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In 1935, Cecil B. DeMille made his famous epic "The Crusades" on one of
the back lots of Hollywood. What a change in the Ridley Scott film
"Kingdom of Heaven" of 2005 with the technical wizardry of a new era!
Although it is not a perfect film, it is nonetheless skillfully crafted
and well worth the time of any film-goer in our current, troubled age.
From the visual and technical standpoint, "Kingdom of Heaven" is masterful. The recreation of medieval France and the city of Jerusalem were tremendous technical achievements. The French landscape recalls the region around medieval Clermont and Vézelay where Pope Urban and Bernard of Clairvaux delivered their momentous calls to arms for the first two Crusades. And in the recreation of Jerusalem, the film artists truly drew us into the twelfth-century walled city with sacred roots in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Much credit should go to cinematographer John Mathieson, costume designer Janty Yates, and all of the film's art directors. The film's events spanned the era between the Second and Third Crusades, and the evocation of this epoch was simply spectacular.
In the genre of the epic film, the leading actor is crucial, as in the unforgettable performances of "Lawrence of Arabia" (Peter O'Toole), "Tess" (Nastassja Kinski), and "Bridge on the River Kwai" (Alec Guiness). One weakness of "Kingdom of Heaven" is leading performer Orlando Bloom. Although this young actor has fine screen presence, his performance was subdued and monochromatic. The Crusaders were driven by zeal, and Bloom's character Balian seems mired in melancholia following the death of his infant child and the subsequent suicide of his wife. Bloom's character does not even evolve much even after arriving in Jerusalem, he falls in love with the mysterious Sibylla. Neither courtly love nor the fires of faith could ignite much passion in Bloom. As Sibylla, Eva Green also seemed out of place in this film. A close historical prototype for her character was the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, who accompanied her husband King Louis on the Second Crusade, during which Eleanor allegedly had a torrid love affair with her uncle Raymond of Antioch. But Eva Green's character seemed closer to a young woman from the twenty-first century, as opposed to the twelfth.
Other performances were stronger, including those of Liam Neeson as Balian's father, Jeremy Irons as Tiberias, and Edward Norton as the King. Those actors really resembled medieval knights. Norton's characterization of a king struggling with leprosy and forced to wear a mask was one of the most sensitive character portraits since Ralph Fiennes' role as "The English Patient." Norton's characterization offers a glimpse into the softer side of the great medieval knights, such as the legendary Richard the Lionheart, a poet and troubadour, as well as a king. Ghassan Massoud also merits praise for his portrayal of Saladin as not only a brilliant general, but a figure of great dignity.
One of the themes of the excellent screenplay was that of honor. The actions of the main character of Balian were guided by honor. And the character of Saladin was portrayed as an individual of great moral rectitude. The Western cultural heritage of chivalry, courtly love, and honor filtered into Europe through Islamic traditions, which "Kingdom of Heaven" clearly acknowledges. There is a powerful sequence in the film where Saladin discovers a small Christian cross that has toppled over. He takes the time to pick up the fallen cross and set it aright. In a film filled with special effects and spectacular scenes of siege warfare, that moment of simplicity stands out as a brilliant cinematic moment.
I really enjoyed this movie. The way the movie started in Europe and
how dark it was there... and the journey to Jerusalem... just wonderful
stuff up to that point.
Liam Neeson, as usual, is just SO GOOD, you wish he had more screen time.
- Orlando Bloom, actually surprisingly, was able to carry the movie as a lead. I was surprised he had the heft to do it, but I agree with the critic who said that the beard helped. He was a man, not a boy.
- Battle scenes... incredible. I was really surprised that they could wow me, since we've been numbed by the quality of battle scenes in so many previous movies, but they did a great job.
- Portrayal of the Muslims. EXTREMELY fair. In being "even-handed" to Christians and Muslims there, if anything, they emphasized the Christian fanatics (in the form of the Templars in particular, to simplify things) as being the "badguys" more than anyone else... (which is historically accurate to some degree, in my understanding). I was surprised and pleased that they tried to be accurate, and didn't try to emphasize some "BAD MUSLIMS" to make it "even".
