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It's all really all about the priorities. I believe that the real
purpose of a movie should be to entertain, rather than to always be
completely factual. I stand by this belief even with historically-based
stories. That's just my priority.
Kingdom of Heaven (2005) is a riveting action/adventure story, loosely based on the siege of Jerusalem after the second crusade.
Is it 100% factual? No (some would say, not even close). Did I care? Not a bit.
In fact, I was so enthralled by this movie that I felt compelled to research the true history of Balian, Saladin, and the siege of Jerusalem. And once I found out more about the story, I had to watch this movie again to compare. I love Kingdom of Heaven because the story is so riveting, and the characters so interesting that had to learn the true history. How many movies, especially historical movies, can claim this? Is this movie an accurate portrayal of history? No. Was it an exciting dramatization, an interesting, well-told story, and a completely entertaining movie? Absolutely.
And isn't that what we look for in a movie?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For those who come to the reviews following a review of the theatrical
release intending to add their fuel to the negative, I implore you to
first take a rental of the "Directors Cut".
One of the few films where the "DC" material REALLY makes the difference between a Turkey and a classic.
I must say that few films or even scenes today send my spine tingling but a few moments in KOH were simply breathtaking. I agree that Bloom did not carry the lead, however, he was sufficient without detracting from the movie too much.
Take time to go through the Directors cut CD's, its really detailed and really takes the enjoyment of the film to a new dimension.
The theatrical cut of this film runs 45 minutes shorter, has a
different color pallet, is missing a few subplots, certain characters
just go away and you never know what happened to them, the "bad guy" is
one of those, he's just out of the movie all of a sudden...in short, it
felt chopped and unfinished...
The Director's Cut is THE best work Ridley Scott has ever done...yes Blade Runner is considered his masterpiece but I disagree.
The music, color, set design, dialog, action, momentum, EVERYTHING is perfected. With the extra 45 minutes we get a completely told journey that actually stays with you after the film is over..due in part, to the outstanding score.
Orlando Bloom is actually able to carry the film, plus the secondary characters are ALL wonderful actors who do an amazing job as well.
Add to this the incredible 4 disc DVD set with an insane amount of special features like roundtable reads, interviews, behind the scenes, etc, including talk with Scott about how he really hates that the studio made him cut down the movie.
It also has a musical intro like when a theater is filing in, an intermission, and the discs are perfectly cut so the scene fades slowly between Act 1 and 2...
If you like anything epic or just like any of the actors don't bother renting, just buy the 4 disc DVD...the Bluray looks and sounds great but sadly there are no special features.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not sure I'd watch this movie if I wanted a history lesson, but it
is definitely a good story, and a good entertaining watch. I was able
to watch it twice which is rare for me.
The Balian character comes across as rather sanctimonious at times considering he is both a murderer and an adulterer. However, he is the hero so all is excused.
The movie is carried by good strong parts played by Liam Neeson, Edward Norton, Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson.
The later Swedish movie Arn: The Knight Templar (2007) had some similarities.
Scott was bold to release a mainstream American movie in 2005 about the
hostilities between Christians and Muslims for domination of Jerusalem.
I imagine few of those faiths are able to view his strongly pertinent
film without bias. Both Muslims and Christians have endeavored to
highlight its faults. When you've riled both sides, you've probably
done something correctly. Others, however, recognize that the film is
neither in support or opposition of Islamic or Christian belief, and
yet somehow an intense spiritual feat. Maybe since for its hero Balian,
who is a skeptic, all devout attachments diminish during his sorrowful
pursuit of a righteous principle in life, which leads to an interesting
aspect of the film, which is that they talk very little about religion.
A gutsy and principled thinker-warrior rather than a tough,
breast-beating commandant, Balian uses reason over muscle to obtain the
upper hand in combat. The Crusades are still a Holy War by the
Christians to secure Jerusalem from the Muslims, but---at least for the
first hour and a half---sees his characters as more interested in
individual entitlement and encroachment than with matters of reverence.
Several characters are fictionalized renderings of historical figures. The story follows Balian, a parish blacksmith in France, finds he's the illicit offspring of Sir Godfrey, a knight returning from the Middle East, who speaks of Jerusalem as regards a holy war but its prospects for an striving young man: It has a vigorous economy when medieval Europe is otherwise sluggish.
