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  • Kingdom of Heaven is an entertaining and spectacular film, to say the least. However, being an enthusiast of the history of the crusader states, I would like to mention some historical facts and accuracies that generated the film.

    For a start, all the main characters of the film are historical figures, from Balian to the unfortunate Baldwin IV (oftenly referred as "Baldwin the Leper"). However, the only connection of Balian and Sybilla was that he indeed helped her defend Jerusalem and negotiated its subsequent surrender to Saladin. However, he was not only a political opponent of her husband (Guy de Lusignan), but also of HERS.

    You see, Sibylla actually loved Guy enough as to fight to make him a king, even if the barons of the kingdom were against him. She actually tricked them: She agree to divorced him before her coronation, with the only term to choose herself her new husband. When the barons accepted, she just chose to remarry Guy and established him in the throne of Jerusalem. Balian was married with her stepmother, mother of her half sister Isabella (completely ignored in the film). He conspired with Maria to have another noble, Conrad of Montferrat, marry Isabella, giving Conrad a stronger claim to the kingdom.

    Sibylla actually succeeded her son from a previous marriage (Baldwin V), not her brother, as the film suggests. He was a child-king that succeeded his leper uncle but lived only for one year. Indeed Guy was captured in the Battle of Hattin. When Saladin was besieging the Holy City (and Sybilla personally led the defense) and she was permitted to escape to Tripoli with her daughters. However she died of an epidemic 3 years later in Tyre, the only city in the kingdom that did not fall. Her daughters also died of the same epidemic, and Guy (by now released) lost the kingdom of Jerusalem and was compensated with the Lordship of Cyprus by Richard the Lionheart.

    Balian died 3 years later. He NEVER retired from the politics of the kingdom as the film suggests.
  • 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 (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!
  • "There can be no victory except through God"

    Kingdom of Heaven is directed by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan. It stars Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Marton Csokas, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Alexander Siddig, David Thewlis, Ghassan Massoud and Edward Norton. Cinematography is by John Mathieson and music scored by Harry Gregson-Williams.

    Director's Cut, two words that has these days come to mean a marketing ploy to get the home movie fan to part with more cash. Except maybe when they call it something else, such as Unrated Edition or Extended Edition, the Director's Cut has rarely been more than the original theatrical version with some added bits sewed back in. Case in point Ridley Scott's own Gladiator. But Scott is a big advocate of the home formats available to us, and what he says in his introduction on these releases are always telling. Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut is one of the rare cases that deserves the label, it is the cut Scott wanted and with 45 minutes extra in the film, it's now a fully formed epic and without doubt a better film than the one the theatrical cut suggested.

    Nutshell plotting finds the story set during the Crusades of the 12th century. Balian (Bloom) is a French village blacksmith who after finally meeting his father Godfrey (Neeson), sets him on a course to aid the city of Jerusalem in its defence against the Muslim leader Saladin (Massoud). Saladin is battling to reclaim the city from the Christians. It's a fictionalised account of Balian de Ibelin the man, but with the Crusades featuring so rarely in movies it's good to see one with attention to detail in relation to the events and time period.

    Now this version exists there is no reason to visit the theatrical cut, for although this has one or two missteps in the narrative, big holes have been plugged and characters importantly expanded. Benefiting the most are Eva Green as Sibylla, and Bloom himself as Balian. The former now gets substance on why she transforms from a measured princess to a borderline head-case, and the latter gets a back story which helps us understand why he does what he does. Both actors performances are seen in better light as their characters become more defined. Neeson and Norton, too, also get more screen time, and that can never be a bad thing.

    In this day and age the topicality of the film as regards Muslims and Christians is obviously hard to ignore, but Scott and Monahan are not in the market for political posturing. Scott had long wanted to do a film about The Crusades, to make it an historical epic adventure reflecting the period, and he has achieved that without head banging messages. In fact the culmination of the films major battle comes by way of tolerance, compassion and mutual respect, not by over the top histrionics or side picking. It's a crucial point to note that the makers have not demonized the Arab leaders, both Saladin and Nasir (Siddig) are portrayed as intelligent and cultured men of standing. Their drive and determination coming off as respectful as Balian's defence of Jerusalem is. They also provide the film with two of its best acting performances. Impressive considering the film is full of very good acting turns.