- Movie is very secular in it's moralizing.
And it portrays Christianity particularly religious men, VERY badly (the Priest who steals the cross from Bloom's wife's corpse... the Bishop in Jerusalem who's ready to convert to Islam at the first sign of defeat... and who also wants to abandon the civilians... the knights templar...) I thought this got a tad gratuitous. There were really NO GOOD Christian FIGURES IN THE MOVIE. The only good purported Christians were basically acting Agnostic (Bloom, Neeson, etc.) The actual religious Christians were made out to be hypocrites.
Meanwhile Saladhudin was a man of honor.. but also somewhat moderate.
- Movie could definitely have a little more narrative focus and maybe have a little more of an emotional circle for Orlando Bloom character. The emotional arc is ALREADY complete fairly early in the movie (Bloom becomes a man of conscience)... and it's kind of boring since the character doesn't really move after that.
But the movie tackled a HUGE topic and tackled it fairly well. I just wish there was a better script to handle the compelling personal journey for Orlando Bloom (from widower, murderer seeking redemption, lost bastard son) that was PROMISED at the beginning.
It seems that as soon as he brings water to his father's old land, he's just about done his journey, and it turns into a simple historical battle movie. (but a darn good one)
Kingdom of Heaven in 2005 will be what Gladiator was in 2000. Ridley
Scott has delivered a worthy follow up to his Oscar winner, which is
also based on medieval times, with a central heroic character, and
supporting casts of characters based on history.
The sets are as spectacular, instead of just Rome and the Collesuem, we have the Middle East and Jerusalem. The costumes are beautiful, from intricately remade Knights armour, to the desert garb of the Muslim warriors. The soundtrack is a mixture of sounds with middle eastern influences, but somehow pales in comparison with Gladiator and lacks a central theme.
Much is said about how the film portrays religion, given the sensitive subject of the Crusades, but I feel that Ridley has achieved a wonderful balance between how Christianity and Islam are portrayed. Both are given fair airtime on their ideologies, and the film tries to preach (pardon the pun) about tolerance, yet highlights the dangers of fanatical followers of both religions, of misguidance from men in search of worldly power.
Which Christianity took a beating - where senseless battles are waged in the name of Christ, where insensitivity breed contempt. Preists are cast in negative light and given lines like "convert to Islam, repent later" when all around seems lost. It is emphasized in the show that what matters is in your head and in your heart - that noble actions speak louder than mere empty and repetitive "praise the Lord" chants, as if that will protect you during Judgement Day.
Orlando Bloom plays Balian, a blacksmith who became a fugitive, but inherited land and army from his father, Godfrey, played by Liam Neeson. The film can be broadly categorized into 3 acts - the first in which Balian searches for his identity and new life in Jerusalem, the second in which the focus is on religion and politics of the time, and the last, the spectacular siege and war.
Bloom puts up a commendable performance, so to his detractors out there, you're in for a big surprise. Edward Norton had the difficult task of acting through a mask as leper King Baldwin, and I applaud Ridley's decision of casting real Muslim actors to learn from them.
Fans of Eva Green might be disappointed that the relationship between Balian and Queen Sibylla was played down to focus on the battles, but I feel it's a fair trade off.
Firstly, some of you might not like the quick-cut-MTV style editing in Gladiator's fight scenes, especially the close ups. This is repeated here though, in a blood splattering manner. The pan-out and general landscape sweeps are mindblowing, and will leave you wanting more. Think about the battles that you see Lord of The Rings Two Towers and Return of the King - the siege on Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith - Kingdom of Heaven delivers the equivalent, probably even better (without the fantasy elements). This is one medieval war movie whose battles will stick in your mind for some time.
The audience were the only disappointing experience for me - they were laughing at a dialogue near the end, where a "knight" asked who Balian was, and he answered "I'm the blacksmith", in which the "knight" answered "I'm the King". Laughter was abound in the theatre. I was like, HELL-O people! See that lion motif on his armour? That's Richard the Lionheart! D'uh! The Crusades didn't end there, it waged on...
