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"Kingdom of Heaven" Movie Review

By

Orlando Bloom stars in Kingdom of Heaven

Orlando Bloom stars in "Kingdom of Heaven"

© 20th Century Fox
Ridley, Ridley, Ridley. I enjoyed your “Gladiator” and marveled at your ability to make the past come alive, so it pains me to say “Kingdom of Heaven” is no “Gladiator.” It’s not even a “Troy.” It’s better than Oliver Stone’s “Alexander,” but that’s not saying much.

Audiences have become jaded by all the hype surrounding these ‘epic’ films. The 'next big thing' turns out to be the next big-budget bomb far too often to take any of this epic blockbuster nonsense seriously anymore. I say stick a fork in this type of film, at least for now. Moviegoers have been burned a lot recently and it's time to give the genre a rest. The powers that be in Hollywood should consider revisiting it only when someone in Hollywood comes up with a fresh take on the past.

THE STORY

Orlando Bloom stars as Balian, a simple blacksmith who is in mourning over the recent suicide of his wife. Liam Neeson briefly co-stars as Godfrey of Ibelin, the father Balian never knew. After tracking down his long-lost son, Crusader Godfrey asks Balian to join him and his men as they head home to Jerusalem. Balian quickly agrees (apparently he isn’t thrilled with his job as a blacksmith).

Once on the road, the Crusaders have a run-in with the law and the battle leaves Godfrey fighting for his life. Despite the fact he doesn’t know his father from a sack of potatoes, as Godfrey lies dying Balian quickly picks up his father’s cause. Balian, now a knight and the sole beneficiary of Godfrey’s men and lands, is charged with protecting the helpless, safeguarding the peace, and serving the leprosy-afflicted King Baldwin. Balian must defend Jerusalem against the Muslims and try to stop the Crusaders who want a war. And he also must find time to fall in love with King Baldwin’s married sister (Eva Green).

I know that in order to show what may have been the actual progression of events, “Kingdom of Heaven” would have to be a four hour movie. That’s a given. However there’s something seriously wrong with the flow of the story that ended up onscreen. The movie is almost unwatchable as much of the explanatory scenes appear to have been left on the cutting room floor. I would have gladly sat through at least another half an hour of this film if it meant I would have been able to come away from the movie with a better understanding of these characters and their motivations.

The rise of Balian from a blacksmith to the leader of the army of Jerusalem in such short order (the film leads you to believe it occurred over just a few days) makes no logical sense. We’re expected to believe this kid who knew his powerful dad for all of 10 minutes of screen time, suddenly has the knowledge of someone who has been fighting battles and barking orders to battalions of men all of his life? This blacksmith, in just a matter of days, picks up the ability to orchestrate battle strategy that is on the level of commanders who’ve been practicing the art of war for decades. Sorry, but no. Where, when and how did he pick up these skills? The guy must have had a lot of time to think while pounding out horseshoes, but I can’t swallow his speedy evolution from smithy to military leader. It just doesn’t make sense.

While I don’t want to beat the illogical plot argument to death, there’s a particular scene that defies explanation. Godfrey of Ibelin, this fierce, intelligent man who cared deeply for his fellow human beings, lived outside the city of Jerusalem for what we have to assume was his entire adult life. But it takes pretty boy Balian all of two seconds once he inherits the land to determine what’s missing is water. Excuse me? Are we to assume Godfrey just never got around to figuring out he needed to dig a few wells to help his people? This scene is the focus of at least 10 minutes of screen time, so Scott must have felt it was important to show the audience Balian’s compassion for the people who crossed his father’s land. In actuality, all the scene does is drive home the fact the plot has enough holes for a herd of elephants to pass through.

Another disappointment has to do with the love story that’s inserted in the film. As expected, Orlando Bloom gets to bed a beautiful woman. What’s not expected is that after a 2-3 second scene of the two about to make love, that’s it. You’ve got a half-dressed Orlando Bloom and the sexy Eva Green crawling into bed and you don’t show anything? What a tease you are Mr. Scott.

Continued on Page 2: The Acting in "Kingdom of Heaven" and Grading the Ridley Scott Film

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