    It will come as no surprise to fans of Scott's work to find that Kingdom of Heaven is tremendous on production value. Filled out with astonishing visuals and no overuse of CGI, it's arguably Scott's best production: it's certainly his most ambitious. Filmed in Spain and Morocco, the makers easily whisk us back centuries to the France and Jerusalem of the time, the ability to plant us firmly in the time frame is not to be understated. Mathieson (Gladiator) is a big part of that, his colour lensing for France (metallic cold blues) and Jerusalem (dusky yellow and brown hues) is a visual treat and integral to the feel of the story. While Gregson-Williams' score rarely gets a mention, but it's very at one with Scott's vision, a delightful mix of ethnic strains, mystical flair and medieval emphasis. Scott also ups the ante for visceral battles, the horrors of war never more vivid as they are here. Supremely constructed, the siege of Jersualem is one of the finest in cinema, the first sight of fireballs igniting the night sky bringing the hairs on the back of the neck standing to attention. It's just one of many great moments that form part of Scott's breath taking epic.

    Badly treated on cinema release by the studio, who even marketed that cut badly, Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut is these days worthy of a revisit and deeper inspection. For rich rewards await the genre faithful. 9.5/10
  • "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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film is all about faith and humanity.20th Century Fox was foolish to hold back Ridley Scott's cut of the film from theaters. Sure, at three hours and 10 minutes, this version is nearly 50 mins longer than what ended up in multiplexes, but that missing time completes what is easily one of the best historical epics of Hollywood history.It's really a shame that most people have assessed & rated the film by its weaker version.Its rating should be at least 8.5 or around that.

    Orlando's performance was one of his best.I think he is decent enough, as well as Liam Neeson, Edward Norton,Jeremy Irons,Alexander Siddig,Eva Green and Ghassan Massoud.They all acted wonderfully.Cinematography by John Mathieson was beautiful.I know, there are some bad points in the movie like all other movie have.May be the dialogues are weak in some points.

    'Gladiator' was a great movie.But in my opinion,'Kingdom of Heaven' is better than 'Gladiator' because of its subject matter.Ridley Scott once again proved how good he is. I also have to mention here the sound track which is great.'Kingdom of Heaven' is a great movie with a greater message.
  • 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
  • "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.
  • Many of the reviews above I agree with, but I also saw the theatrical version and was very disappointed (6 out of 10). When the Director's Cut came out it was 45 minutes longer, so you fear the worst, MORE of the same. In this case, the story line is filled out and the motivations and characters are fleshed out. Eva Green went from, "why is she in this movie" with virtually no screen time and less dialog to a major character who moves the plot, as you would hope given her billing. The opening scenes in France are greatly expanded and meaningful. The action scenes are better, but not substantially. The Director's cut should have been the official version of the movie, the theatrical cut is a poor excuse.
  • Firstly I think its important I mention that there are two Kingdom of Heaven's and that they are entirely different films.

    I first watched the theatrical version and whilst I loved the film, it was obvious that it was missing a fair bit of weight. The theatrical version is like a trailer for the directors cut, it shows most of the key bullet points yet it doesn't fill the holes nor does it do a good job at conveying the overarching morality of the characters and the plot.

    Kingdom of Heaven (DIRECTORS CUT) is without a doubt one of the most beautifully made and crafted films from the complex crusade era. It intertwines the wintry scenery of England with the barren aridness of Jerusalem and yet all the while you are not being influenced by the scenery but rather the morality of the characters who travel through Europe in search of their own purpose for life.

    Orlando Bloom nails his role as a broken hearted son who is given a 'second chance' by his high statued father. The director does very well at illustrating Orlando Blooms sin whilst making it clear to the viewer that this is a man who inherently would choose to make the world a better place. There are incredible cameo's from a host of lesser known actors (David Thewlis and Jeremy Ions) and Eva Green is absolutely captivating and layered in her Queen of Jerusalem role.

    The film is full of strong acting performances backed up by a very thoughtful script. There are some conversations between characters that will make you want to review the entire film again just to revisit the sheer poetry in the dialogue. I feel like the film does a very good job at sending the viewer back to an earlier time, and the costume/sets are outstanding.

    10/10. Do not miss this epic. Just make sure it's the DIRECTORS CUT
  • Warning: 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!!!
  • Warning: 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 conflict.