What is Jerusalem worth? Nothing, everything. Watch this, and in my opinion, it has Oscar written all over it. Now to hit the library and research more on the subject!
First of all, what can beat Gladiator, with lines like "father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife", etc. and Russell Crowe chopping off heads. Kingdom of Heaven is a similar heroic fable yet the good and evil polarity is slightly more ambiguous. I would say it was vastly better than Alexander. Ridley Scott's style (cinematography and music) as seen in Black Hawk Down and Gladiator also lend a wonderful historical ambiance. Orlando Bloom does a fine job as the lead, and the French actress is fantastic (and beautiful), but my favorite lead was the Leper King and the wise nobility of his character. The battle scenes are excellent (including one in falling snow in which the snowflakes seem to hang in the air) and the armies look very historically realistic - this is a very good-looking epic. Formulaic perhaps, but well-executed. Kingdom of Heaven made me feel like leaving the "blacksmithy" that is our dull modern urban existence and finding a cause worth fighting for, but Crusades just aren't what they used to be =D
Kingdom of Heaven (KOH) is an amazing film. I saw it in the theater but
the reason it's so great is because of the 4-Disc Director's Cut, which
is a must own for any KOH fan.
Story: A well written script, KOH is about a blacksmith whose wife has committed suicide and he seeks out to redeem her in the city of Jerusalem, but ends up defending the people in the great battle against the Muslims.
Cast: The cast for this film was outstanding. One would at first question Orlando Bloom as the leading role of Balian (let's face it, he's no Russell Crowe), but this is by far his best main character performance. Liam Neeson is great as usual, as Balian's long lost father. Jeremy Irons is a great pick because he looks like he's from the crusades and his voice is undeniable. Obviously he's a great actor as well. Eva Green does very well for basically being the only woman in the film and she also fits the the time period well. Martin Csoskas give a great show as the bloodthirsty wanna-be king. Brendan Gleeson.. Do I even need to say anything? The man is incredible. He's so great at being the jerk. Ghassan Massoud and Alexander Siddig do great as playing Muslims in the film. Edward Norton is completely astounding in his uncredited performance as the leper King Baldwin. He is one of my favorite characters in the film.
Music: The music score for this movie is definitely in the top 10. Harry Gregson-Williams delivers a powerful score in this one. Gregson-Williams was a great pick though straying from Ridley Scott's usual Hans Zimmer.
Other: The sets, the costumes, the editing, the cinematography are all superior. They are all very authentic and beautiful and add to the films realness.
Ridley Scott is brilliant. You can definitely see a resemblance of Gladiator in KOH, which is a great thing because who doesn't like Gladiator. His ability to create worlds is unlike any other director in history. The 4-Disc Director's Cut allows you to see more of what Ridley Scott's methods are like.
4-Disc Director's Cut: It has everything you want to see. It puts approximately 45 minutes back into the film and what a great 45 minutes it is. It goes much more in depth especially with Eva Green's Character Sibylla. It includes all the essentials that you would want in a 4-Disc set.
Overall this is a great film and has become one of my very favorites since the past year or so. There is something about it that even makes it rival the quality of Gladiator. It was very underrated by critics and was very well deserving of some Oscars. Watch it!
I can start by admitting that i'm a fan of "Gladiator". And why do i
mention this? Because there are more similarities between "Gladiator"
and this movie besides having the same director.
What struck me first about this movie was the visual style. Ridley Scott is just one of the best directors right now when it comes to this. Every shot feels thought-through, every color balanced. Most of the time though he still manages to avoid the clinical style of many other directors focused on visuals. "Gladiator" felt somewhat artificial to me when i watched it the first time around, and even more so when watching it on DVD. Many of the special effects-shots are simply not that well-made. "Kingdom of Heaven" though takes full opportunity of the advancements made in technology. The movie looks awesome to say the least.
The script is no revolution of coherence or cohesion, yet it works rather well for this type of movie. Because this is more pure entertainment than anything else. In the press material Ridley Scott stated himself that this should be seen more as entertainment than historical facts. Which is absolutely fine by me i might add, at least as long as he states this beforehand. Perhaps the most disturbing things is for instance the way that Orlando Bloom goes from clueless blacksmith to full-fledged sword-wielding knight in 15 minutes movie-time.
