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This is a movie that has far more than meets the eye. While it has its share of shortcomings, the message that slowly seeps through is moving and truthful. Many heavyweight actors ground this film yet Bloom seems a little young for this opportunity. The story is a little unclear in the beginning, slowing our identification with the main characters. However, I am quite willing to forgive imperfection when I witness a piece of art like this that forces true introspection into our lives and especially our current world. The parallels of this movie to our world go much deeper than the obvious. Sit back and put yourself in this story. I hope to die not repeating the mistakes of my fathers.
The Director's Cut version out on DVD is almost a different movie. The
excessive length caused the studio to ask it be cut. This resulted in a
version with more focus on Orlando Bloom's character. This was the
major complaint from the critics, i.e. that Orlando Blooom as an actor
couldn't carry the movie.
Well I personally think he did a fair job of it, but he never was intended to in Ridley Scott's vision. By cutting the other story lines and sub-plots they ended up with a movie that appears to be about the character Balian.
Either version is worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I did not see this movie in the theaters and opted to watch when it
came on cable. Big epics aren't usually my thing. I'm glad I opted to
do it that way as I found myself replaying scenes to fully understand
the nuances and implications - it's a complex movie.
Aside from Orlando Bloom's character storyline, the central set of the movie is Jerusalem during the time of the crusades. A city of importance to people of many faiths - Christian, Jews, and Muslims - it is ruled by a wise king, Baldwin IV. He keeps control in the city by governing it as a city of faith and worship for all - all faiths intermingled. He keeps a firm hand on his regents (? his lords? his mgmt team for lack of a better phrase?) and disciplines them when they break his rules, which are intended to keep the peace. In doing so, he maintains the peace within the inhabitants of the city, as well as the respect of his/their enemies. He is respected by all and supported by the knights of the Christian crusades. He is wise and just. He is also a leper and is dying.
The peace he has maintained throughout his reign comes into more and more chaos, as different factions jostle for power when he is gone - with some deliberately sponsoring or seeking opportunities to provoke war and attacks. This forms the main content of the movie.
I have to tell you, this movie was really good. I mean, really good. The acting was good, but the depictions of the chaos and tenuousness of the times were well portrayed. The characters were a little hard to distinguish at times as they all tended to wear armour and crosses and all thought they were the good guys. One of the things that made this movie so good is that it recognized the blur - you have truly good characters doing things that they are not proud of or can be considered a sin, and major religions striving to act in their beliefs, when they are in conflict with each other.
And the movie is BIG in its storyline. At one point in the movie a character made a reference to people starting in the crusades because of religion and then being discouraged realizing it was all about money. There are a lot of themes - but this only adds to the realism.
Anyway, the movie got me interested in finding out more about the times and the real, non-fiction characters (ie Baldwin) that were fictionalized into the movie. I have to give a high rating to this movie for a captivating story and for making me interested in finding out more. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before I review this movie, I have a couple of caveats worth caveatting
First caveat: I'm into history. I've been in the SCA for more than 20
years, have fought in armor and love studying medieval period history.
I am one of those guys who gets annoyed when the heraldry's wrong, let
alone the history. I like it accurate. Some films get it right (Flesh
and Blood, Braveheart) and others pretend (Alexander, Troy) and others
don't even bother trying (Robin Hood, Price of Thieves, Army of
Darkness). I have uses for all of them, but the first one holds a
special place in my heart.
Second caveat: KoH came out at the same time (approx) as Troy and Alexander, both highly inferior flicks. I think its why the flick got buried. It shouldn't have been. If it came out a year earlier or a year later, this would have been a blockbuster.
The review: KoH was excellent. The story line was intriguing and rang very true. The characters are (I think) mostly fictional but there were no doubt men and women just like the characters. The battles were spellbinding and for once, they used CGI the way it should have been used: to enhance the reality not the surreality.
The story is simple. A blacksmith whose wife just dies meets his father, a noble who raped his mother years before. The man apologizes, offers to take the blacksmith with him to Jerusalem to join the crusades. Along the way, stuff happens. When he gets there, more stuff happens and when it is all over, stuff stops happening. What lies between the beginning and the end is a fascinating, enjoyable story.
