I watched this movie for the first time in 30 years the other day. I loved it when I was a kid. I had forgotten how amazing the whole battle on the ice sequence really was. It also struck me 30 years later how bloodless the whole battle sequence is. I love the menacing quality of the Teutonic Knights and their soldiers in this movie, even if they are my very distant ancestors. Prokoviev's spoof of Western liturgical music is brilliant.
Yes, it's operatic as all get out, and the militant Russian nationalism is more than can be borne, but that Prokofiev score has to be one of the best film scores of all time.
This movie was made in 1938, and was released just in time for the Brest-Litovsk Treaty; that brief honeymoon of homicidal tyrants over doomed Poland. The movie was immediately pulled from theaters. It was re-released with full propaganda fanfare in 1941 after the German invasion.
What would Marx (or Lenin for that matter) have thought of this naked appeal to "Holy Russia" and old time Russian nationalism by a regime that was supposed to be trans-national in its ideology? How remarkable that Eisenstein, a true believing Communist, could have so brilliantly managed that ideological transition!
Another thing I notice in gay old Eisenstein's movies is his pronounced taste for blonde young men with sky high cheekbones. They're everywhere in his movies from "Potemkin" to "Ivan the Terrible." Perhaps that taste played a role in his decision to cast Nicolai Cherkasov in the title roles of both "Alexander Nevsky" and "Ivan the Terrible."