For the century leading up to the action, both Christians and Muslims were at ease seeing one another worship in the holy city. It was only when Christian fanatics eager to dictate the Holy Land more tightly that all went awry. The movie is set around 1184, as the city is governed by the young King Baldwin, who has leprosy and hides his warped face behind a silver mask.
What Scott appears to be proposing is that most Christians and Muslims might be capable of synchronizing unperturbed were it not for the radicals on either side, a simplistic precept as breakable as the ten commandments. Nevertheless, this may clarify why the movie has upset the very variety of Muslims and Christians who will take temperance as an insult. At any rate though, most everyday moviegoers will not care much about the movie's theological thesis, and will be engaged by those basics of all historical epics, fights and love interests. The latter here is between Balian and Sibylla, sister of King Baldwin. You might doubt how a blacksmith could entice a princess, though consider that Sir Godfrey was right about Jerusalem, particularly after his recently revealed father knights him, and Tiberias recruits him as an assistant to Baldwin. And one pretty cool battle scene concerns the siege of Saladin's army on Christian Jerusalem, and it's one of those great set pieces with massive orbs of fire that plunge and land near---but not near enough---to the central characters.
There is a particular magnitude that's expected in films of this kind, and Scott is known for his mastery of it. Still, I benefited from the dialogue and narrative more than the action. Any film with the courage to refer to the enmity of the children of Abraham merits to be admired for its sincerity and diplomacy, but I've seen a few enormous desert cities too many. Nor do thousands of stampeding, fated horses seem spanking new to me, and the close-range fighting seems strangely like all other such instances. Godfrey gives Balian a tutorial in swordsmanship, though evidently the crucial thing to consider is that if you're an undistinguished opponent you die, and if you're a hero you live unless a celebrated demise is necessary. You'd think people would be killed virtually unintentionally amidst a thousand sword-swinging madmen, yet each confrontation is categorized into a quarrel between a conqueror and the defeated.
What's more attractive is Ridley Scott's visual fashion, supported by John Mathieson's cinematography and the production design of Arthur Max, where the cinematography, supporting performances, and battle sequences are fastidiously arranged. It's score of moving chorales contrast with Muslim sanctified chants, and restrained implementation of modern rock and pop effects. An immense set of medieval Jerusalem was built to afford convincing forefronts and locations, which were then augmented by CGI backdrops, extra horses and throngs, etc. Moreover there's stimulating footage of young Balian forging to Jerusalem.
The movie is primarily about the individual policies of its heroes, both Christian and Muslim. They're of nobility. They've seen enough carnage and lost enough companions to look with a cynical perceptiveness at the fanatics who goad them into combat. There's a scene where Baldwin and Saladin convene on a measureless plane between their assembled forces, and settle, diplomatically, to terminate the battle at that moment. Later, Balian's pre-battle oration to his army seems remarkably repentant.
"There'll be a day when you will wish that you had done a little evil
to do a greater good." My main problems with Kingdom of Heaven begin
and end with Orlando Bloom. Both his character in the movie, and the
actual actor. I'm sorry, but he was a terrible fit for this. I can buy
him as an elf. I can buy him as Will Turner, pirate extraordinaire. But
I didn't find him the least bit credible, in this role. This was way
beyond him. Russel Crowe, he is not.
As for the actual character, his meteoric rise from village blacksmith to the heights of power is tough to swallow. Men of great power give Balian so much respect, trust, and incredibly important positions, based on...what? Who his father was? He just has no real character development to convince the audience that he's worthy of leading armies, or that his sudden (and frankly, unbelievable) relationship with Princess Sibylla is based on anything besides the writer's need to have it in the story. That kind of weak and shallow writing (which is sadly not only limited to the character of Balian, all of the characters are little more than caricatures) really irks me, and it definitely hurt the movie. Bland is not an admirable description of this kind of character.
On the positive side, the scale of the movie is beyond impressive. The battles are well- choreographed and appropriately epic, the desert and city setting are beautiful and authentic, and the excellent cinematography captures it all beautifully. I genuinely wanted to learn more about this time in history, after I watched it.
This could have been a great movie, with a better lead actor and better writing. As it stands, Ridley Scott failed to return to the success that Gladiator found. Visually, Kingdom of Heaven is a treat. The rest is adequate, at best.