And the actors? Orlando Bloom is in my opinion one of the most over-rated actors around today. Here though he's better than i've seen him before. I think the main thing is that he manages to act and look more like an adult this time, while in most previous movies he has felt almost childish. The rest of the cast consist mostly of quite well-known names and they all do a fine job, making this movie quite well-acted although it's not exactly Shakespeare...
All things said and done i found this movie to be very entertaining. It's visually stunning, reasonably well acted with a decent script and some nice characters. What it lacks in coherence and story it makes up for with a strong and quick pace (for the genre) and some truly impressive action scenes. Wolfgang Petersson and Oliver Stone should watch this before they even think of making another historic epic. Because Ridley Scott has learned the important lesson so well put in "Gladiator": the people want to be entertained! I rate this 7/10.
"Why was the Crusader braver then the pirate? Because he fought, not
for himself, but for the Cross. What force was it that met him with a
valor as reckless as his own? The force of men who fought, not for
themselves, but for Islam. They took Spain from us, though we were
fighting for our very hearths and homes; but when we, too, fought for
that mighty idea, a Catholic Church, we swept them back to Africa."
Clearly, director Ridley Scott does not agree with the above somewhat simplified philosophy expressed by Shaw through his character Don Juan. In "Kingdom of Heaven", wars and battles are fuelled by an assortment of motivations including land, money, political consideration, natural desire for violence, lust for fame, love of the common people, among others. Even more importantly, this "idea" thing does not prevent leaders from practicing tolerance, reaching compromises and even recognizing equality with alien faiths, as the movie tries to show us.
Recognizing that this movie is a mix of historical fact and dramatized fiction, let me focus on one rather unusual aspect of the hero Balian (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith inheriting knighthood and an estate from a father appearing out of the blues. As Balian takes over the barren desert estate after the untimely death of the recently-discovered father, he does something that the father apparently has failed to do in all these years dig into the earth to find a reliable source of water and proceed to make the estate productive. Later, the resilient defence of Jerusalem owes just as much to Balian's knowledge of practical laws of mechanics as to his military skills. In the end, he turns away from the inherited knighthood and goes back to be a blacksmith, taking with him a queen. Triumph of the working class, as my summary line suggests.
Depiction of the arch adversary Saladin follows very much the line taken in the novels of Sir Walter Scott (another Scott here!), particularly "The Talisman", as someone mysterious (to the extent of being almost omnipresent - in the novel) but wise and benevolent, a breed of political leader that is sadly in short supply today. The hero Balian, as mentioned, has little interest in divinity and every interest in the welfare of the people. These two leaders, put in today's context, could qualify "Kingdom of Heaven" for a fairy tale.
It's difficult to refrain from comparing the attack of Jerusalem with the attack of Minas Tirith, and this very comparison can be construed as an unreserved compliment on Kingdom of Heaven. Another comparison that can be made is the depiction of a mighty army, done so unimaginatively in two similar movies last year. In Kingdom of Heaven, we see first a solitary figure on horseback at a distant mountain gap. "Saladin's army of 200 thousand is here" says Balian. "There's only one person", comes the reply from a follower. "No, they're all here" Balian quietly responses, at which point the angle of the camera starts to rise, first revealing the patch behind the mountain gap, filled with soldiers. Then, as the horizon of our vision continues to extend, layers of mountains and vales continue to appear, together with Saladin's mighty army deployed in an apparently haphazard, but ultimately strategic fashion. This must be seen to appreciate.
Of the cast, I must first mention Edward Norton. As the leper king of Jerusalem, he appears all the time behind a mask which covers his entire face, showing only his eyes with disfigured corners. But it's the voice that is so mesmerizing. Ever since Fight Club, Norton's voice has such a timbre that soft as he sounds, there are lurking behind tantalizing hints of subtlety, intrigue, compassion, power, and twenty other different and conflicting emotions all at once.
