though this was his first big effort, Hancock actually finished the film under budget. Well he only finished $82,000 below budget, but hey, I’m trying to come up with anything good about this. The film opened with a whimper with so-so reviews. It didn’t help that the film opened next to the box office juggernaut The Passion of the Christ. The movie got even less attention on DVD.
Is it any good? It’s mediocre. I cannot testify as to whether it’s historically accurate or not. It might be, I don’t know. The movie just never strives for anything great. They lost Howard and who did they get? John Lee Hancock. They lost Russell Crowe and who did they get? Dennis Quaid. Now I’m not saying the movie would have been better with a $200 million dollar budget. Far from it. In fact, I think there is no way the movie could have ever made that much money. But for a movie of this scope and budget, you need a more experienced hand directing, you need someone who will draw people to the theater, and you need a tighter script. The movie has its moments and Billy Bob Thorton gives a great performance, but it never really interested me.
It’s strange. I’ve seen this movie three times now and each time I kind of have the same thought process all the way through. Coming in I’m depressed because I think it’ll suck and it will be an epic time waster. Roughly two hours later I’m like “Meh, that was alright.”
There are some that I like a good deal in this movie. I could even go as to say this movie is good. But every time it tries for great, something drags the movie closer to mediocrity. For example, I love Billy Bob Thorton’s performance as Davy Crockett and think the character is well written. Much of what he’s about can be told in a quote he gives one night at the Alamo “If it was just me, simple old David from Tennessee, I might drop over that wall some night, take my chances. But that Davy Crockett feller… they’re all watchin’ him. “ Thorton plays Crockett as a world weary traveler. At heart he is a good old boy who would rather retire into anonymity, but his legend seems to precede him everywhere. He really doesn’t want to play the hero role, but knows he has an obligation to everyone around him. It is a wonderfully written role and I liked every scene he was in.
The problem is every other role in this movie. You have several other famous historical figures involved with the Alamo but none seem to be as richly developed as Crockett. James Bowie (Jason Patrick) doesn’t really have anything as he spends the whole movie in bed with consumption and Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) just sits around grumbling that he wishes he could save them brave boys at the Alamo and whatnot. The person we actually follow as main character is William Travis (Patrick Wilson) and he is the blandest character of them all. His arc is that he has no experience and is forced into the leadership role by coming to the Alamo. Wilson doesn’t have much personality compared to Patrick and Thorton and the script doesn’t give him anything to really work with.
The action is good in this movie when we get to it. The final battle at the Alamo is shot very well with some great shots (like a full overhead shot where the army is converging on all sides). The problem is the story is a bit sluggish in the beginning. You really notice the slow start when they have to drastically rush the ending of the movie. You see, after the fall of the Alamo we get Houston defeating Santa Anna in his own version of Waterloo. But like I said, it is so rushed, it is like they literally remembered they had to shoot an ending for the movie at the last second. This is the cinematic equivalent of “Then the Alamo fell yada yada yada Santa Anna lost to Sam Houston.” The script needed a few more rewrites to make it all tight and flow perfectly.
Overall, I do like this movie. There are enough pluses to this movie that I don’t think you would be disappointed if you rented it. Would I necessarily recommend you get it? Ehhhhhhhh probably not. If you are interested then by all means, but don’t go out of your way for it. It’s good, but it could have been really great if they spent more time with the script.