    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.
  • I'd heard a lot about KINGDOM OF HEAVEN when it was released in 2005 . Most of the reviews were rather uncomplimentary so I made a point of missing it until it was broadcast on Channel 4 last night and as I write this review I remember a lot of beautiful things about this movie . Unfortunately I can remember far more things that annoyed me

    Ridley Scott has been swotting up on the films and technique of David Lean and in many ways Scott is a natural successor to that legendary film director . The battle scenes are even better than the ones seen in Jackson's THE TWO TOWERS and RETURN OF THE KING and at no time did I believe I was watching an unconvincing CGI battle fest , just an army of thousands of extras walloping each other over the head like you'd see in the greatest Hollywood epics of yesteryear . Scott has also assembled a truly great cast that includes household names like Neeson and Irons alongside very effective character actors like Norton , Glen , Thewlis , Sheen and Gleeson . It must have been something of a gamble for Scott to cast pretty boy Bloom in the lead role since he's the sort of " movie star " who's only famous because of his good looks rather than any outstanding thespian ability but Orlando Bloom probably gives his greatest performance in this film . The only thing that the director Can be criticised for is an over reliance of slow motion during the battle scenes but apart from that everything else on screen is Oscar worthy , though since Scott was under rewarded at award ceremonies you get the feeling that he was trying a little too hard to win an Oscar

    There's an old saying that " if a film is good then it's down to the director and if it's bad it's down to the screenwriter " and this is certainly true of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN . Throughout the running time I was left scratching my head wondering about characters motives and why certain characters did certain things and let's not ignore the clichés of " You are a brave warrior so I will let you live " type moments . Some people claim that the studio should be held responsible rather than screenwriter William Monahan since they made several cuts to the final print and there's a disjointed feel to the narrative . Perhaps this is true but I wonder how many people watching this on DVD or on television like me had to keep logging in to the wikipedia in order to understand what was happening on screen . It should also be pointed out that there's a rather politically correct feel to the story with neither Christians or Muslims being portrayed as out and out villains with only the Knight templars being portrayed as evil . One wonders if the knight templars were still in existence today if they'd be shown in this way . In many ways it's like watching a second world war film where Germans are shown as being as much as victims of Nazism as those in the occupied territories . Honestly I was expecting the templars to goose step in to battle while proclaiming " I vos only obeying orders " . It says something about the quality of director and cast when they can rise above such one dimensional scripting

    In short this is a film that is sometimes beautiful and stunning but often irritating , confused and plodding . It is well directed and acted but you often get the impression that it tries too hard and this works against it . Historians probably won't like it and you get the feeling no one will love KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and everyone will give slightly different reasons as to why they didn't love it . In short it's a very flawed masterpiece
  • WARNING: If you want to watch this movie there's two things I recommend.

    First: Get yourself the director's cut. The theatrical release has 45 minutes of cuts. The movie doesn't make sense without that material. With those 45 minutes included, this film is a gripping epic with some great cinematography and some really good acting (well, Orlando Bloom is serviceable at best but there is great cast of supporting characters; most notably Edward Norton that delivers an impressive body and voice performance as the always face-covered Leper King).

    Second: Renounce any historical accuracy. If you are an expert on Crusades and this time period in general, this movie will probably disappoint you. Every element has some root in real events but they are twisted and turned to service what is essentially a very modern moral lesson.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The movie had the opportunity to be something memorable but it missed the chance. Firstly, the viewers were not given a good overview of the history of Jerusalem, so some of the viewers could not really figure out what is happening. The story started with an sub-par battle scene where some very interesting characters got slaughtered, which is a shame.

    Then the hero got promoted to be the new head of a group of soldiers and he amazingly learned to fight like a warrior in a very short time. Jerusalem was nicely made up but somehow does not really feel like a troubled city desired by many. Jeremy Irons and Edward Norton were very good in their roles but Orlando Bloom seems to be incapable to fill Balian's shoes. He is just too small to be a believable warrior and does not have commanding presence to rule over desperate people.

    One of the battle score is borrowed from the 13th warrior, so the feeling of watching a unique movie is not there. Anyway, Ridley Scott made a good movie from the potentially explosive issues of Jerusalem and handled the sensitive matters very thoughtfully.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Okay. Movie review time.

    Ridley Scott's new film, "Kingdom of Heaven".

    In a word: Huh? Okay, first of all, explain to me how you can make a movie about the Crusades boring and uncontroversial. Because that's what happened here.

    First hour showed the world just how little character development is needed in a "feature film", as long as you've got "plot".