Bloom grows into his role, starting rather expressionless (which may not be totally unreasonable considering that the character has just lost a wife and a child) but gradually gaining in confidence. Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons, playing father and mentor respectively, do not exactly have the most challenging parts in their careers. Eva Green retains the girlish defiance in The Dreamer, but adds to it the maturity and allure required for the role of Sibylla (as portrayed by the script, but not necessarily as recorded in history). And there is good old Brendan Gleeson, in the customary role of big bully fighter which he has perfected in Gangs of New York and Troy.
Kingdom of Heaven is one cut above Troy and Alexander last year.
"There was a Knight, a most distinguished man, Who from the day on
which he first began To ride abroad had followed chivalry, Truth,
honour, generousness and courtesy. He had done nobly in his sovereign's
war And ridden into battle, no man more, As well in Christian as in
heathen places, And ever honoured for his noble graces."
Chaucer, "The Canterbury Tales"
In Kingdom of Heaven, Orlando Bloom plays Balian, a former blacksmith turned knight, at the siege of Jerusalem in the late 12th century. Director Ridley Scott takes care to make this knight every bit as ideal as Chaucer made his. In the process Balian becomes too perfect, perhaps because of Bloom's cross gender prettiness and the intonations of his dialogue, each word of which weighs heavily on the leader and the viewer. I probably missed a moment of light-heartedness, if there is one. This film could have used a good study of Chaucer to show how to intersperse gravity with levity.
In other words, Scott has forsaken the gritty toughness of Russell Crowe's Oscar performance in Gladiator for the saintliness of Bloom, which makes Kingdom of Heaven a parable of virtue rather than a hardscrabble tale of violence and intrigue. The violence makes itself known in every other scene, as to be expected in the genre, but with the quick cut, hand-held blurriness and slomo now characteristic of war films that eschew realism for artiness and thereby lose the sense of reality.
Kenneth Branagh's Henry V got battle just right with a camera that stayed in the action at a reasonable length for shots and ended with an Agincourt unforgettable for its camera tracking over the carnage and music something like a funereal choir at a midnight mass. Scott's fidelity to the war technology of the time with catapulting balls of oil and movable breaching towers is offset by a constant choir of angels so pervasive it loses its effect by the end of the final battle.
Credit the director and writer for balancing the guilt and horror among Christians, Jews, and Arabs. Jerusalem's King Baldwin (voice of Edward Norton) is a leper, hidden behind stunning silver masks, weakened but determined to the end to save his people from the overwhelming hordes of Muslims, led by the audience-pleasing Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). The "terms" between Christians and Muslims allow both sides to exit with honor.
It is clear no one owned Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, and no one owns it now, Palestinian protests notwithstanding. For a history lesson with modern relevances, see this epic; for a lighter touch, see Brian Helgeland's A Knight's Tale; to have it all, read Chaucer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
KOH is not Gladiator 2, first of all the movie is not about a slave
dealing with Romans, at the heart of the movie is the battle for
Jerusalem and two sides the Christians and the Muslims. KOH in my
opinion raises up more issues than what Gladiator did and then some.
The acting was great, Neeson as Godfrey of Ibelin , though he has a small role , leaves quite an impact. Bloom is wonderful, Eva Green is hot, Jeremy Irons is at his usual best , David Thewlis also puts up a great performance as Hospitaller, and Edward Norton turns in a memorable performance.
The story is that in 1184 during the time of the Crusades , Balian a blacksmith becomes a knight to defend Jerusalem from Muslim invaders.
Bloom as the protagonist who doesn't believe in God or religion, "I am just a blacksmith", undergoes a spiritual journey that tests both his values as a man (do I stay here and fight for people of Jerusalem) and his ideals about religion. He also has his morality come into question through almost the entire movie, does his give into temptation and join the dissenters of the church (Guy De Lusignan) or does he kill and lie to get what is offered a seat of the throne.
The directing is brilliant, I believe this is shot on location if not, the sets, the special effects and budget really show. Ridley Scott as the veteran has a great eye for setting up locales, key battle scenes and incredible emotional characters.
