|Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, Edward Norton
Director: Ridley Scott
There are a million things that Ridley Scott gets right in “Kingdom of Heaven.” It’s a pity that it’s difficult to care about them. The movie looks great, sounds better, and there is no question that Scott has given the movie his all. The problem Scott, and the movie, have going against them is that it is unclear whether the movie has a reason to exist.
Set about a hundred years into the Crusades, Balian (Bloom) is a widowed blacksmith who learns that he is the bastard son of Lord Godfrey (Liam Neeson). Balian joins Godfrey on a trip to Jerusalem, where Godfrey knights Balian and encourages him to fight the good fight. Godfrey knows that Jerusalem is unstable, with a leper king (Edward Norton) who will soon die, but only wants the safe passage of his people. The king’s brother-in-law, Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas), will surely lead the Christian army into war with the Muslims the first chance he gets, leaving Balian the task of saving the cityfolk that Guy forsakes.
Part of the blame for the movie’s lack of impact must fall on the shoulders of Orlando Bloom. His utterly non-threatening good looks are at odds with his character’s role as warrior. Instead, he feels more like a saint, a lover instead of a fighter. This is a movie about the Crusades, a Christian/Muslim conflict, coming out at a time when Christian/Muslim relationships have rarely been more strained. As competently made as “Kingdom of Heaven” is, the fact that it lacks gravitas is a fatal flaw.
In its defense, “Kingdom of Heaven” redeems “Troy” and “Alexander,” the two errant sword and sandal epics from last year. However, it will also likely act as the genre’s curtain call for the moment. It’s good, but unfortunately not good enough.
The new four-disc director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s historical epic was hardly necessary, but it’s something that the film’s assumedly small fanbase was looking forward to. The new cut of the film is even a vast improvement upon the utterly lackluster theatrical release, despite the fact that there’s an additional forty minutes of footage. Perhaps it’s because the film actually feels like an epic now, rather than an overly drawn out action/adventure flick. What’s disturbing about this new cut of the film, however, is that it’s been split up on to two discs, much like the extended versions of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. If there was an option to drop some of the included audio commentaries (four tracks appear) in place of cramming the 194-minute film on to one disc, then it should have been done.
And of the four commentary tracks that appear on the first two discs, only one (with director Ridley Scott, writer William Monahan and actor Orlando Bloom) is really worth listening to. The other three tracks (one with film editor Dody Dorn, another with various crew members, and the third completely devoted to technical and production info) will only be of interest to aspiring filmmakers. Discs three and four of the set house the rest of the bonus material, but sadly, the collection of excellent special features from the earlier DVD release has not been included. Instead, a six-part documentary has taken its place, spanning everything from development and pre-production (including a rare look at cast rehearsals) to post-production (including deleted and extended scenes) and the release of the film, which features access to several trailers, world premiere footage, still galleries and a making-of the director’s cut.