    "So you're my dad, and we've never met, and you want me to go with you to Jerusalem. Nah, I'll stick around. Oh, wait, never mind, I killed a guy. I'll go with you." Oh, and by the way, the guy he killed was a priest, and the reason for the execution was that he was wearing his dead wife's necklace. Thin ice, Ridley, very thin ice.

    So he goes to repay his sins in the Holy Land. Of course, there is no mention of how he can obtain forgiveness. And no mention of whether he has earned it. But he saved the people. That's what's important.

    The second hour entailed a montage of clips, barely tied together and mainly terribly artificial feeling. Many times I felt so removed from the piece that I wondered whether they just had the cameras rolling until they found a shot that looked cool.

    Then, whoa, all of a sudden, big finish. We find out that causes are not important, religion is not important, all that is important is saving lives, no matter how many murders it takes to save those lives. All religions are equally stupid, not really, though, because Islam is a little less stupid, and what is best in life is living an ordinary life, never taking part in a cause larger than yourself.


    Hooray for the ultimate tragedy: a man who commanded armies, who could inspire men to battle, who had power and used it to influence for good, condemns himself to a life of ease.

    I give it an emphatic thumbs-down, with the second thumb in the neutral position.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Ridley Scott's epic Kingdom of Heaven explores the roots of our modern religious conflicts in the context of the Crusades during the 12th century. The Crusades are really such a monumental piece of history and there hasn't really been a good epic that's been made about them before this movie. And what a film it is. I actually believe this to be Ridley Scott's finest film yet.

    The way the Fox executives screwed up the theatrical release of this epic movie is one of the worst failures in modern Hollywood history in my opinion. If the director's cut had been released in the theaters, it probably would've won an Oscar for best picture and a few others. The theatrical version felt extremely rushed with horrible pacing. There was no way you could really empathize with the characters and care about them. Nothing felt right about it, there was no natural flow to it. The dialogue made no sense and you really had to wonder who they were referring to. That is no way to do an epic. The director's cut changed all of that. It's an absolutely amazing masterpiece, I've never seen such a difference between the original and the director's cut. Ridley Scott at the top of his craft, no doubt about it. There's more exposition, more character development and many loose ends are tied up. The story is great and full of political and religious intrigue.

    The casting in the movie is fantastic. Many have criticized the choice of Orlando Bloom for the lead but I liked it. Bloom's character isn't Maximus. He uses his intellect and cunning to defeat his enemies rather than brute strength. Crowe would also be too old for the role because with him in the movie you'd have to recast Liam Neeson who plays Balian's father. I thought Bloom did a great job with Balian, definitely his best performance in his career. Balian's character arc drives the movie very well. At the start he captures the emptiness of Balian so well and later his noble and modern outlook is nicely juxtaposed with the medieval setting.

    The rest of the cast is also uniformly fantastic. Edward Norton's portrayal of the leper king Baldwin IV is flawless and captivating. A true achievement considering he is behind a mask the entire movie. Ghassan Massoud portrays the stoic and severe Saladin impressively. Eva Green's princess Sibylla really shines and becomes more sympathetic in the director's cut where she is portrayed as a more complete character with understandable motives for her actions. Bloom and Green also definitely have some chemistry in their romantic scenes. Marton Csokas is fantastic as the arrogant Guy de Lusignan, Balian's nemesis. Brendan Gleeson is great as the vicious Reynald de Chatillon. There's not a bad performance in the entire movie.

    The cinematography is truly fantastic and mesmerizing. France during the Dark Ages is conveyed beautifully in a blue tone and we can see why people would want to escape that world and join the Crusades and travel to the warmly lit Holy Land. The movie is full of beautifully set up shots and meticulous set designs. The costumes are really impeccable and play an important part in the movie. Ridley Scott really is a master at creating lived in, believable worlds. The battle scenes were grittily realistic and brutal. You really felt that people were getting severely hurt and killed in them. The CGI use was seamless and it looked very impressive.

    Harry Gregson-Williams' score is epic and so fitting. The score mixes medieval, middle-eastern and modern themes beautifully. I get chills just thinking about the music in this movie. The music really adds a powerful emotional component to many scenes.