Balian's character is also 100% vulnerable he takes his series of hard shots and hangs on to claim victory just when you think the numbers are against the guy he finds a way to outsmart his opponents.
Back to story. Balian kills a priest who mocks his late wife who committed suicide. "she is in hell because she committed suicide" and so Balian out of rage and the contempt this guy has for him kills him. He is now a fugitive. When he learns Godfrey of Ibelin is his father, , Godfrey wants him to fight in the crusades and go to Jerusalem.
Balian still in shock doesn't want to go with his dad. When the authorities come to claim Balian and execute him, there is a big battle which results in some of Godfrey's nights being killed. Balian seeing the sacrifice the knights have done for him, finally does go with his father.
Balian gets christened as a knight, but doesn't believe in God, is not an atheist per say, he believes in death but he doesn't believe in the greater good.
This is a key issue being brought up throughout the movie, what is religion? Is it just words or actions that we live by. Does God really offer us hope and salvation, and the answer is yes.
When his dad dies and through the speeches with Hospitaller (David Thewlis) who talks about him about religion that Balian he starts to have a spiritual awakening of sorts. Exposed to the poor people of Jerusalem , Balian uses his new power as a lord and a knight to build up shelters and provide water for the people as he says which I am paraphrasing he is trying to be a good man and trying to aid the helpless.
Hospitaller: "Religion is not made up by fanatics.. it's about your rite of actions" He makes the analogy that religion really is about who you are as a person and by what you do , not by what you preach as a so called Christian.
Eva Green is Sybilla the future queen of Jerusalem whose brother King Baldiwn (Norton) is sick and near death. Sybilla likes Balian of Ibelin (Bloom) because she feels he is brave and good. She hates her husband Guy who is one of the knights for King of Jerusalem. She mentions she was forced to marry him in a prearranged deal so there's an internal conflict with Guy and Balian. Guy and Balian previously meet early on when Godfrey introduces him to Lord Tiberius (Jeremy Irons) and Hospitaller. Sybilla also undergoes a transformation in the film as well, when the King dies, she sees in Balian leadership that is absent in her husband.
Balian visits places in Jerusalem like the place of Christ's crucifixion and gathers within himself spiritual strength and a sense of direction to the turbulence around him.
The Muslim characters in the movie consists of Saladin (Ghassan Massoud)and , Muslim Grandee (Nasser Memazia who want Jerusalem for other uses such as for the nation of Islam. I should say the Muslim characters in this film get a large bulk of screen time. Furthermore, their characters are treated with respect and almost admiration. In fact Scott tells us their back story as well and we see display of Muslim religion in the movie such as Muslim praying in mosques and in the city of Jerusalem.
This reminds me of the Palestian/Israeli conflict of sorts where you have both sides that believe in God but are battling for the control of one city, despite the fact that they both profess to believing in God. Some questions to ponder are these other people with religious ideals worse than we say they are, or are they merely some religious fanatics misusing the name of God for power? Couple that the moral questions that almost every character goes through and the questioning and denouncement and spiritual awakening of God and my you got yourself a thought provoking film.
KOH is a great film. Not only is it full of action and great characters and wonderful acting but it also has a good story and challenges you as an audience to think about the messages in the movie long after you've left the theater!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film had the potential to be better than Gladiator - for a start
it's a great deal more accurate and it also boasts a smarter script
full of contemporary analogies that link it to present-day Middle East
The special effects are just as spectacular as in Gladiator, and other recent battle epics like King Arthur, and there's a great cast including Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Liam Neeson and I really like Eva Green too.
Unfortunately none of these people are the star. Orlando Bloom is. This man is rapidly turning into the English Keanu Reeves - his acting style is best described as "Noble and Anguished". Sometimes he stretches himself and is "Anguished and Noble" instead. He blows the film's big lines and epic moments and reduce this movie to Gladiator-Lite. The other casting problem is Martin Csokas as Guy de Lusignan who is no more than Dick Dastardly in Crusader's garb.
That said, I enjoyed the film, even if I was disappointed that it wasn't better. The battle sequences are excellent and the film contains a surprisingly tolerant message, given the subject.
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