The actors (Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson briefly and everyone else) do an excellent job. I don't know who played the king but even in his leper clothes, he was excellent.
I highly recommend this movie. I watched it a little grudgingly but got into it quickly.
Oh, and the heraldry was (I'm pretty sure) right for a change. King Richard's standard on his chest was the one he adopted during the crusades, the 2 Lions Rampant and Countered, not the Lion Rampant and Roaring that always gets used but was only used by him when at home. Yeah, a bit anally retentive, aren't I?
**NB: This is a review of the director's cut. If you find Kingdom of
Heaven's plot difficult to follow, or if you find its characterisation
shallow (some common criticisms of the film, although I can't say how
true they are), you may not be watching the same movie. Forty-five
minutes makes a big difference in these terms.**
This film is a rich and beautiful tapestry. It depicts a timely story without the clichéd heroics or naïve politics that have characterised other recent Hollywood histories. It similarly steers away from the sword and sorcery aesthetic, which held sway in King Arthur for example. Every set, every costume, feels authentic; the production design is simply fabulous.
The Cinematography, too, is exquisite; the desert becomes a place both mysterious and treacherous; its colouring is magical. The heat is somehow made visible, but even so cool respite can be found in palace chambers, or between the amphorae of Jerusalem's larder.
Kingdom of Heaven sports a large cast, but its actors and Monahan's script combine to bring surprising depth to a host of roles. One doesn't often feel that one knows so many characters in the wake of so little screen time.
Edward Norton and Ghassan Massoud, opposed but philosophically aligned kings, are a fine example of this. Both convey a gravitas that hovers over the film even in their absence. Massoud burns up the screen; Norton's portrayal of the leprous King Baldwin is just as masterful: he manages extraordinary pathos, without ever removing his silver mask!
Liam Neeson's noble father looking for redemption and a legacy; David Thewlis's practically compassionate by-the-wind-sailor; Jeremy Iron's pragmatic humanist; Alexander Siddig's student of justice; Marton Csokas's vile, hubristic warmonger; and Brendan Gleeson's blood-mad oaf all are fine portrayals.
But perhaps most entrancing is Eva Green's Princess Sybilla. She wafts through the film like sublime incense: a single fragile feminine scent always close to being overwhelmed by her emphatically male and martial world. Her beauty and royalty afford her power that she is nonetheless too timid to use. In her presence we feel the touch of her courageous brother's shadow, and her guilt at his suffering in her stead; we also feel her fatalism and her passion for Balian, her contradictory enchantment and weariness with the East. All of this comprises her beguiling character: a fine performance indeed.
The only principal actor to have escaped my praise thus far is Orlando Bloom in the lead role of Balian. This evasion has been deliberate: Bloom is perhaps Kingdom of Heaven's only serious weakness. His performance is not bad, he meets with some success, but he doesn't seem to grow over the course of the film, even though the script demands it. He is most disappointing in his orations to the defenders of Jerusalem; he just doesn't have the charisma to fill his hauberk. (One can't help but make negative comparisons with more inspired battlefield talkers, such as Crowe, Branagh and Gibson.) Whilst Bloom's performance makes this film less than a masterpiece, it is, nonetheless, a very good one.
Requiring further comment is Kingdom's accomplished screenplay, which deftly avoids didacticism and over-simplification, whilst still offering an accessible parable for today. The disjuncture between doctrine and religion's core values; the clash between zealots and humanists within the same faith: these are the real conflicts which sustain today's intractable religious wars, and they persist on both sides of the affray. Kingdom of Heaven skilfully crystallizes these problems and puts them in historical perspective.
Some have criticized this film on IMDb for its supposed historical inaccuracies, but such critics need to consider whether Kingdom of Heaven was ever intended to be a true story or, rather, just a truthful story. Just because a film is set in the past doesn't mean it can't be a fiction. Whinging about departures from actual history with respect to Baldwin, Sybilla, and Guy de Lusignan, is ludicrous. Did Gladiator's protagonists follow their historical trajectories? No. But that does not make the film unreal! A film can be a fiction and still be true to history. The key criterion, unless a film claims to be a true story, is not did such events happen, but might they have happened.