    With the bonus features in the director's cut we get to see how thoroughly the film crew researched for the movie and also witness the struggles they had with the production. There's a long documentary called 'Path to Redemption' about how the movie came to be and numerous featurettes about set design, costumes and so on. The documentary is one of the best behind-the-scenes documentaries out there. There's also a segment called Creative accuracy - The scholars speak where historians discuss the historical accuracy of the film and what liberties they took in the movie. All really interesting stuff and presented well.

    Some have also complained about the ways the movie took liberties with historical facts. For example, Saladin didn't really let everyone leave freely from Jerusalem, the people actually had to pay a ransom to get their freedom or be thrown into slavery. I don't see this as a problem. Modern society is too far removed from the brutality of the crusades to really allow a realistic portrayal of the events. Filmmakers have to be allowed to have artistic freedom to create likable and unlikeable characters who you can identify with for the sake of drama and tension. If any of us met a true to life person from the Dark Ages, I really doubt we would like any of them very much. When you're making a movie, you have to dramatize. You simply can't have every single character and detail in it just like it's in the history books. This is a romanticized impression of the Crusades and it simply works.

    Well, there you have it. Do yourself a favor and watch the director's cut because it's a genuine masterpiece. You won't be disappointed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had the pleasure of viewing this movie last night at a sneak peak. Although the visual aspects of the film were astounding and quite incredible the film seemed to lack a substantial plot. The story idea of the movie was a wonderful idea but the way the film came across made the overall feeling of the movie dwindle down. Once again we see Orlando Bloom in a war epic movie where he must make the decision of love or to do what is right. Bloom can certainly act but it seems that he is only cast into these types of films and seems a little bit redundant. Other people are comparing this movie to be the next Gladiator but I must disagree. The film didn't have that powerful of a moving feeling like Gladiator, in fact the only time that I felt remorse is in the bond between the Leper King and his sister. All in all, I wouldn't have paid to see this movie. I can't either say that I like or disliked it. The movie didn't move me towards anyway and left me wanting more from the plot. Some may enjoy this movie mainly based on the visual graphics and the historical stand point, but those expecting a reincarnated Gladiator are in for a let down.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Kingdom is at its heart a Ridley Scott film; plot and acting be damned, I'm going to make a pretty movie. This dedication to cinematic beauty has garnered Scott a devoted following, and I will give him credit that at least he stays true to his course as a director. But some of us who sit in the seats (though judging by box office returns, increasingly few of us) actually like to use our brains when we watch a movie, and sadly, Kingdom doesn't give us much of a chance to do that.

    The movie centers around Orlando Bloom's character, Balian, the son of a famous knight (Liam Neeson) who journeys to Jerusalem in 1184 to atone for his sins and those of his late wife. Once there, he gets caught up in the intrigue between the good leper king of Jerusalem (Ed Norton, though you would never know it) and the evil templars, led by Guy de Lugnisan (played by one of my faves, Marton Csokas). Of course Balian gets caught in the middle of this conflict. There's also a subplot with Guy's arab wife, Sybilla (Eva Green).

    Kingdom is as you would expect a gorgeous spectacle, with knights and Saracens and, blessedly, a battle you can actually follow (Scott's attempts to ape Saving Private Ryan in Gladiator were an embarrassing, confused mess. He does far better here). Though the chaos of war is aptly captured, we can follow the proceedings fine, and the final battle is one of the better sequences in the film. We get sumptuous views of the desert, and of the teeming metropolis of Jerusalem, and of blue-lensed France, which looks as dead as the underworld next to the profusely colorful Holy Land. The production design is top notch and stunningly realized.

    I was also pleased with a lot of the casting. Aside from Csokas, whom I'm always glad to see, Alexander Siddig, best known as Dr. Julian Bashir on DS9, pops up in a moderate sized role, looking older and wiser and, well, perfect in his part. Brendan Gleeson, whose work continues to please, also shows up as a one-note evil templar. And Jeremy Irons, who has been guilty of some of the worst overacting I've ever seen, is as sharp as ever I've seen him here as Tiberius, aid to the leper king.

    One of the problems that plagues Kingdom is that the core of the film is less interesting than what surrounds it. Bloom is a nice guy and a decent actor, but he's simply outclassed by the likes of Neeson, Gleeson, Irons, etc. Balian is never well-sketched – we never really know what makes him tick – and as such is far less colorful than almost everyone around him (he's even sort of flat compared to Green's Sybilla, who is badly miscalculated herself). I don't particularly blame Bloom – though a more talented if less charismatic actor probably could have done more with the part.

