Kingdom of Heaven (DVD, 2005, Full Frame; Lenticular) Reviews
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Kingdom of Heaven (DVD, 2005, Full Frame; Lenticular)

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Kingdom of Heaven

Jun 8, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Story, supporting cast, moral

Cons:Bloom weak in lead, score sounds recycled

The Bottom Line: A highly entertaining movie with the flavor of the Middle Ages.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Ridley Scott has made a passel of excellent movies and the Kingdom of Heaven is another in that long line that began with Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator, and continued through many more until this one. His movies span several genres and he even made a comedy, Matchstick Men, but Ridley doesn't let moss grow, he continues to point his talent in new directions and makes more good movies. He is in my opinion the best working director today and the only one working now that should bear mention in comparison with great directors of the past like Ford, Huston, or Hitchcock.

Kingdom of Heaven gives us a look at the early crusades, when Jerusalem belonged to Christians and Muslims under Saladin strove to take it away.

The story, by William Monahan, sets forth the rather modern view that Palestine was considered a new world, where poor men of ability could prosper regardless of their humble origins. Therefore they were eager to go there. How the poor illiterate peasantry learned of this wonderful opportunity is not explained. I'm not sure I agree with this interpretation of history but it made for a decent story line and allowed the old knight to recruit the young blacksmith, Balian.

Balian (Orlando Bloom) lost his wife to suicide when her child was stillborn. The old knight (Liam Neeson) comes through with his entourage and after resting tells Balian he is his father. He encourages Balian to accompany him to the Holy Land where they can both overcome their sins. After some hand wringing and a final decisive move, Balian overtakes the caravan and joins up. They are attacked and we see that the trail is not always friendly to pilgrims but that Balian has formidable fighting skills.

Neeson has been wounded in the fray and he eventually fades out but before he does, he knights Balian and passes on his title, Lord of Ibelin.

In Jerusalem, Balian finds the Christians and Muslims getting along pretty well but there are factions, particularly one led by Reynald de Chatillon (Brendan Gleeson) a self-made man who has found the Holy Land a profitable place. We begin to get the idea that Kingdom of Heaven means different things to different people.

There is the hundred year-old Kingdom of Jerusalem, ruled by Baldwin IV (Edward Norton), but he is a leper and not long for this world. Pity, because he has the skills to keep the peace in the midst of chaos and his likely successor is a war monger aligned with Reynald. The Muslim leader is King Saladin, who has a 200,000 man army waiting to slaughter Christians. You can guess where this is going, and you’re right; but Balian is a man of ability; a strong leader that is able to counteract a lot of the bad by his superhuman efforts. The action picks up and nobody does it like Ridley Scott, as you will remember from his earlier Gladiator.

The John Matthieson cinematography is just excellent with great editing to Ridley Scott’s usual high standards. The acting does have a vacuum in that Orlando Bloom does not have enough gravitas to play the lead for a whole movie, but experienced actors like Liam Neeson, Ed Norton, Jeremy Irons, and Brendan Gleeson fill in enough that Orlando’s performance is made acceptable. The actor who played Saladin (Ghassan Massoud) gave him a very attractive character with a kingly air in a highly creditable performance. Saladin, as depicted, had more class than any of the Christians, save Edward Norton, who played the leper king.

Kingdom of Heaven might not be a great piece of history, but it’s a well made, entertaining movie that gives you the flavor of the Middle Ages – and you shouldn’t be looking for history in the movies in the first place. Read a book.

The Fox DVD has two disks. The 144 minute color movie is presented in 2.35:1 theatrical format and there is a history subtitle track that you can play along with the movie to see the history behind the places, characters, and so on included in the story. The second disk consists of a couple hour long hype pieces for A&E and several featurettes showing the making of the movie. All in all I found the package highly entertaining.

Recommend this product? Yes

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