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Kingdom of HeavenKingdom of Heaven - Director’s Cut on DVD

Over the last few years, the DVD format has been indirectly responsible for bastardizing the term “director’s cut.” Countless films are reissued with two minutes (or in some cases, even mere seconds) of new footage that add nothing to the film, and are simply excuses to re-release movies multiple times.

There are, however, some genuine director’s cuts that actually are what the term should imply: the director’s true vision; the version that he wanted you to see before the powers that be manhandled it. Aliens is a better film for the director’s inclusions. Much more recently, the director’s cut of Donnie Darko helped the movie make sense.

The original cut of Kingdom of Heaven was sub par, though we’re positive nobody thought it needed another 45+ minutes. As it stands, however, Ridley Scott’s ideal version of the film is a true epic masterpiece.

Okay, admittedly we don’t know enough about the Crusades to say whether or not the film is historically accurate. It probably isn’t, but we really can't say. Maybe this film is exactly how things went down.

Taking all this into account, the film, all “facts” aside, is thoroughly entertaining.

From the first shot, the entire movie has a great look and feel. The production design, costumes and actors all feel genuine. Scott’s touch is that of a master, and he adds much that is needed to make the movie work. The characters are more fleshed-out here, there seem to be better reasons for these people to be fighting, and there’s even some action that we’d swear wasn’t there before. This is truly the definitive version.

The director’s cut comes complete with introduction by Ridley Scott himself, Overture, Intermission and Entr’Acte. Unfortunately, it’s split between two discs, but the break comes at the perfect time; a place in which the characters themselves appear to be taking a bit of a breather.

At 194 minutes, we can imagine this could be a bit of a chore to get through. But if you’re looking for an epic masterpiece that rivals Braveheart and the like, the ultimate version of a previously underwhelming film should more than suffice.

In the tradition of the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVD sets, Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut is an incredibly extensive set covering much more than you would even think of. The disc itself, as aforementioned, is spread across two discs in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and separate Dolby Digital and dts audio tracks. They appear to be the same as on the previous release, but that’s just fine: Those were reference quality, and the new footage is incorporated seamlessly.

Discs one and two feature three audio commentaries. First up is Scott, Orlando Bloom, and writer William Monahan. Second is executive producer Lisa Ellzey, visual effects supervisor Wesley Sewell, and first A.D. Adam Somner. Finally, editor Dody Dorn has a commentary all to himself. Between the three, there’s a fair bit of information to be learned about the production, but none of them are particularly engaging speakers so you run the risk of getting bored quickly.

There’s also “The Engineer’s Guide,” which is just a fancy way of saying a trivia track.

Discs three and four contain the kind of special features you need to set aside a couple of days to get through. The making-of documentary is so large it needs to be spread across two discs. Wonderfully enough, it’s presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and is very well produced. This rivals the quality of the Rings Trilogy documentaries in every way. It’s all laid out easily enough, too, so a single segment never goes on too long and you always know what you’re in for. Watching them put together such a film is almost as epic an undertaking as watching the film itself. Very nicely done, indeed!

We’re also treated to another half hour of deleted material, with optional commentary, but we’re sticking with Ridley on his decisions. There are additional featurettes (yes, that’s aside from the 875-hour documentary) on the historical accuracy, weapons, the siege sequence, costumes, and creating the director’s cut, and some cast rehearsals. Visual effects breakdowns, galleries upon galleries, footage from the New York and Tokyo premieres, trailers, and an early draft of the screenplay. Phew!

This set is worth it simply for the great movie at its center. If you have the time, the extras make it that much better. Find some poor sucker to take that old copy off your hands, for this is the version to own.

Kingdom of Heaven, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
194 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

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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