    What makes Balian so uncompelling is the other serious flaw with the movie, a flaw you find in many films of this ilk. Simply put, Balian is a modern character with modern sensibilities thrust into a period piece. Nearly every other character fits in with the scenery and mode of the times (even if they are sometimes a little simplistic, like the snarling Guy); Balian is an anachronism, acting as a modern hero would act, but as a man reared in that world could not even imagine acting. This might have been okay if everyone had acted that way, but every other character except Sybilla is crafted to carefully fit in the world of 800 years ago. Balian's championing of modern values means he's cast adrift like a piece of flotsam on the tide; and such a character can never hope to be the anchor the picture desperately needs him to be. Kudos to Scott and everyone involved for a very even-handed showing toward Islam (the major villains are Christians, not Saracens, and Salah Al-Din comes off pretty well here), but without Balian grounding us the way he should, we aren't ever sure who to root for. When Salah Al-Din besieges Jerusalem at the end, it's damned hard to root against him (as the picture half-heartedly encourages you to do) because, well, Balian just doesn't rouse one's sympathies.

    The performances vary. Liam Neeson plays the Qui-Gon/Batman's mentor role just fine; my only complaint is that he's not in the film long enough. Irons, as I said, is excellent, easily the best and most subtle performance in the picture. Csokas and Gleeson, both of them fine actors, and reduced to Saturday morning moustache twirling, a disappointment, and Eva Green never really nails Sybilla. Sometimes her charisma comes across, but other times she seems out of place and uncomfortable. Bloom himself is bogged down in the morass of a weak script, especially as regards him, and struggles through the whole picture to make his presence felt but fails. I don't really blame him – he demonstrated ably in Troy that he can hold his own in large cast period epics – and while a more seasoned actor might have been able to do a little more with Balian, the fault for his blandness can hardly be laid at Bloom's feet.

    This is definitely a movie you'll want to wait for the DVD on. That way you can enjoy the pretty scenery and the fairly engaging battle and have the ability to skip some of the less enjoyable parts of the picture. Kingdom of Heaven could have been a great film, but in the end is merely serviceable, a picturebook of the crusades with little deeper impact.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Love Ridley, loved Gladiator, but this movie is a dog! As far as I can tell, except for Liam Neeson and Ghassan Massoud, it's a bunch of stiffs and slow-mo gore.

    Not only is it entirely historically INaccurate, it is equally culturally so: no Middle Eastern princess I know of rode around in sexy gold jewelry talking to strangers and revealing her face. And excuse me: how is it that people who have lived in the desert successfully for centuries need a dirty European blacksmith to teach them how to build a well and irrigate their land? That was a concoction to make a hero out of Bloom's otherwise wooden character.

    In terms of even a nod to accuracy: Most of the Muslims' horses weren't Arabians or Barbs, the type they would have had in those eras. (Arabian bloodlines are documented to 3,000 years ago, folks.) Ridley should have reviewed "Lawrence of Arabia" before he made this movie, which had Real Bedouins and Their Arabs! Plus Ridley committed my worst movie sin: Fake Horsey Noises. Sorry, folks, horses only nicker, scream, or neigh under these circumstances: when they're hungry or lonely, when they're dying in great pain, or when they are having sex. It just doesn't happen when they turn left fast because the actor/stuntman doesn't know how to handle the reins.

    The final blow: here's Bloom running through the movie being true to knighthood (honor, protect the weak, etc.) telling a PRINCESS to just "stop being a princess." Royalty in the Middle Ages had responsibilities, too, you know: it was the royals' castles that provided protection from attack for the locals. "Just stop" and you leave them to the next warlord's mercy. Or could that be just another sexist view that the woman's "place" is with her man -- not with the power? Naw. Not possible in the 21th Century. Surely.

    My advice to friends: wait for the video -- then don't rent it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What is Jerusalem worth? Not much in this epic. With men such as Liam Neeson, Orlando Bloom, and Jeremy Irons playing the lead roles, one would belief this to be possibly one of the better of the recent epic piles of big-budget scrapheaps, such as the lackluster King Arthur or downright-awful Alexander. This assumption, however, is wrong. Kingdom of Heaven is two hours and about 25 minutes in length. It is only those last twenty five minutes that are actually devoted to the battle for Jerusalem; The rest is random clips strung together with the hope of converting a few years into two hours, which rarely ever works. The editing of this story is the main problem in addition to the lack of flow to the tale. Jumping from some European country then heading west to where the men speak Italian then heading further on to where they speak something, the story's structure is like a ten year old recalling his or her history lesson for the entire school semester in a minute.

