Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

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They were all actually queuing up to see this newfangled Trebuchet.
They were all actually queuing up to see this newfangled Trebuchet.

Twitter Plot Summary: The tale of a simple blacksmith who finds himself leading the defence of Jerusalem.

Five Point Summary:

1. Liam Neeson imparts some good advice.
2. Julian Bashir from Star Trek DS9 shows up.
3. Jeremy Irons imparts some good advice. A pattern, I sense…
4. How’s he managed to worm his way up to that spot then?
5. Epic battle sequence.

Ridley Scott is quite fond of his historical epics, when he’s not jumping hundreds of years into the future and doing a similar thing with the science fiction genre. Or teaming up with Russell Crowe. Kingdom of Heaven takes place in the 12th century and tells the fictional story of the defence of Jerusalem from the army of Saladin.

Kingdom of Heaven deserves praise for its evenhanded depiction of the Muslim faith, but then that is as it should be. As a study of faith and differing attitudes towards those faiths, it’s an intriguing story. In fact it is the Christians within this story who are the most intolerant, and it’s refreshing for a movie of Western origin to cover this territory. There will no doubt be those who take umbrage at this approach, but it does at least point out that there is always more than one perspective to any conflict or set of beliefs. It’s probably lost on many people that the Christians were the invaders during the Crusades.

The attention to detail is staggering, which one has come to expect from Ridley Scott. This extends to the fight sequences, which gradually grow larger in scale until the final climactic battle for Jerusalem which takes place in the final half hour. It’s an epic fight that even without the first two acts of build up is worth watching the film for. Fans of blood, arrows, trebuchets, more blood and hot oil are well served, and the violence inherent in siege warfare is demonstrated in full detail.

"Whoooooores!" War cries just aren't the same these days.
“Whoooooores!”
War cries just aren’t the same these days.

Whilst the likes of Liam Neeson (underused) and Jeremy Irons (also underused) give their all, the weak link in the cast is Orlando Bloom as lead Balian, a mostly charisma-free zone where it seems showing any sign of emotion is a dirty concept. Balian travels to Jerusalem where he inexplicably becomes the city’s defender and guardian, gets involved with the wife of a snooty crusader, and finds himself supported by Jeremy Irons and his less puritanical band of crusaders. It’s your classic story of the lowly working class-type (Balian is a blacksmith) working his way up to the top. In this case it takes place simply because of a few good words based on Liam Neeson’s past exploits.

Where it suffers is in its pacing and structure, in this case because the studio insisted on 45 minutes of cuts. Suffice to say that the 3 hour Director’s Cut is probably the best choice to go for if you plan on watching Kingdom of Heaven. If you’re lumbered with the theatrical cut, bear in mind that some sizeable chunks of narrative have been excised, so if a story strand or plot device doesn’t make much sense, that’s the reason why. Even with this in mind, the theatrical cut has plenty going for it and fits in nicely with Scott’s other epics, both visually and thematically. It’s a shame that it was never released in its full glory, but then that’s why we have Director’s Cut DVDs.

Score: 3.5/5

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