Another popular criticism of Kingdom of Heaven is that Bloom's character (supposedly) learns swordplay and statesmanship overnight. However, such detractors haven't thought for a moment about the length of the trip from Britain before motorised transport. Just what do you think Balian would have done along the way with an eminently wise father and his retinue of veteran crusaders for company? This is saying nothing of the considerable time which elapses in Jerusalem.
Kingdom of Heaven is not an episode of 24; its timescale is one of many months. A diet of unsubtle action flicks seems to have neutered some viewers' capacity to imagine temporal shifts!
With specific regard to weaponcraft, Balian is shown to be accomplished with the sword when he first joins Godfrey. European knights never had anything like a monopoly on swordplay; is it all that surprising that a weaponsmith knows how to use a weapon? Such knowledge is in fact essential to the occupation!
Any lover of history and beauty should not miss this film; any humanist will be saddened by its story; everyone should find some excitement on its exotic streets, or if not, in the midst of its brilliantly executed battle scenes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Kingdom of Heaven' is another big, sprawling mess of a movie. Not as
chasmically yawning as 'Troy' or as unco-ordinated and ill-considered
as 'Alexander', though it has much in common with both these
Historically, it's balls. Brendan Gleeson and Marton Csokas, as the Templar leaders, Reynald and Guy de Lusignan, have obviously been borrowing Brian Cox's Trojan Moustache Twirling Wax, as it would be difficult to find a pair of more transparent pantomime villains. Edward Norton does a passable Elephant Man lisp as the leprous Baldwin IV. That the monarch in question relinquished his throne to his nephew, Baldwin VI, in 1183, and that this poor lad was poisoned by Sybil and de Lusignan in 1186 - the year before the fall of Jerusalem is sidestepped.
To be fair, Saladin is well handled: a shrewd, honourable and fair-minded statesman who put the self-serving, disorganised Christians to shame. Ghassan Massoud is a truly formidable presence on screen, exuding power and confidence while appearing to do very little. A very good bit of casting. Unfortunately he's set against Orlando Bloom who, despite being marginally better than usual here, has no presence at all.
Ridley Scott is, of course, trying to make the point that peaceful co-habitation was (and is) possible in the Middle East, and, aiming his flick at Western (meaning, of course, American) audiences, feels obliged to make the hero conveying that message acceptable to that audience that is, a liberal-minded humanistic white Anglo Saxon. I understand and commend his intention, but can't help thinking that making the Crusader heroes unhistorically tolerant diminishes the extraordinary Saladin somewhat.
Bloom is essentially playing the same character he always plays, but frowns a lot so we know he's the trademarked hero-with-a-troubled-past. He has no chemistry with Eva Green as his leading lady, Sibylla, and is constantly outshone by the supporting cast. Generally he looks constipated. Like Brad Pitt's Achilles in 'Troy' he lacks the charisma and passion which would make him a convincing on-screen leader. We see very little of Alexander Siddig's Saracen knight, Nasir, David Thewlis or Kevin McKidd (credited simply as 'English Sergeant') but they convey a greater sense of identity in their brief characterisations than Bloom can hope to muster. Massoud's tops them all.
It's not all bad, of course, and this is where it raises itself above the pomposity of other recent ancient epics. Visually, it's stunning. John Matheison's cinematography was the best part of Scott's last sandpit-story, 'Gladiator', and he repeats the job here. The CGI excesses of 'Troy' and 'Alexander' which continually overwhelmed the narrative are avoided to some extent, or at least reserved for those peak-of-battle moments when they might have the greatest dramatic impact. The mix of mock-Byzantine and medieval design in sets and costumes is also impressive. That said, while the issues and the general tableau on which they are played out are genuinely interesting, the plot and principal characterisation plainly isn't.
Ridley for all his protestations that he wants to make films about people in extraordinary circumstances - really seems to be more at home, these days, capturing circumstance than he is in establishing character.