I watched this mainly with the hope and intent of being entertained... and on that, this did just fine. If you're looking for a review that evaluates the historical, religious and so on and so forth, aspects, I'd advise reading someone else's(but hey, if you want, by all means, stick around... I've got a deck of cards around here somewhere). The plot isn't bad. The acting is very good, with both powerful and underplayed performances herein. The action is very, very cool, immensely intense(even if there are points where it's... kind of obvious that it's staged) and with good use of time and camera work. This is quite epic at parts. The music is great, a grand score. The choreography is commendable. The cinematography and editing are both impressive. There is a considerable amount of violence in this. Effects are nicely done(apart from those things I alluded to in the...other parenthesis). This should most definitely not be watched by children... and it may very well offend some adults. Casting was done well. I recommend this to those interested in the story and the period, and while there is a reasonable amount of it, those looking more for fight scenes and such may want to look elsewhere... from the Trivia, I gather that this was not meant to be that. 7/10
Ridley Scott has stamped his trademark atmospherics on this robust epic. The story wastes no time in placing the audience at the centre of the action with sweeping camera work and large action sequences. A reasonable cast do their best creating tension and chemistry but this seems to fail with Bloom's character and Greens, the sexual tension relies heavily on Scott's visual talents and not the actors. The film being released at a time where audiences have been saturated with either historical or fantasy epics you would like to feel that Kingdom of Heaven may offer something new but unfortunately it does not. On the positive side Scott's offering is entertaining with dialogue not overbearing; and a score that varies in styles and absorbing enough to keep the world you're placed into comforting. Overall a good view and not a bad entry on Scotts CV.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Most of those points are for the costumes and extras. And the CGI. I
don't know about Bloom, he seems a bit skinny. Elfish, even (arrows fly
in my direction).
Although well researched, a lot of the individual character plot lines and factual basis of this movie are rubbish. Then again, as a whole, it does give you a fairly accurate portrayal of the period of the Crusades, the benevolence of Saladin (let's get this straight though - he engaged in just as much gore as anyone else at the time), the internal conflicts within the Christian brigades and the entire pointlessness of everyone trying to kill each other.
For what? "Nothing"; yet, "Everything", according to Saladin. Political gain through religious conquest. At what cost? Scott tried to pussy-foot around contemporary issues with this movie, but he needn't. It's a blood-and-guts epic very much in the vein of Gladiator and stands on those two feet alone (umm... those would be blood on the one foot, and guts on the other. Literally).
Obviously he felt that he needed to tread lightly around the issue of the Crusades lest he offend someone. However I thought it interesting that he highlighted the "killing a heretic is not a sin but will bring you closer to God" thing, which makes me think about the various crusades of the current world and their various morals.
But then again that's what he's trying to do, and entirely besides the purpose of this piece - and to be avoided in order to appreciate the cinematographic merits of this movie. It's a romantic re-invention of historical fact, worth enjoying for the grandeur as long as you appreciate the fact that it is just that - fiction, even if the names haven't been changed to protect the innocent.
"Kingdom of Heaven" is basically a weak movie, but it gives a good
insight into the history of the Crusader wars and the Arab resistance,
a topic I always found interesting. What keeps it from being a well
recommended movie is the trite sword and sandal nature that mirrors the
one of "Gladiator", although the direction is less focused than in that
film and has less top class actors. The only real treat here is Jeremy
Irons who plays Tiberias, an unknown name to me and probably a made up
character, loosely based on some actual historical person.
Orlando Bloom is not the best choice as Balian, but he makes a plausible effort. Liam Neeson plays his father and enhances the little screen time he has with his powerful presence. The unknown Velibor Topic and Eva Green as Sybilla are the most pleasant surprises, while the ridiculously clichéd villains Csokas and Gleeson are trapped inside their poorly written roles. Edward Norton is also featured, but not seen, as the leper king Baldwin. Thus one can only say he "spoke" well.
This is the first movie where the Crusaders and Arabs are shown from an objective point of view. Is it really objective to make all Arabs the good guys and all Crusaders except Balian, Tiberias and king Baldwin the bad guys? Maybe so, but still Lusignan has been made too much of a stereotypical villain and Balian a stereotypical hero. The final battle scene is maybe the only real treat of this film, although it too could have been better. Yet it powerfully underlines the whole issue and the cause of Saladin and his people. Balian: "What is Jerusalem worth to you?" Saladin: "Nothing. Everything!" This issue can be traced to this very day.
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