    Orlando Bloom, whose father is played by one of the better actors in this movie, meets up with dear old dad to go on a crusade only to have dear old dad get mortally wounded. Jump forward around who knows how many months to the group at Messina with Neelson clinging to life. From here, Bloom is knighted and heads to Israel to take over his dead daddy's business, protecting the king. The trip from Messina to Israel is summed up in one bad, stormy night in which his tiny ship is destroyed and capsized. Bloom wakes up perfectly fine on the beaches of Israel. Upon walking through the mountains of his drowned comrades, he discovers the only other survivor, a black steed. The steed, trapped in one large, almost untouched section of the ship which the rest of litters the beach like the fallen comrades, runs off shortly after being freed only to be captured later on after Bloom's short (one scene) romp through the desert to an oasis. Then the first duel of the movie ensues and Bloom's character moves on to Jersualem. Finally, after months and months of... wait, it's only been a little more than twenty minutes?

    Ignoring the movie magic of cutting out the mundaneness of the journey, the story would be fine. Unfortunately, Scott decided to spend another twenty minutes on Bloom, who is now a Barron, and his newly inherited lands as they dig for water. This attempt at building up Bloom's character as a man of the people is actually played out in almost every scene the man is in. Had Scott spent more time on Bloom's character's struggle with the fact he's in Jersualem for forgiveness for his wife and his sins and not on Bloom hooking up with the King's sister and having some random kid interrupt him every few scenes, then the movie would have been a bit less dull and dry like the desert in which it is placed.

    The battles are all very small, ranging from a duel to a small band of men versus another small band, up until the final battle for Jersualem. Ridley Scott, for some reason, decided to tempt the viewers with both the army of Christians and the army of Muslims under Saladin - played one of the other better than Bloom actors, Ghassan Massoud - meeting in full fledged battle gear outside of Kerak only to agree to part ways in order to keep the struggling peace. Eventually, the king dies from leprosy and the new king Guy De Lusignan, played by Marton Csokas, takes over. Guy wants war and so he sends out the Templars to start war because God wills it. Well, apparently Scott willed it that the actual battle between army of Christians and the Army of Muslims would not be seen as he only has the aftermath shown through the eyes of Bloom's character. To call this movie an epic about the second Crusade and not show the most important part of the crusade and instead spend time on digging up water is just like putting a toy car in a monster truck rally; the outcome isn't pretty.

    To be far to Scott as he did bring us Gladiator, Scott does include several scenes reminiscent of his last epic as well as gives an interesting final battle that rivals any LOTR battle in any of the three, but to have just this battle in the movie and for it to be two hours and 25 minutes is inexcusable. The movie was actually an hour and a half, but with all the needless kids running and random people running around instead of focusing on just the main characters the movie became longer. Ridley Scott, although providing us with the best epic thus far in the recent years, fails to deliver another Gladiator. Jeremy Irons tells Bloom's character that there is no need for real knights in Jersualem just like there is no need to see this movie unless you're in need of sleep.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (Now refers to Director's Cut)

    In theatrical and director's cut alike, 'Kingdom of Heaven' is a botched opportunity. It has spectacular cinematography, and is highly atmospheric, but would have been better if Scott and Monahan had used more of the real story. It suffers from problems common to historical films and novels: the fictionalised hero's travails are irritating, and the sympathetic characters' anachronistic attitudes break suspension of disbelief. All the heroes express open-minded religious/moral values of a post-Enlightenment, near-Unitarian nature, which would have got them burnt in the 12C; more plausibly mediæval mind-sets belong to the villains. Monahan's interpretation of characters and incidents are based on now-outdated historiography, e.g. the depiction of Patriarch Eraclius, in reality a competent figure. The attempts to make the story an anti-imperialist parable for contemporary Middle-Eastern conflicts fail, too, because they are built on misunderstandings of the 12C situation and modern cultural guilt-tripping. The history is interesting in itself; why strain after 'contemporary relevance'? My chief reason for rating it above DeMille's 'The Crusades' is that at least it leaves my favourite Crusades character off-screen and unscathed!