This film kicks so much ass it's not even funny. It's not an action
film, it's not a war film... it's about faith and humanity. This film
is takes a real life event in human history and makes an important film
with a message. Religion is a two sided sword... one one side it can
protect and on the other it can destroy. This film proves that to the
letter without being all moral and without choosing sides. There is no
good side or bad side. There is only men... and their faith. This film
has all the makings of a true classic. It has master Ridley Scott
directing this bad boy and a great concept. It's an amazing film that
more people should have gone seen in theaters... it's that important
and speaks more about today's world then most TV News channels or PC
press. It's not the religion that drives this men to evil... it's the
men that use their religion as they see fit that makes them evil.
Script wise... What a perfect mix of story and action. This isn't like other epic that want to be more like action films. This is a story that has action in it. But the action isn't the most important thing in the film. The characters are and so is the world they live in. Here the writer took real time to make sure he didn't write the standard way us Americans think of Muslims. No, the writer portrayed them as real people. There are real people on both sides of the conflict. This is a story of men having to do what they have to do... but never losing their humanity. I loved the message deep inside the story... the message that religions are the same no matter what they are and sometimes people use it to fuel their own lust for power and fame(on both sides)and those who had to live with the mistakes those people did. The film never slams either faith, as a matter of fact... it did a great job of making faith seem real. It's not in temples or churches... it's inside the person who believes in it. Some how faith was always around... even through the hard battles. You knew that it was faith to life, faith to god that was driving both sides. In the end there were no bad sides, just bad people on both sides... and it was their people who suffered because of it.
Acting wise...this is the film I've been waiting to see Orlando Bloom in as a lead role. Having totally not liked his character in another epic film"Troy" I was really pulling for him. Finally I can I loved him a movie and enjoyed watching him on screen. Orlando broke out in the Pirates movie and was an instant hit with the ladies. But us guys were still waiting for him to really prove himself up to all the hype people were giving to him. Sadly while I loved Troy I didn't really like him at all. It wasn't his acting, he did a great job... but his character was so poorly written that I just hated his guts. But here he shines through and proves he's a real actor and not just another face on teen magazine covers. Another real surprise is the gorgeous Eva Green as Sibylla. There's something about this girl that is just stunning. I mean she's amazing to watch on screen. She has such a feel to her that you just can't take your eyes off of her... not only that but the girl can act. Bravo! I loved her. Edward Norton as King Baldwin, god... I didn't even know it was him. He did such an amazing job. I loved his role. It was perfectly written and perfect acted. Even if his body was failing on him, the King's spirit and humanity never did. Wow. Everyone else is just great. What a great cast of people.
Directing... No one knows how to shoot an epic like Ridley Scott. The man is just talent. That's it. He can direct action, he can direct drama, he can give even the most violent images a feel and grace of a bale. This film flows perfectly and looks amazing. I loved the touch of beyond reality that Scott gave it. Scott knows how to deliver a film of amazing visuals and still keep the feel of an epic drama. I love the dude. He is a master who isn't afraid to do something new or bring art back to film just like his brother Tony Scott. Bravo!!!!!!!!!!
All in all... This is a film the people out there should have seen. It's a smart, clever and simply beautiful film. This is the kind of films that Hollywood is too afraid to make today. But I think the genre has been alittle played out in recent times thanks in part to Ridley Scott's own Gladiator.. because now so many epics look the same and shot the same. I was glad to see Scott go back to the genre he helped revamp and once again... deliver something new and fresh. This film isn't just a factory made action epic. This is a film about people. This film is about faith and the evil men who would use it for their own gain. Great show!
My Rating: A Bad MF. That's it. Everyone should see this film. This film isn't an action film... this film is a tale of men and faith. This is about humanity and war. This film works on so many levels and is perfectly smart. GO SEE IT PEOPLE.
