4/10
Good and bad
6 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The good:

The first hour promises a superbly crafted and written epic historical movie with dense, intelligent dialog and characters. This hour involves the set-up: An idealistic-minded blacksmith in mourning for his wife and child, finds himself en route to Jerusalem along with a newly discovered father. It's only after this hour that things fall apart.

His traitorous fanatically Christian brother provides the religious catapult for the rest of the movie that involves Holy Land politics, crusades and battles.

The sets and costumes look great (to this historically untrained eye at least). And the couple of battle scenes are epic in scale as only Ridley Scott can create.

The bad:

For starters, Orlando Bloom is passable, but pretty flat as the protagonist. Eva Green is an intense superb actress, but her character is way too modern and liberated for this movie.

As soon as we get to Jerusalem, all of a sudden it becomes a preachy liberal movie with modern idealistic sensibilities, bias, re-interpretation of history and anachronisms galore. There are no really devout Christians, only hypocritical fanatics, Jews are practically nowhere to be seen, and the Arabs are noble, honorable and tolerant people.

There are also some insulting plot developments that try to convince us that Balian the liberal is an idealistic leader. The village he moves into is dry for hundreds of years, and as soon as he arrives they dig and find a well. Evidently, Arabs living in this land had no idea how to dig a well until a European came along. Same goes for his basic and obvious advice to seasoned war veterans about soldiers needing water.

Regarding the people: Even if you were to argue that there was a period where the religions lived together in Jerusalem, it would hardly be the tolerant utopia this movie would have you believe. There would be outbreaks of attacks and intolerance, second-class citizens and treatments, and so on. We know this from thousands of years of history in many countries.

A quick look at the actual historical events in this movie reveals a completely different story than this liberal fantasy movie: Balian initially promised to Saladin never to fight him. Christians had to absolve him of his oath to protect Jerusalem because they decided Christianity is more important than an oath to a non-Christian. Before Saladin took Jerusalem he offered peaceful terms of surrender and they refused. It's only after the siege started that he refused terms. Balian then threatened to kill all Muslims in the city and destroy Muslim holy sites if he didn't offer them quarter. And then they had to pay ransom as part of their surrender, and many of the people were enslaved.

So not only does history blatantly contradict the events in this movie, it depicts very different people, leaders and motivations and the liberalism this movie fantasizes about is nowhere to be seen.

But even as a non-historical fantasy, this movie simply makes no sense. The real fatal problem of this movie is that this movie has agnostics, liberals, atheists and religious people that only pay lip-service to religion, all fighting religious wars with no apparent motivation. Why would a tolerant leader defend a city in a hopeless war against another tolerant leader, if he explicitly states that all he cares about is the people? If that's the case, give up the city and negotiate a peace! In this movie, we have two completely religiously unmotivated but noble and honorable leaders waging battle over a meaningless city without even trying to negotiate before it starts. And then only after they are done dying by the thousands, they simply surrender with the most honorable terms possible when they could have simply done this to begin with. The actual historical version of this story makes a lot more sense in terms of motivations, whereas this fantasy doesn't even begin to make sense.

In summary, the liberal agenda in this movie is so desperate to re-interpret history with its bias, it fails to see that the people and story make no sense as soon as this is done. Therefore it fails both as a history lesson and as a fantasy movie.
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