    The battles aspire to the standard of Peter Jackson's Tolkien films: Jerusalem is Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith without the unusual wildlife. (I kept expecting Orlando to skate downstairs on his shield while firing arrows...) His charge at Kerak is Faramir's suicide mission crossed with the ride of the Rohirrim. There is a superfluous shipwreck, yet the dramatic - and vital - battle of Hattin, in which the real Balian and Raymond fought, happens off-screen. The importance of the military orders in the Kingdom's defence is diminished. The personal conflict between Raymond and Templar Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort is replaced by depicting all Templars as 'baddies', in the Walter Scott tradition.

    Orlando Bloom's 'Balian' strains credulity. Only his defence of Jerusalem and negotiation of its surrender connect him with the real Balian d'Ibelin. Balian was in his 40s, an Outremer-born baron of Italian descent: not illegitimate, not French, never a village wright and smith. He married King Amaury I's Byzantine widow Maria, and did not have an affair with Sibylla (Amaury's daughter by his first wife). So far, so 'Braveheart', in gratuitous inaccuracy...

    Sibylla (played by Eva Green) is equally misrepresented. She was devoted to Guy, refusing to divorce him when pressed to: hardly a casual adulteress. ***SPOILER*** She was not regent for her son, Baldwin of Montferrat - Raymond of Tripoli was. The child was not a leper (leprosy is not hereditary or easy to catch), and she did not kill him: he simply died young. The tacked-on 'happy ending' is absurd. She died in the siege of Acre in 1190. And I'm sure she'd *rather* have died than go to live in a village with a blacksmith. In the feudal 1180s, you didn't 'downshift'.

    Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) is portrayed as a scheming villain, dressed as a Templar. 'Scheming' suggests a degree of intelligence few writers associate with Guy: not evil, but over-enthusiastically chivalrous, easily led, and simply unlucky. After Sibylla's death, his claim to the throne crumbled, and by then nobody wanted him apart from Richard Oc-e-Non (a cameo-role from Iain Glen) - because he was one of his Poitevin vassals. (Richard also figures in a script gaffe: Sibylla, teaching her son geography, says he is King of England, having succeeded Henry II: in fact, Henry (her cousin) outlived her son by about 3 years!)

    Four characters are vaguely recognisable: Baldwin IV (Ed Norton) is the true hero of the film: a gifted, noble and courageous 24-year-old, dying of leprosy. Even finally seeing the ghastly disfigurement behind his serene silver mask does not erase the viewer's perception of his real beauty: his character. The true extent of his disability is played down, however: in his last years, he was blind and crippled, but still went on campaign in a litter, tended by his mother. Also, he is portrayed as essentially peace-loving; in fact, he was a hard-fighting Angevin warrior-king, Henry II's first cousin. And he would not have spurned the sacrament from the Patriarch.

    Jeremy Irons plays Count Raymond of Tripoli - but the film (to avoid confusion with Tripoli in Libya) changes his title to Tiberias (in reality, held by his wife). He looks very much the wise, wily, battle-scarred Raymond I've loved. However, the film strikes a wrong note in claiming he withdraws in self-imposed exile to Cyprus. He fought at Hattin, and died of pleurisy - and a broken heart - in Tripoli, aged 47, during the siege of Jerusalem.

    Saladin (Ghassan Massoud) also lives up to expectations: brave, tough, charismatic, and shrewd. It is good to see him played by a Middle-Eastern actor, not - as in previous Crusade films - a Western actor in brown make-up, but his ruthlessness is played down. He would have invaded with or without provocation. Reynaud de Châtillon (Brendan Gleeson) is portrayed as opportunistic and violent as he was, but is dressed as a Templar, which he wasn't. Nor did he kill, or even abduct, Saladin's sister. However, his execution by Saladin is a high point of the film: one of the few scenes taken faithfully from contemporary sources.

    There are moments when the film takes wing into magnificence: Baldwin's meeting with Saladin in front of their armies, the True Cross flashing in the sun; Saladin praying over his slain soldiers. (I could have done with more in-period music accompanying these images, too.) But Balian's tedious Bildungsroman and anachronistic moralising drag it back to earth. If the real story is to be changed and fictionalised so heavily, why not change the names and set it in a fantasy universe? Why pretend to verisimilitude? I *might just* forgive Ridley Scott if he makes an *accurate* sequel that opens with a ship from Constantinople pulling into the beleaguered port of Tyre, and a dashing, 42-ish blond Italian coming ashore and taking command of the defences...
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