I think it's necessary to begin this review by saying that I've never
seen the 144 minute Theatrical Version of this film, but I have seen
the 190 minute Director's Cut of this film three times. As with Scott's
1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, reception of the original release of
the film was very mixed. The Theatrical Cut of Kingdom of Heaven was an
all-too short action-adventure movie with some romance thrown in. The
Director's Cut is an epic of religion and war in the 12th century,
exploring deep themes such as religious conflict, man's role in God's
world, and the difficulty of deciding between what is easy and what is
right. Unfortunately (but understandably), the studios didn't much like
the sound of that last bit, and so they demanded Scott severely edit
his own masterpiece for mainstream audiences. Scott has since disowned
the Theatrical Cut and calls the Director's Cut the "definitive
version". And it is. Kingdom of Heaven is a historical epic over
three-hours long with dozens and dozens of characters, and it's a
I could list all of the things that are great in this movie, like the beautiful, vibrant and heart-rending cinematography that paints France in deep, chilly blues and Jerusalem in warm, lush shades of orange, red and yellow. I could talk about the score, which is beautiful, tragic, stirring, epic and reflective in equal measure depending on what is needed in the scene. I could mention how excellent the cast is, with every role occupied by the only actor that could have done it justice. Particular stand-outs include Edward Norton as the melancholic and reflective leper king and Jeremy Irons as the weary but honourable marshal. And finally I could talk about how skillfully William Monahan balances the epic with the quiet, the intensity with the calmness, and most intelligently depicts neither the Christians nor the Muslims as right or wrong. They both have their redeeming qualities as well as their historically accurate drawbacks. Saladin and his army may be the antagonists of this film, but they are not the villains. A lesser screenwriter and a lesser director would have made them one-dimensional villains, but Scott and Monahan depict them fairly and respectfully.
But what I love the most about this film is how it makes me feel. It's an adventure, but not a light, shallow one. It's an adventure of self-discovery, of honour and loyalty, of sadness and regret, and finally of some form of redemption and validation. This film covers the breadth of human feeling in its three hour runtime like no other film I can think of in the 21st century. This isn't just Ridley Scott's masterpiece, this is also one of the best films ever made, in my opinion.
So if you are going to watch this movie, do not watch the rushed and shallow Theatrical Cut, watch the epic and magnificent Director's Cut.
It was a very good movie. If you want to learn history, if you want to
know exactly, bit by bit, what happened in that period you must read.
Even if you have work, school and kids. People are very lazy nowadays
and blame their lack of culture and knowledge about history and other
stuff on work, school and the day-to-day responsibilities. Well I'm
sorry to disappoint but the hurting truth is that you must read in
order to learn more about everything. Movies entertain, that is their
meant to be. If you rely on movies in order to get educated then you
are not only stupid but even a fool.
Still, like it is shown in the DVD commentaries the aspects altered in this movie where only made in order to have a good plot line. But that doesn't make it "historycal inaccurate", it's just what defines it and what defines in general a movie.
It was great. The performances were wonderful. Orlando is a very good actor, he is one of my favorite actors, because of the simplicity, and at the same the level, the complicated way he delivers his characters. It cannot be described properly in words, he is just perfect for me, and I think he deserves more credit for his work, but in a basket full of snakes like Hollywood is, if you don't fight harder and don't bite nastier, you get trashed and called wooden.
He deserves more, not this type of foolish fight. Anyway, the other actors were great as well. Liam Neeson was again a star in my eyes. He lightened the movie more with his, short is true, but lovable presence. Another character which I loved was the king. The real king, if I can call it like that. He was the soul of the hole situation, but his fate made me real sad.
I consider it better than "Gladiator" because of it's more serious subject. The only good thing from that movie was Joaquin Phoenix who gave a wonderful performance and deserved the Oscar more than Russell Crowe, whom I personally don't consider him an Oscar-worthy actor.
Anyway, worth watching.
I saw Kingdom of Heaven on DVD back on 2005 and I loved it! It was an
epic (and fictionalized) account of historical facts... but still
great. On the level of Gladiator. But it seemed chopped in some parts.
It was still great though. And Kingdom of Heaven became one of my
favorite movies ever.
But a few months ago, I heard that Director's Cut, around three hour long, was a masterpiece. And sure it was!!! It was too difficult for me to find it but I finally saw it this weekend and my reaction was even better that when I saw the Theatrical Cut my first time: gorier, clearer, more character development, more tragical... and an amazing final duel that you surely will never forget. This film, if released this way, could have not been a box office success... but could have earned Ridley Scott and William Moynahan a couple of Academy Awards more.
This is definitely Ridley Scott's latest masterpiece, even toping Blade Runner and Alien!!! 10/10
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