Kingdom of Heaven (Review)

Dir. Ridley Scott
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson
145 minutes

Should You See This Film?
This is the type of movie that Ebert would blast, and his relish for this would make an entertaining read. I know the feeling. There are many stupid and/or unbelievealbe plot points in this film. I’ll go into the specifics below.

I gave the film a “3” because I think it’s a silly film. I was going to give it a “4” because I watched the film with some degree of interest, and there were appealing visuals and set-pieces in the film. Still, the film overall is not good, and the writing is plot points are appalling, which leads me to believe that great actors like Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons and Edward Norton had more financial reasons for doing this.

If you liked Gladiator or Braveheart, you might like those films. I think both are better (Braveheart a lot better and Gladiator, a little better).

Personal Comments (spoilers)
Let me describe the general plot to give you an idea of what I mean. A blacksmith named Balian (Orlando Bloom), a bastard child of a Baron (no less) rises to become a nobleman, great warrior, and military genius without any attempt on the filmmaker’s part to explain or make this credible in any way whatsover. After he becomes a nobleman, he is quickly embraced and wins the trust of all those around him, including a wise king, and his sister, the princess, who after some glances quickly jumps in bed with him. (One snide comment about his illegitimacy is made by a scummy villian.) After one sword lesson–which amounts to the instruction of holding your sword above your head–he becomes a formidable swordsman. And without any explanation or lessons at all he is devises tactics and a strategy to hold off an army led by a great leader. What the…? But we’re not supposed to care because I guess the rags-to-riches story is meant to entertain us.

Perhaps, Scott believed that Orlando Bloom’s charisma and good looks would make the audience overlook these plot points. Unfortunately, it does not. Bloom may be good looking, but he certainly doesn’t have the charisma of a Mel Gibson or Russell Crowe. To be fair, I don’t know if Gibson or Crowe would have mattered. (Then again, they might have made this as successful as Gladiator, which I don’t think highly of.)

There are impressive battle scenes, although in comparison to scenes in films like the Lord of the Rings, it sort of pales in comparison. However, I don’t think Scott used cgi for those scenes, at least it didn’t seem that way.

Of greater interest is the political aspects of the film as it relates to the current world politics. I was curious to know how and why Scott would make a film about the crusades. It seemed inappropriate given the times. However, in the film, the King of Jerusalem (an Englishman?) respects the various religions and creates a place where there is a harmony between Jews, Christians and Muslims. The enemies are two French nobleman (or should I say, “Freedom” nobleman) with designs to wage an all-out war with the Arabs. Scott portrays the Arab leader, Saladim, as an honorable leader, with an almost benign ambition to take over Jerusalem. He does not do so out of religious fanaticism, nor does he make any claim that Arabs are the rightful rulers of the city. (I believe the film is based on history, but I don’t know what is historical and what is not. )

So what is Scott saying? He seems to want to promote this idea of religious tolerance and harmony between religions–a “Kingdom of Heaven.” Predictably, the enemies are the religious fanatics who believe that killing “infidels” in the name of God is acceptable. This deeper message is couched in this “pauper-to-prince” action adventure film.

2 Responses to “Kingdom of Heaven (Review)”

  1. Mitchell

    Thanks for the review. I was already not going to see this (just can’t trust Ridley Scott), but now I’m really not going to see this.

  2. Reid

    I don’t completely trust Ridley Scott either, but I’m curious to hear why you dont’.

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