Sunday, 6 May 2012

Kingdom of Heaven

"I once fought two days with an arrow through my testicle"

Ridley Scott directs an all star cast in a story about the Crusades and in particular the 12th Century battles in which Muslims attempted to recapture the city of Jerusalem from the Christians. Balian (Orlando Bloom) is a blacksmith in rural France. A Knight (Liam Neeson) visits him and informs him that he is his father. After Balian kills a Priest who mocks his dead wife, Balian is given the chance to join the Crusades in the Middle East. While there he learns the ins and out of the Politics and Religion of the region and ends up in a prominent position in the defence of the Holy city of Jerusalem against a Muslim invasion.

This was the second Ridley Scott film I watched today having watched Alien for the first time this morning. Kingdom of Heaven is not anywhere near as good as that. The first thing I’ll say is that the sets looked sumptuous and were well dressed. The costume also looked good and the special effects were on the whole excellent, despite the odd dodgy shot. The acting was also generally quite good. Charisma vacuum Orlando Bloom was actually alright but still far from the screen presence that a role like this requires. He is joined by a fantastic cast which includes Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Sheen, Ghassan Massoud and an almost unrecognisable Edward Norton. Had I not looked at the cast beforehand I honestly wouldn’t have known he was in the film. Marton Csokas was a bit of a let down on the acting front.

Unlike Scott’s fantastic Gladiator I felt like this film had no heart. Its message was sound and is one that I agree with but it got muddled in amongst the confusing characters and plot. Maybe it was because the film never grabbed my attention but I was often confused by who people were and what they were doing. My girlfriend summed it up well when about half way in she turned to me and said “I have no idea what’s going on, and I don’t really care”. Her sentiments echoed mine. In the large closing battle I felt equally apathetic and didn’t really care which side won. I didn’t care enough about anyone on the Christian side and thought that the Muslim side had more of a claim to the city but wasn’t fussed either way. The battle itself was quite good but lacked the intensity of those in Gladiator or The Lord of the Rings.

There were further problems when it came to the plot. Balian ends up on his father’s land somewhere in the desert and notices that his farmland isn’t fertile because there is no irrigation. He has the wonderful idea of digging for a well, something which somehow no one else has thought of before. If I owned or work on land without water, at some point in the first ten or so years I’d probably think about at least trying to dig a well. Another problem was that Balian ends up in charge of fortifying and defending Jerusalem and despite being a blacksmith from rural France, also appears to be an expert in city fortification. It’s a bit far fetched.

This film is far from Ridley Scott’s best and is a bit disappointing. The direction and action are still quite good but it is let down by a confusing and uninspiring script that tries to cram in too much history and not offend religion while trying to say how pointless it is to fight for lands based on what your God and or Priests want.



  1. I really quite like this film. The battle in the snow near the beginning is beautifully shot, and I love the anti-religious sentiment of the film. I have heard that there is an extended edition that is far better than the theatrical release, but I haven't seen it, I only have the bog-standard one.

    Like you say, far from Ridley Scott's best, but I think enjoyable none the less. I'm just not quite sure that Orlando Bloom was the right actor to lead the film.

    1. I've read a lot of reviews that disagree with me. I just couldn't get on board with it.