by Johnny Bray
We could sit here and debate until the cows come home about
whether or not Kingdom of Heaven is historically accurate. The
fact of the matter is: I wasn’t there. Neither were you.
The film is set during the Crusades, the lengthy war between
the Christians and the Muslims, which saw many people die in
the name of God.
Balian (Orlando Bloom) is a blacksmith who’s just lost
his wife and child. His estranged father, Godfrey (Liam Neeson)
shows up and offers him a chance to undo his sins by fighting
in the Crusades. Balian reluctantly accepts. Upon his arrival
in Jerusalem, he’s thrust into a typical Hollywood epic
action adventure. Meaning, of course, that he walks around for
a while, talking to important historical figures, killing time
until the big final battle.
Basically, that’s the movie. Like The
Alamo, King Arthur,
and such films, Kingdom of Heaven ends up not working mostly
because, historical accuracy aside, it takes
too bloody long
While it’s hard to fault a film for being inaccurate (as
I said, I wasn’t there), sometimes you have to go based
on your knowledge of anything. And I have a hard time believing
that a war between two of the most prominent religious groups
in history had nothing to do with power. And I have a hard time
believing that both sides had as much respect for each other
as the film would have us believe. Granted, my knowledge of the
Crusades is limited.
On the back of the box, there’s a quote saying: “the
action is non-stop.” Maybe this particular critic only
saw the last half hour, because otherwise there’s no evidence
to support his theory. At 144 minutes, the film features nothing
but a bunch of endless droning on – with characters spouting
expostion and giving us a history lesson into their version of
the Crusades – until the climax.
The climax is, however,
a beautifully crafted epic battle that makes you appreciate
military tactics, and good filmmaking. Ridley Scott does the
best he can
with the material, and shows that even with average material,
he can make a great-looking film.
Orlando Bloom tones down his trademark intensity slightly and
ups the emotional strain. While he may not be quite good enough
to anchor the film on his own, the supporting cast picks up the
Kingdom of Heaven is not a bad film, but it’s certainly
not a classic. It’s a great-looking, very well-made movie
that just takes way too long to do anything. I understand you
have to build up the story, but if you’re making an action
epic, we’d really like to see some action.
Perhaps the reason we didn’t quite enjoy the movie, is
because we had “Property of 20th Century Fox” across
the screen on our review screener copy. I realize they don’t
want us shady movie critics to be reselling these movies, but
very hard to immerse yourself in a film with such a massive distraction.
But I digress…
The DVD of Kingdom of Heaven looks exquisite (at least the portions
we could see). The vast desert landscape is crystal clear, with
no grain (well, besides the sand) or other particles that often
show up too well in sand. The audio booms nicely occasionally,
a real workout during the climactic battle for Jerusalem. The
disc is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby
Digital and dts 5.1 audio tracks.
Disc one features the movie, along with a text commentary that
incorporates historical and production notes as you watch the
film. Disc two sports a wealth of bonus features, kicking off
with an Interactive Production Grid. It essentially “lets
you control the moviemaking experience from the perspective of
the director, cast or crew.” It features interviews with
the main players and gives them a chance to discuss their views
on the project.
“History vs. Hollywood” is a History
Channel documentary that examines the differences between the
film and what we think really happened. It’s moderately
interesting, but it features too many clips from the film and
not enough cold hard facts. A&E Movie Real is another documentary
examining the real-life crusades. In some ways, it feels like
an advertisement for the film as much as an educational documentary,
but at least it does offer much information about the Crusades.
There are also four Internet featurettes and the theatrical trailer.
Kingdom of Heaven, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
144 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby
Digital & dts 5.1
Starring Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis,
Brendan Gleeson, Marton Csokas and Liam Neeson
Produced by Ridley Scott
Written by William Monahan, directed by Ridley Scott
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think